October 5, 2021 — Brussels, Belgium
American Jewish Committee (AJC) warmly welcomes the release of the first EU Strategy on Combating Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life, which seeks to place the EU in the lead in the global fight against Jew-hatred. The European Commission’s ultimate goal is nothing less than “an EU free from antisemitism.” With the strategy centered around preventing and combating all forms of antisemitism, protecting and fostering Jewish life in the EU as well as education, research and Holocaust remembrance, AJC is pleased to see that many of the recommendations it submitted in June together with other major Jewish organizations have made it into the final document. “Europe can only prosper when its Jewish communities prosper too,” the Commission correctly points out.
“The EU should be applauded for taking this significant step toward combating antisemitism in Europe and abroad amid the dramatic surge of Jew-hatred within living memory of the Holocaust,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute, the EU office of AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization. “It is reassuring to see that the strategy aims at tackling antisemitism whether it originates from the far-right, the far-left, Islamists or mainstream society and clearly identifies ’Israel-related antisemitism‘ as a major problem. As the Commission notes, it is in fact ‘the most common form of antisemitism encountered online by Jews in Europe today.’”
A mix of concrete measures the Commission will take itself as well as recommendations for member states, the strategy emphasizes the need for a comprehensive response in light of the complexity of the problem. “The Commission will therefore take the fight against antisemitism systematically into consideration when developing policies, legislation and funding programmes,” the strategy reads, by “mainstreaming the prevention and countering of antisemitism in all its forms and across all policy areas.”
Among the Commission’s key recommendations to member states are the adoption and use of the IHRA Working Definition of antisemitism--which also addresses Israel-related antisemitism—the development of a national action plan, and the appointment of a special coordinator. Brussels also urged member states to protect Jewish communities and provide funding for their security. As the Commission notes, security is a key concern for Europe’s Jews and many communities must invest significant parts of their limited budgets in their own security measures. This is why the Commission will also contribute EU funding to the security of Jewish communities.
Stressing repeatedly the importance of the IHRA definition throughout the document, the Commission emphasizes that the “EU will use all available tools to call on partner countries to actively combat antisemitism, taking into account the IHRA definition of antisemitism in political and human rights dialogues and in its broader cooperation with partner countries.”
Furthermore, the Commission underlines that in its foreign relations it will promote full compliance of education material with UNESCO standards and ensure that EU external funds will not be misused to help incitement and violence against Jews. Last month, the European Parliament’s Budget Committee voted to withhold some funds from UNWRA unless antisemitic incitement in Palestinian Authority textbooks, which clearly violate UNESCO standards, is finally removed.
“It is particularly encouraging to see that the EU’s fight against antisemitism also has a strong foreign policy dimension. If the EU takes a lead in combating anti-Israeli and antisemitic incitement in Palestinian and other Middle Eastern societies, it can make a crucial contribution to the goal of a two-state solution and to enlarging the circle of peace of the Abraham Accords,” said Schwammenthal.
Following recent European court decisions upholding a Belgian ban against religious slaughter, the Commission also urged member states to “ensure through policy and legal measures that religious groups or communities, including Jews, can live their lives in accordance with their religious and cultural traditions.” The Commission further called on member states to implement the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust restitution.
The Commission’s strategy also includes the following steps:
-- Assessing Member States’ national strategies or measures on antisemitism by the end of 2023 and organizing an annual civil society forum on combating antisemitism.
-- Strengthening the fight against online antisemitism by supporting the establishment of a Europe-wide network of trusted flaggers and Jewish organizations
-- Fostering, in cooperation with the Member States and the research community, the creation of a European research hub on contemporary antisemitism and Jewish life and culture.
-- Funding an EU-wide survey on antisemitic prejudices and views among the general populations of all Member States.
-- Stepping up its operational support for Member States and Jewish communities by providing training on security measures.
-- Cooperating closely with Europol, including its EU Internet Referral Unit, to combat online antisemitic terrorism and violent extremism.
-- Providing training for targeted (Commission) staff such as human resources professionals to recognize antisemitism based on the IHRA definition and organize study visits when relevant, for instance to Israel.
-- Supporting Member States in designing and implementing reforms aimed at tackling discrimination in schools in general – and antisemitism in particular.
-- Considering new EU-funded projects in the EU’s neighborhood and beyond to prevent and counter antisemitism and foster Jewish life. Encourage the EU delegations to include reporting of antisemitic incidents in non-EU countries, in their regular political reporting. Reinforce the EU-Israel seminar to further strengthen EU-Israel cooperation in the fight against antisemitism.
-- Fostering links between the Jewish tradition of planting trees on the holiday of TuBishvat, including by school children, and the EU pledge to plant 3 billion additional trees under the biodiversity and forest strategy for 2030, thereby raising mutual awareness and visibility.