Antisemitism in Europe

And Implications for U.S. Policy

Are Jews able to live openly and freely as Jews, in whatever manner they wish? The answer to this question is fundamental for judging antisemitism in any country.

The factors that go into that assessment include: (1) Prevalence of antisemitic attitudes among the general population; (2) Number and nature (or severity) of antisemitic incidents; (3) Tolerance for antisemitic rhetoric in public, whether in politics or media; and (4) Actions (or inaction) by governments to counter and prevent antisemitism. This latter category may include physical security for Jewish institutions, public denunciations of antisemitism by political leaders, prosecution of antisemitic hate crimes, and education against antisemitism.

The following country profiles briefly describe these main factors for each of the countries included in the report. Additional commentary is added where relevant. The profiles are not exhaustive of the topic of antisemitism in each country — entire books have been written about antisemitism in many of them — but aim to convey an accurate summary of the situation of antisemitism and government efforts to address it.

Each profile includes the following sections:

Top concerns of Jewish community leaders: Leaders were asked open-ended questions about their top concerns. Follow-up questions were also asked about specific sources of antisemitism and how it is expressed, for example in the form of violence, rhetoric, or discrimination. The information for this section of the profiles was compiled from interviews with Jewish community leaders, government officials, and other relevant actors, as well as from desk research to inform and complement the interview process. Interviews were conducted “on background” to allow for free expression of concerns and criticisms. For almost all of the countries covered by this report, more than one Jewish leader was interviewed to ensure descriptions that are representative of the community. Some interviewees were representatives elected by their communities, while others were Jewish community professionals. Sentiments attributed to “Jewish leaders” are assessments of the sum of these conversations and should not be attributed to any specific individuals. Jewish population figures in the country profiles are taken from Jews in Europe at the Turn of the Millennium: Population Trends and Estimates by the European Jewish Demography Unit of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research.

Jewish community surveys: The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) conducted surveys in 2012 and 2018 of Jewish communities in twelve EU countries, including eight covered in this report (Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, The Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and United Kingdom). The surveys asked about Jewish adults’ experiences and perceptions of antisemitism and related topics. Topline findings from the 2018 survey are presented, including significant differences between the 2012 and 2018 surveys on certain questions.

Antisemitic incident reports: Where available, antisemitic incident data is presented to demonstrate recent levels and/or relative trends over the past few years. Data may come from antisemitism monitoring organizations, Jewish community organizations, government, and/or law enforcement agencies and is indicated as such in each instance.

Antisemitic attitude surveys: ADL’s Global 100 survey of antisemitic attitudes provides data on the general population’s beliefs in antisemitic conspiracy theories and other antisemitic stereotypes. In addition, a 2018 Eurobarometer survey provides data on the general population’s beliefs about the overall issue of antisemitism in their country; that is, to what extent antisemitism is a serious problem in their country.

Physical security: Jewish leaders and government officials were asked whether security measures at Jewish institutions were adequate to their threat assessments.

Government actions: Jewish leaders and government officials were asked (and desk research conducted on) the following questions:
1. Do officials systematically and publicly condemn antisemitic incidents?
2. Does the government have a comprehensive plan for combating antisemitism, including online antisemitism?
3. Do officials adequately confer and coordinate with Jewish community leaders on actions against antisemitism?
4. Do parliamentary committees effectively review government action against antisemitism?

Education: Jewish leaders and government officials were asked (and desk research conducted on) the following questions:
1. Is there adequate formal education in schools about antisemitism?
2.Are there informal education programs, such as public awareness campaigns?
3. Do schools have adequate plans and personnel to respond to antisemitic incidents?
4. Are public sector employees (e.g., educators, law enforcement, judiciary) trained to understand antisemitism, including, for example, the use of the IHRA definition?

Law enforcement: Jewish leaders and government officials were asked (and desk research conducted on) the following questions:
1. Are adequate systems in place to report antisemitic hate crime, including illegal hate speech?
2. Does law enforcement report publicly on antisemitic hate crime statistics? Do those reports reflect the experiences of the Jewish community?
3. Are antisemitic crimes adequately prosecuted as hate crimes?

Following the country profiles, key aspects of common challenges are reviewed to indicate gaps in current European government efforts to address antisemitism.

The final section examines past and present U.S. foreign policy interventions to support the fight against antisemitism in European countries and suggests a range of additional measures that could make U.S. policy more effective in this regard.