Questions and Answers: EU Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life

(Source: European Commission)

Why do we need an EU Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life?

The European Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. It stands unequivocally against all forms of hatred and discrimination on any ground, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability.  Antisemitism is incompatible with Europe’s core values. It represents a threat not only to Jewish communities and to Jewish life, but to an open and diverse society, to democracy and the European way of life. The European Union is determined to put an end to it.

For the past 20 years, antisemitism has been addressed as part of the European Union’s work tackling racism. However, the persistence and a significant increase of antisemitic incidents calls for a stronger response at EU level.

In the last decade, the EU has witnessed violent and lethal attacks such as those on the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse in 2012, the Jewish Museum in Brussels in 2014, the Hypercasher in Paris in 2015, and the Synagogue in Halle in 2019. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that old antisemitic prejudices can resurge and fuel new conspiracy myths and hatred online and offline. Jewish people have been one of the most attacked communities during the pandemic.

With this strategy, the first of its kind, the Commission is determined to significantly step up the fight against antisemitism and help create an inclusive society based on equality and respect, to ensure a good perspective for the future of Jews in Europe.

This strategy is the Commission’s commitment to a future for Jewish life in Europe and beyond. It marks a step change in the Commission’s political engagement for a European Union free from antisemitism and any form of discrimination. It reflects Europe’s commitment to keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive, even after the last Holocaust survivors will have passed away.

What is the definition of antisemitism?

Since 2017, the Commission has been using the non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA definition) as a practical guidance tool and a basis for its work to combat antisemitism. The IHRA definition is the benchmark for promoting a rights-based and victim-centred approach.

In January 2021, the Commission in cooperation with the IHRA published the ‘Handbook for the practical use of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism‘, which provides an overview of good practices from across Europe on the use of the definition by international organisations, national administrations, civil society and Jewish communities.

How does antisemitism manifest itself today?

Antisemitism manifests itself as racial, ethnic or religious discrimination, stereotyping, and hatred of Jews and might lead to violent and lethal attacks.

Contemporary antisemitism can be found in radical and fringe groups espousing right-wing, left-wing and Islamist extremism, it can hide behind anti-Zionism, but also be found in the centre of society. Contemporary antisemitism occurs in many forms, old and new: from online hate speech to hate crimes and attacks on Jewish people, their properties and institutions, or as desecration of cemeteries and memorials. It occurs in the daily lives of Jewish people in the form of casual remarks or actions at work, private conversations, in public places, in the media, sports and culture or when Jewish people are practicing their religion. Manifestations of antisemitism might include Israel-related antisemitism, the most common form of antisemitism encountered online by Jews in Europe today.

Contemporary antisemitism in figures:

  • Every second European considers antisemitism a problem (Eurobarometer).
  • Nine out of ten (89%) Jews consider that antisemitism has increased in their country (Fundamental Rights Agency).
  • 79% of Jewish people did not report their most serious antisemitic incident to any organisation (Fundamental Rights Agency).
  • Jewish people are one of the major targets of toxic language online. Depending on the platform researched, toxic language is about them in 6.3% to 27% of the cases (Commission study).
  • Comparing the first two months of 2020 (pre-pandemic) and 2021 (during the pandemic), a seven-fold increase in antisemitic posting could be observed on French language accounts, and over a thirteen-fold increase in antisemitic comments within the German channels studied (Commission study).

What are some of the key actions that the European Commission intends to pursue?

Amongst others, the Commission will:

  • Tackle antisemitism online by supporting the establishment of a Europe-wide network of trusted flaggers and Jewish organisations to combat illegal online hate speech and support organisations to develop counter-narratives.
  • Cooperate with industry and IT companies to prevent the illegal display and sale of Nazi-related symbols, memorabilia and literature online.
  • Organise a Hackathon to facilitate exchanges between experts to develop new innovative ways to address antisemitism in the online and digital environment.
  • Provide EU funding for projects aiming to better protect public spaces and places of worship.
  • Invite cities to address the history of their minorities, including Jewish community history, when applying for the title of European Capital of Culture.
  • Support the development of a network of Young European Ambassadors to promote Holocaust remembrance in schools, universities and vocational and education training institutions
  • Combat holocaust denial, distortion and trivialisation, by developing best practices, promoting the use of the the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition (IHRA) and working with international partners on awareness raising.
  • Foster the creation of a European research hub on contemporary antisemitism.
  • Support the creation of a network of sites ‘where the Holocaust happened’, in cooperation with local communities.
  • Use all available tools to call on partner countries to actively combat antisemitism.
  • Consider new EU-funded projects in the EU’s neighbourhood and beyond to prevent and counter antisemitism and fostering Jewish life.
  • Support safeguarding Jewish cultural heritage and commemorating the Holocaust across the world.

