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Major antisemitism survey will assess Jew-hate in Europe

Like many Jews, I’ve watched in horror at the news of antisemitic murders in Paris, Toulouse, Brussels and Copenhagen over the past decade or so.

    The aftermath of the antisemitic terror attack in Paris in January 2015 (Photo: Getty)
    The aftermath of the antisemitic terror attack in Paris in January 2015 (Photo: Getty)

    I’ve watched with dismay as anti-Jewish and anti-Israel tropes have all too frequently found their way into populist ideas on both the far-right and far-left in different parts of Europe, in ways that many assumed had been consigned to history.

    And I’ve seen how our attempts as Jews to understand and label what is happening both unite and divide us, particularly as we try to unpick how Israel and Zionism fit into our analysis of what is going on.

    It’s difficult to know how to respond to all of this sometimes. What policy interventions are actually helpful? Which ones cause more problems than they solve? And how do we accurately measure what is really going on, so that we have the data we need to make intelligent choices?

    There are different ways to research antisemitism and generate data to support policy development. One common method is to measure the number of reported incidents over time.

    Another is to investigate attitudes of non-Jews towards Jews. A third is to look at patterns of migration, assessing the extent to which antisemitism may be a causal factor.

    All of these are done quite regularly. But a fourth approach — perhaps the most obvious of all — is simply to ask Jews what they think. Yet that doesn’t happen very often, both because it is prohibitively expensive and notoriously difficult to do well.

    However, that’s what’s happening right now. Earlier this week, a new survey was launched in 13 countries across Europe, including the UK.

    The survey is being run by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the organisation within the EU that gathers and analyses data about hate crime and discrimination against all minority groups.

    Its work feeds directly into the development of policy, both at a European and national level. Its last study of Jews, conducted in 2012, had a significant influence on decisions taken about the IHRA definition of antisemitism, and led directly to the appointment of a European Commission office for the combating of antisemitism across Europe.

    The findings have been referenced and used regularly by government ministers, civil servants and policy makers in discussions, speeches and reports, not least because, as an EU-sponsored survey, it is seen to be objective and robust.

    The new study, which is being run for the FRA by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in partnership with the global research agency, Ipsos, seeks to update assessments from the last survey.

    The online questionnaire is deliberately being distributed widely to allow as many Jews as possible to have their say, before the 13-member multi-national academic team assesses the sample for representativeness.

    The initial findings will be published by FRA later this year, and disseminated to EU officials, national and local government representatives, the police and security services, civil society organisations and European Jewish communities.

    Multiple supplementary reports will follow, focusing on specific countries, sub-groups or issues.

    This is almost certainly the most ambitious survey of European Jews ever attempted.

    By participating, you will be able to share your views about what you think antisemitism is and is not, whether you think it is increasing or decreasing over time and how concerned or unconcerned you are about it.

    You will be able to record any examples of antisemitic harassment, discrimination, vandalism or violence that you may have experienced, thereby helping researchers across Europe to identify patterns that can be fed directly to policy makers positioned to tackle it.

    All data gathered will be completely anonymous and handled in the strictest confidence, so there is no reason not to be entirely frank and honest, irrespective of your views.

    So look out for notifications inviting you to take part. And please take the time to complete the survey.

    Unlike many such exercises, this one genuinely matters.

    Dr Jonathan Boyd is Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research

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