Two thirds of European Jews believe antisemitism is a major problem in their countries and three-quarters think it has become worse over the past five years, according to a European Union survey released today.
The research, published on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogroms in Germany by the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), reveals a disturbing level of concern.
More than one in five – 21 per cent- of the 5,847 Jews polled in eight countries had experienced an antisemitic incident in the 12 months beforehand, and two per cent a physical attack.
The results “need to be taken very seriously,” the FRA concluded. “ Close to half of all survey respondents (46 per cent) indicated that they worry about being verbally insulted or harassed in a public place in the next 12 months, and one third fear physical attack in the same period.”
Between 40 per cent to 48 per cent of Jews in France,Hungary and Belgium had “considered emigrating in the past five years because they did not feel safe there as Jews”, the FRA said.
Between a quarter and a fifth of European Jews overall had thought of moving.
In contrast, British Jews felt themselves one of the most secure communities – 18 per cent had considered emigrating for safety - in fact, the most secure after Latvia.
While antisemitism was rated a “ very” or “fairly big” problem by Jews in Hungary (90 per cent), France (85 per cent) and Belgium (77 per cent), the concern was less so in the UK (48 per cent) and Latvia (44 per cent). The UK had the lowest proportion (11 per cent) of those who thought antisemitism “a very big problem”.
The other countries, which were part of the online survey conducted for the FRA by the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research, were Germany, Italy and Sweden.
Most antisemitic incidents have previously gone unrecorded, with nearly two thirds of victims of physical attacks and more than three-quarters of those who suffered harassment found not to have reported the incident to the police or any other organisation.
It prompted calls from the FRA for legislation to ensure proper collection of hate crime data across the EU.
The survey also suggests that Islamic extremists are perceived to pose the greater threat to European Jews.
When asked about the likeliest source of attacks or threats of violence, 40 per cent of respondents said those who holding “Muslim extremist views”; 25 per cent teenagers: 14 per cent, those with left-wing views: and 10 per cent, right-wing views.
When asked about the source of negative comments they had heard about the Jewish people over the previous year, 53 per cent said they had come from someone with left-wing views: 51 per cent, “Muslim extremist” views and 39 per cent, right-wing views.
Israeli MK Shimon Ohayon, who chairs the Knesset lobby for the struggle against antisemitism, commented: “Antisemitism in Europe is at its greatest peak since the end of the Second World War and there are now places on the continent where Jews can no longer live and many others where no outward expressions of Jewishness are tolerated.”
He said that “Europe needs to deal more seriously with this rise in hate which is creating an untenable situation for the Jews of Europe”.
The fallout from the Middle East conflict has clearly left its mark, with 68 per cent of those surveyed saying that it affected their sense of safety.
Nearly two out of every five either always or often avoided wearing a symbol that identifies them as Jewish in the street – in Sweden the figure was as high as 60 per cent. By contrast, 21 per cent of UK Jews did the same.
One woman in Sweden reported, “I would like to wear a star of David as jewellery but I am afraid that I would be targeted and have to answer for Israel’s policies.”
Two-thirds of parents or grandparents worried that their children could suffer antisemitic insults or harassment at, or on the way to, school, while 52 per cent feared they could be victim of a physical attack.
Three-quarters felt that antisemitism on the internet had become a growing problem over the past five years. “The amount of antisemitic material circulating is phenomenal,” one British respondent stated. “This is in some ways setting us backward as now young people are circulating content like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”