How can antisemitism still exist in Europe? We’re living in 2019, not 1939. Yet report after report after report show increasing levels of hate and abuse being directed towards Europe’s Jews. How can this be happening? How can it be stopped?
Germany saw a 20% increase in antisemitic attacks in 2018. On 9 October, during the holiday of Yom Kippur, a far-right extremist attacked a synagogue in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt. Unable to gain entry, the attacker shot and killed a passerby, before driving to a nearby Turkish kebab shop and killing another person. This may be an extreme case, but hatred is unfortunately growing more common across Europe.
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in via our “Suggest a Debate” page by Jan. He asked simply: “Why is antisemitism still so rampant and prevalent in Europe in 2019?“
To get a response, we spoke to Robin Sclafani, Director of the organisation CEJI – A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe. What would she say to Jan?
sUnfortunately, antisemitism has been around for a very, very long time. And hatred, in general, lately seems to be running high. I think one of the things that was made so apparent during the attack in Halle is the interconnectedness of hatred. So, this attacker specifically targeted the Jewish community and, when he couldn’t access them, with frustration he turned and attacked a Turkish kebab shop and whoever was nearby. He was filled with hate. On that day, it started with antisemitism, but it’s all interconnected. We talk of it being the oldest hatred, and it’s at the root of so many hatreds.
Next up, we had a comment from randomguy2017, who thinks there is confusion over what constitutes antisemitism (he believes it can mean “anything”). Is he right? Or do we actually have a very clear definition of antisemitism?
It is pretty clear and, actually, for that reason – because so many people have a hard time accepting it for what it is – it’s been so important to have a definition that’s accepted by the international institutions. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which gathers over 40 countries, have agreed on a definition which has now been acknowledged by the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers, and more and more by national governments. So, they have approved a definition so that people stop saying ‘We don’t know what it means’ and that when there is an antisemitic incident, this definition can be used to give guidelines in terms of what is and isn’t antisemitic…
Here is that working definition on antisemitism from the IHRA:
Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
What’s behind Europe’s rise in antisemitism? Is there confusion over what constitutes antisemitism? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!