Anti-Semitism 'remains pervasive' in EU, survey finds

The Star of David on the facade of a synagogue in Paris, France.
The Star of David on the facade of a synagogue in Paris, France. Copyright REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Copyright REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
By Alice Tidey
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Nearly 90% of Jews in the EU believe anti-Semitism has grown in their country over the past five years.


Nearly 90% of European Jews say anti-Semitism has gotten worse in their country in the past five years, a new survey revealed on Monday.

More than 16,300 self-identified Jewish people in 12 European Union member states took part in the survey by the EU Agency for Fundamental rights (EUAFR), which called on policymakers around the continent to "take heed of this profoundly troubling messages this survey brings."

EUAFR Director Michael O'Flaherty described the findings as "sobering."

"They underscore that anti-Semitism remains pervasive across the EU — and has, in many ways, become disturbingly normalised," he added.

The survey was conducted in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK, which are collectively home to more than 96% of the EU's estimated Jewish population.

Main findings:

- Nine in 10 (89%) respondents feel that anti-Semitism increased in their country in the five years before the survey.

- 85% of respondents consider anti-Semitism to be a serious problem in their country.

- Respondents viewed anti-Semitism as most problematic online/on social media (89%), followed by public spaces (73%), media (71%) and political life (70%).

- More than a quarter (28%) of respondents had experienced anti-Semitic harassment at least once in the five years prior to the survey, with those displaying items identifying them as Jewish subject to more anti-Semitic harassment (38%) than those who do not (21%).

- Nearly half (47%) of respondents worried about being subjected to anti-Semitic verbal insults or harassment and four in 10 worried about an anti-Semitic physical attack. 

- Eight in 10 (79%) who experienced anti-Semitic harassment did not report the most serious incident to the authorities — the most common reason for not reporting are a feeling that nothing would change (48%), not considering the incident to be serious enough to be reported (43%) or because reporting it would be too inconvenient or cause too much trouble (22%).

- More than half (54%) positively assess their national government's efforts to ensure the security needs of the Jewish communities but 70% believe that their government does not combat anti-Semitism effectively, 

How the different countries fared

More than 80% of respondents in five countries — Belgium, France, Germany, Poland and Sweden — saw anti-Semitism as a "very big" or "fairly big" problem. In France, a massive 95% of respondents thought so, up from 85% when the survey was last conducted in 2012.

More than half (52%) of respondents in Germany reported having been the victims of anti-Semitic harassment in the past five years — the highest of the 12 EU member states surveyed.

It was followed by Belgium (51%) and the Netherlands (47%).

Harassment primarily came in the form of offensive or threatening comments in person (27%), offensive gestures or staring inappropriately (23%), and offensive comments posted on the internet including social media (13%).

What should countries do?

"Eradicating anti-Semitism from the public sphere calls for sustained and decisive action to break down the persistent negative stereotyping of Jews, including online," the report states.

The EUAFR recommends that countries who have yet done so adopt the working definition of anti-Semitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. It also urged member states to "systemically cooperate with Jewish communities in the area of security and protection of Jewish sites."


EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said she was "deeply saddened" by the findings.

"The Commission is acting together with member states to counter the rise of anti-Semitism, to fight Holocaust denial and to guarantee that Jews have the full support of the authorities to keep them safe," she added on Twitter.

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