Wednesday, 2 Dec 2020 - 16 of Kislev, 5781

In State of the Union address, EU Commission President mentions growing antisemitism, slams antisemitic carnival parade in Belgium

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  1. ”When we look around, we ask ourselves, where is the essence of humanity when three children in Wisconsin watch their father shot by police while they sit in the car? We ask where is the essence of humanity when anti-semitic carnival costumes openly parade on our streets?,” Ursula von der Leyen declared.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen mentioned growing antisemitism in Europe,  in her State of the Union address to the European Parliament on Wednesday.

She in particular denounced the antisemitic expressions at a Carnival parade in Aalst, Belgium, last year.

”When we look around, we ask ourselves, where is the essence of humanity when three children in Wisconsin watch their father shot by police while they sit in the car? We ask where is the essence of humanity when anti-semitic carnival costumes openly parade on our streets?;” she declared.

She continued: ”Where is the essence of humanity when every single day Roma people are excluded from society and others are held back simply because of the colour of their skin or their religious belief?”

I am proud to live in Europe, in this open society of values and diversity. But even here in this Union – these stories are a daily reality for so many people,” Von der Leyen said.

She noted that  progress on fighting racism and hate ”is fragile, it is hard won but very easily lost.”

‘Now is the moment to make change and build a truly anti-racist Union that goes from condemnation to action,” she added. ”The Commission is putting forward an action plan to start making that happen.”

Setting out her priorities for the year ahead, she  said that the European Commission put forward an action plan against racism. ‘’Hate is hate and no one should have to put up with it,’’ she said.

”In the Union, fighting racism will never be optional,” she added. ”We will improve education and knowledge on the historical, cultural cause of racism. We will tackle unconscious bias that exists in people, institutions and even in algorithms,” she added.

Von der Leyen announced that ”we will appoint the Commission’s first-ever anti-racism coordinator to keep this at the top of our agenda and to work directly with people, civil society and institutions.”

‘As part of this, we will propose to extend the list of EU crimes to all forms of hate crime and hate speech – whether because of race, religion, gender or sexuality,” she explained.

According to a new report just published by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) the  inadequate recording of hate crime incidents, coupled with victims’ hesitance to report incidents to the authorities, contributes to the gross under-reporting of the extent of antisemitic incidents that occur in the European Union.

According to the Overview of antisemitic incidents recorded in the European Union for 2009-2019, whilst government and civil society require adequate data to tackle the hatred towards Jews that pervades Europe, large gaps in collecting data remain.

Some EU Member States do not collect any official data at all. For example, there is no official data on reported antisemitic incidents for Hungary and Portugal for 2019. Existing data are generally not comparable across EU Member States. This is because they use different methods to collect the data and draw data from different sources.

In addition, official data collection systems do not always categorise incidents as antisemitic.These are some of the reasons why responses to antisemitism so often are ineffective.

The report underlines the need for sustained efforts to improve data collection. This includes new methods, data sources and data processing techniques to better measure the incidence and effect of hatred against Jews.

While the overview focuses on 2019, it also gives examples of how antisemitic conspiracy theories surrounding the coronavirus pandemic fueled hate speech online. This only underlines the clear need to tackle hate speech and hate crime towards Jews.

The overview also reminds authorities that they have to do more to tackle under-reporting. They have to encourage victims and witnesses to come forward to report incidents. They also need the right systems to properly record antisemitic acts.

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