'Euro Jewry needs shift in mindset on security'



Jewish groups in Europe are realising that they cannot rely solely on the intelligence services, the police or even their own - often threadbare - security organisations for protection.

This was one of the key messages to emerge at the American Jewish Committee's conference on antisemitism, titled "A Defining Moment for Europe", which took place in Brussels on Tuesday.

Since the attacks in Paris in January, all Jewish sites in France have had 24-hour police protection. But that exceptional measure will end - the date has not been publicised - and when that happens, the communities will have to come up with more creative ways to secure themselves.

"When the current deployment stops, something else needs to be in place," said John Farmer, a law professor at Rutgers University. "Europeans have to adopt the 'see something, say something' policy, like in the US.

"We need to change the mindset," said Jonathan Fischer, vice-president of Denmark's Jewish community. "The way we want to live our lives is no longer possible. We can't count only on security services, on intelligence services. Today makeshift jihadists are asked not to communicate, so intelligence services can't spot them."

‘The way we want to live our lives is no longer possible’ - Jonathan Fischer

Community security services already cooperate with the police in France and the UK. French Jewish security officials meet weekly to assess threats, sometimes at the Interior Ministry.

Jewish security groups in Europe recently formed a transnational network, sharing - for the first time - information on potential threats.

"Everyone should participate, be informed. Remember that 14-year-old boy who detected a bomb on a bus in Tel Aviv? He saved all these lives because he was trained. He detected the bomb quickly and alerted the driver who was trained for that type of threat and knew what to do," said a former head of French-Jewish security service SPCJ, who wished to remain anonymous.

He added: "Communication adverts and school programmes should prepare everyone for security threats, just like children get basic fire drills exercises. If we defend ourselves, we feel security will come back."

Over the past decade, France has spent €17 million to secure 600 shuls, institutions and Jewish schools.

France's inter-ministerial delegate on racism and antisemitism, Gilles Clavreul, said the country would inject an extra €100m into education programmes that combat antisemitism.

In France, dozens of schools do not hold discussions on antisemitism or the Holocaust because pupils refuse to learn about it. Authorities hope the new programme will give teachers working in difficult neighbourhoods the tools they need to engage students on Jew-hate.

The three Muslim panellists at the conference denounced European governments' cooperation with radical Muslim groups.

"European governments say that these groups were elected but studies show they represent a small fraction of Muslims - four to six per cent. Making them the partners only emboldens them and gives them legitimacy," said Imam Yahya Pallavecini, from Milan. "You have to encourage the secular and moderate Muslims."

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