Joel Mergui, President of the France Central Consistory, was speaking as disturbing results of a survey of antisemitic attitudes and prejudices in 16 European countries are unveiled in Brussels.
“Whilst we congratulate the European Institutions on increasing resources, expertise, and significant funding to tackle it, we are currently well behind in keeping up with its spread, as the disturbing findings from our partners survey shows Antisemitism is deeply ingrained in Europe, and hard to treat. Our plan to kickstart this process again involves the adoption of our ‘ten commandments’ to fight antisemitism, which will be taken forward by parliamentary working groups from across Europe,” said European Jewish Association leader Rabbi Menachem Margolin.
”While the European institutions and politicians devote significant resources and spare no effort in the fight against anti-Semitism, the situation in Europe is not improving. Worse, it is deteriorating,’’ said Joel Mergui, president of the Central Jewish Consistory of France as he addressed Tuesday a conference in Brussels of Jewish leaders organized by the European Jewish Association (EJA).
‘’It is time to face the facts. Combating anti-Semitism cannot be reduced to isolating and penalizing anti-Semitic acts. This penalty is of course essential. Perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts should not never go unpunished. But for it to be truly effective, the fight against anti-Semitism must get to the root of the problem,’’ he added.
Mergui said that Europe must launch concrete initiatives in the field of education to combat anti-Jewish stereotypes. ‘’It must also value the heritage and the contribution of Judaism and remind ceaselessly that Jewish spirituality is an integral part of European culture.’’
His remarks came as a new comprehensive survey of antisemitic prejudices in 16 European countries was unveiled ahead of the conference. The survey results appear to be rather disturbing.
The Action and Protection League (AP)– partners of the EJA – commissioned the survey with IPSOS SA, under the leadership of Professor András Kovács of Central European University in Vienna-Budapest, taking in 16 European countries and asking respondents direct questions, and following up where seemed necessary. The countries polled are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
The survey shows that Greece, Poland and Hungary are the European countries where antisemitic prejudices are most spread. But despite a high level of anisemitic attitudes, the three countries rarely witness violent attacks against Jews while countries that experience more frequent attacks on Jews, in Western Europe, are often those showing the lowest rates of antisemitic prejudices.
Amongst the disturbing figures are:
- Nearly one third of respondents in Austria, Hungary and Poland said Jews will never be able to fully integrate into society.
- Nearly one third agreed that there is a secret Jewish network that influences political and economic affairs in the world. (Romania – 29%; France – 28%; Czech Republic – 23% ).
- In Spain, 35% said Israelis behave like Nazis towards the Palestinians; 29% said the same in the Netherlands; and 26% agreed with the statement in Sweden.
- In Latvia, just over a third – 34% – said Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes; 23% agreed in Germany; and 22% agreed in Belgium.
- A quarter of all those surveyed agreed with the statement that Israel’s policies make them understand why some people hate Jews.
“Jews around Europe need to propose specific action-plans to their governments as well as on the EU level.” said Rabbi Shlomo Koves, founder of APL and initiator of the survey. “We need to take our fate into our hands if we want our grandchildren to be able to live in Europe in 20-50 years from now,” he added.
The two-day Brussels conference is attended by dozens of prominent European Jewish leaders, parliamentarians, and diplomats from across the continent, including EU Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, as well as the President of Israel Isaac Herzog and the Minister for Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai who will address the gathering from Jerusalem.
The European Commission last week presented the first-ever EU Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life.
With antisemitism worryingly on the rise, in Europe and beyond, the strategy intends to set out a series of measures articulated around three pillars: to prevent all forms of antisemitism; to protect and foster Jewish life and to promote research, education and Holocaust remembrance.
In his remarks, Joel Mergui said Europe must also commit to preserving freedom of conscience and worship. ”It must condemn punitive laws on the ancient religious practices of ritual slaughter and circumcision,” he said in a reference to a ban in Belgium on shechita, the Jewish kosher slaughter.
”These freedoms are the guarantors of the durability of Judaism on the Continent. They are not negotiable. Jews are a barometer of freedom: where they can fully experience their Jewish identity, so can everyone,” said Mergui.
”Freedom of religion for Jews is a barometer of freedom, if Jews can fully experience their identity, so can everyone,” he concluded.
France has the largest Jewish community in Europe.