Seven months ago, following the abhorrent anti-Semitic comments by Baroness Tonge, I wrote an Op-Ed for Progress about how Anti-Semitism is still alive in Europe. What I didn’t know back then is that we were going to witness a sharp rise in the number of anti-Semitic attacks in the UK and in Europe. While there are no official statistics in Europe, and the EU is now conducting a survey into anti-Semitism in 9 European countries, in the UK, the Community Security Trust (CST) recorded in 2011 a total of 586 anti-Semitic crimes in the UK. But in the first six months of 2012, 513 potential incidents were reported, and 299 cases were deemed anti-Semitic so far.
While half of the incidents last year took place in Manchester, there is a significant rise of 48% in the number of events in London (148 incidents compared with 100 during the same period last year). A couple of weeks ago, a dear friend of mine, Rabbi Yisroel Lew who heads the Bloomsbury Chabad was attacked verbally and physically in the West End. Although he reported it to the Police and CST, the Rabbi hesitated to go to the press, but after I spoke to him personally and managed to convince him, I made contact with the Jewish Chronicle and they ran the story. It was important to get the message out, that anti-Semitic attacks of any kind will not be tolerated, especially after Rabbis have recently been attacked in Vienna, Berlin and Lyon.
Anti-Semitism has deep roots in Europe and there are different sources and motivations for it. The sources are not important, the need for solutions and eradicating it is. There are three pillars in the fight against anti-Semitism: Legislation, Law-Enforcement and Education. From the legal aspect, a legal action can only be taken if there is a law and unfortunately in many EU countries there are limited hate laws, and anti-Semitic attacks can only be addressed through the criminal courts. In terms of law-enforcement, the local authorities must show zero-tolerance towards anti-Semitic attacks of any kind and not turn a blind eye to incidents, like is being done in some European countries. To give an example of how the situation in the UK has deteriorated, is that last year was the first time that the government gave funding for security in Jewish schools.
Education is also a very important element in the fight against anti-Semitism. European governments should make sure the holocaust is in the curriculum at schools, and schools should organize educational trips to visit the concentration and death camps. This is an addition to educating kids from a young age that any prejudice is unacceptable but in particular anti-Semitism. Tolerance and respect to minorities and different religious and ethnic groups are the fundamentals of every democracy and it is our role as a society to make sure that these values are protected.
It is not a slogan that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, it is a fact. We in the European Jewish Parliament will continue tirelessly to lobby local parliaments and politicians across Europe and work with the EU Institutions to make sure the fight against anti-Semitism is a priority. We witnessed the terrible massacre in Toulouse earlier this year, the bombing of a community center in Malmo and many other serious attacks against Jews across the continent. The future of Jews in Europe is under threat and being Jewish we shouldn’t ask ourselves ‘what will happen’ but ‘what we are going to do about it’.
Tal Ofer is a UK member of the European Jewish Parliament.