What are key actions the Member States should take?

Member states are encouraged to:

  • Develop national strategies by end 2022 on combating antisemitism, or include measures in their national action plans against racism, and provide sufficient funding to implement them;
  • Adopt the IHRA definition and encourage local authorities, regions, cities, and other institutions and organisations to do the same.
  • Appoint special envoys/coordinators on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life.
  • Swiftly complete the transposition and implementation of the Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia and prosecute antisemitic hate speech and hate crime in line with EU and national legislation.
  • Strengthen the capacity of national law enforcement and judicial authorities to prosecute illegal online hate speech.
  • Support, including financially, civil society organisations in combating antisemitic hate speech, disinformation and conspiracy myths online, in relevant languages.
  • Adopt the necessary measures to ensure the security of Jewish premises and provide sufficient financial or other support, including under the EU Internal Security Fund-Police national annual programmes.
  • Raise awareness among the public about Jewish life and traditions, including by publicly marking days relevant for Jewish people, and by funding projects and conducting campaigns.
  • Promote knowledge of Jewish life, antisemitism and the Holocaust through education and research, and encourage exchanges with local communities, where possible
  • Commemorate the Holocaust publicly in close cooperation with the Jewish community, including with the involvement of the national parliaments
  • Incorporate the fight against antisemitism into all their human rights strategies and policies, taking into account the IHRA definition of antisemitism.
  • Contribute, together with the EU in the UN context, to the worldwide safeguarding of cultural heritage, including Jewish heritage, in line with the Council Conclusions on EU strategic approach to cultural heritage in conflicts and crises.

What is the timeline for the Strategy and how will progress be monitored?

The strategy will be implemented over the period 2021-2030.

National strategies should be adopted by the end of 2022 and will be revised by the European Commission by the end of 2023. The Commission will publish comprehensive implementation reports in 2024 and 2029. These will be based on input from Member States also with regard to the implementation of their national strategies and policies. With the support of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, these reports will include monitoring of progress on the national level, taking into account the commitments made in the Council Declarations on antisemitism of 2018 and 2020.

Other key figures and statistics

Safety and security of Jewish communities (Fundamental Rights Agency):

  • 38% of Jews have considered emigrating because they do not feel safe as Jews in the EU.
  • 40% of Jews fear being physically attacked, and therefore hide symbols that could identify them as Jewish.
  • 44% of young Jewish Europeans experience antisemitic harassment.
  • One-third of Jews avoid visiting Jewish events or sites at least occasionally because they would not feel safe there or on the way there.

Knowledge about the Holocaust, Jewish life and antisemitism:

  • Only 3% of Europeans feel ‘very well informed’ about Jewish history, customs and practices, while 68% say they are ‘not informed’ (Eurobarometer).
  • Nearly one in five (18%) believe that antisemitism in their countries was a response to the everyday behaviour of Jewish people (Eurobarometer).
  • Four out of ten respondents in the survey thought their own countries were between 3% and 10% Jewish (Eurobarometer).
  • 53% of Europeans perceive Holocaust denial as being a problem in their country (Eurobarometer).
  • 62% of Jews have seen or heard non-Jewish people suggest that the Holocaust is a myth or has been exaggerated, at least occasionally (Fundamental Rights Agency).
  • 1 European in 20 has never heard of the Holocaust, and only 43% of Europeans think it is sufficiently taught in schools (CNN exclusive poll).
  • 74% of people in the Middle East/North Africa region harbour antisemitic attitudes. In Western Europe it is 24% and in Eastern Europe 34%, while in the Americas, it is 19%, in Asia 22% and in Sub-Saharan Africa 23% (Anti-Defamation League research).
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