Antisemitism in Europe is on the rise and Israelis only see the situation getting worse. This is according to a new survey conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)’s European Forum. The study came as part of International Holocaust Remembrance Day week long events commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Russian army on January 27, 1945.
Israelis have been aware of the rising Antisemitism in Europe for some time now. They are treated to almost weekly reports on the evening news that show various incidents of attacks on Jews there. Just the other day a security camera captured footage of a heinous assault on two elderly Hasidic Jews in London as they closed up their Jewish bakery for the night. A man simply accosted the two in front of their shop and began to punch and kick the, even chasing them when they tried to flee.
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France has been a particular hotbed of anti-Semitic attacks as it sees a rising population of Arab and Muslim immigrants. This is, in part, why Israel has seen a rise in the immigration of Jews from France in recent years.
1,000 Israeli adults–Jews and Arabs–were surveyed as to their perceptions of the rate of antisemitism in Europe and whether they view antisemitism as the motivating force behind EU policies and criticism of Israel. Here are the main findings:
• Jewish life in Europe is expected to face more hostility in the future. 53% of Jewish respondents believe the situation of Jews in Europe will worsen, with only 25% believing things will stay the same. The older the respondent—and the more religiously Jewish they were—the more pessimistic their view on the situation. Among Arab respondents, the dominant perception was that the situation for Jews in Europe will stay the same (52%) or even improve (20%).
• Religious orientation determined which European countries were viewed as most antisemitic. Overall, France (39%) and Poland (33%) led the pack among those European countries perceived as the most anti-Semitic, with Germany far behind in third place (15%). However, a closer look showed that Germany ranked number one among ultra-religious Jews, France was highest among religious and traditional Jews, and Poland led the pack among secular Jews. Among Arab respondents, they ranked Poland and Germany highest.
• Criticizing Israel is not an antisemitism act per se. While only a third of Jews surveyed drew a direct link between criticism of Israel and antisemitism, a majority of Jewish respondents do believe that sometimes there is a link between the two.
• Jews and Arabs were split on whether EU policies are antisemitic. When asked whether they consider the policies of the European Union to be antisemitic, one third (27%) of Jewish respondents rejected the notion outright, while an equal number (27%) believe that the policies are antisemitically-motivated. 40% of Jewish respondents said some are and some aren’t. The rate of Arabs who saw no link whatsoever between EU policies and antisemitism was significant higher (53%).
Gisela Dachs, a professor at HU’s European Forum and principal author of the survey on Antisemitism in Europe, shared, “while the majority of Israelis see a link between criticism of Israeli and European policies and antisemitism, the respondents were much more nuanced than Israel’s politicians. Israelis who are familiar with Europe also know how to distinguish among the various countries and that is reflected here in the survey.”
Dachs went on to add, “the perception of France as topping the list of antisemitic European nations did not surprise me. For a long time, it’s been an open secret that France is rife with antisemitism, and not just among the far-right politicians and populations. Since Israel’s Second Intifada in 2000, French Jews have started to feel there may be no future for the younger generation in France and quite a few have emigrated to Israel to maintain their Jewish identity.”
As for the future of Israeli-European relations, and Antisemitism in Europe sociologist and Director of the HU’s European Forum Prof. Gili Drori, explained, “this survey reveals the urgency of studying the multidimensionality of Israeli-European relation. We see that alongside the very strong trade relations and formal agreements between Israel and Europe, Israelis observe the rise of anti-Semitism and the growing power of the political right in Europe with great alarm.”