Anti-Semitism

Earlier this month, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) released their annual report on anti-Semitism in the nations of the European Union, “Antisemitism – Overview of data available in the European Union 2006–2016.” The report compiles all incidents of anti-Semitism as recorded by international organizations and by “official and unofficial sources” for the 28 European Union member states. By tracking data from year-to-year, the report functions as a means of tracking anti-Semitism over time on a country-by-country basis. These reports, however, are based on the “definitions and categorizations” of the countries themselves, leading to some data discrepancies.

While some countries appear to be thoroughly tracking anti-Semitism, others are not. There was a glaring lack of official data for documented cases of anti-Semitism in 2016 for multiple European nations, including Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden. Perhaps there is no anti-Semitism in these countries, or perhaps it is simply undocumented. For example, in the case of Bulgaria, the report states that, “[no] data [was] available for the period 2012–2014. There have been no documented cases of anti-Semitism for the years 2015 and 2016.” The omission and lack of all statistical tracking, of anti-Semitic incidents in Bulgaria is surprising, given their recent highly-commendable attention to the issue of anti-Semitism: they have recently appointed a National Co-ordinator for Combating Anti-Semitism, and recently adopted of the International Alliance for Holocaust Remembrance definition of anti-Semitism. The lack of data for Lithuania, Sweden, Slovenia, and Italy was also surprising, as they are all IHRA member countries.

The report notes that, “[t]he inadequate recording of hate crime incidents, including those of an antisemitic nature, coupled with victims’ hesitance to report incidents to the authorities, contributes to the gross under-reporting of the extent, nature and characteristics of the antisemitic incidents that occur in the EU.” A persistent lack of organization, combined with vastly differing approaches, lead to a system whereby anti-Semitism cannot be effectively tracked.

In the nations where data is available, some of the data is decidedly negative. The United Kingdom saw an increase of 157 anti-Semitic incidents (as reported by official sources) between 2015 and 2016, a 24% increase. This increase brings the amount of government-reported anti-Semitic incidents to 786. The numbers from non-governmental sources cited in the report put the increase at more than 36%, counting an increased 349 anti-Semitic incidents from the previous year, which would, if true, bring the total number of incidents closer to 1000. Germany, similarly, saw government sources noting an increase of 102 incidents between 2015 and 2016, an increase of 7.5%. The total number of incidents in Germany was a glaring 1,468. The smaller percentage increase is due to Germany’s definition of anti-Semitism incorporating more incidents than the laws of other European nations.

On a more positive note, both Poland and France recorded a drop in anti-Semitic incidents. Poland saw 66 fewer incidents over this one year period, representing a 39% decrease. Poland, however, recently saw disturbing anti-Semitic elements take place in their Independence Day march. France reported a dramatic decrease, with 473 fewer incidents in 2016. The 58% decrease in anti-Semitic incidents in France included a decrease in reports of physical attacks against Jews, as well as fewer instances of verbal attacks or vandalism. Nonetheless, there were still 335 anti-Semitic attacks in France in 2016.

The decreases in incidents of anti-Semitism among several European Union nations give hope that the nations who reported increases in the last calendar year may yet see their numbers decrease as well. The contents of the report, along with similar findings seen in a report from the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry earlier this year, demonstrate that anti-Semitism and bigotry are far from eradicated within both Europe and the United States. Given recent events, it is necessary for both the United States and the nations of Europe to constantly reevaluate their standards of tracking this insidious form of hatred and bigotry which seeks to reinvigorate prejudices that many would like to see relegated to the past.

The full report can be viewed here.

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