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May 26, 2014 12:10 pm

Jewish Groups Concerned Over Far-Right Surge in European Union Parliamentary Elections

avatar by Joshua Levitt

EU flags in front of the European Commission building in Brussels. Photo: Amio Cajander via Wikimedia Commons.

Jewish groups expressed concern on Monday over the surge in support for far-right parties in the European Union’s parliamentary elections, with fears that hate speech will now feature more prominently in European politics.

On Monday, the EU said that of the 751 seats, the center-right European People’s Party won 214, followed by the center-left Socialists and Democrats with 189, while the far-right parties surged to win a combined 36 seats, giving them enough weight to influence debate and decision making in the EU body.

France’s National Front won 25 seats, Hungary’s notorious Jobbik party won four seats, Greece’s Golden Dawn, under criminal investigation and with several party leaders in prison, entered the European Parliament for the first time, with an expected three seats, and the far-right FPÖ in Austria won four seats.

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Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the American Jewish Committee Transatlantic Institute, said, “These radical parties have been able to grow in their respective home countries for quite some time and are now cementing their presence also at the European level.”

“They must be confronted head-on or the danger will only continue to grow,” Schwammenthal said, adding their “presence in the legislature for the next five years will, at a minimum, provide a soapbox from which to propagate their vile hatred.”

French artist and humanitarian Ron Agam, son of Israeli painter Yaacov Agam, told The Algemeiner on Monday, “The vote for the FN in France is a rupture with the past. Today French voters have endorsed a party that is essentially xenophobic, anti-Semitic and demagogically populist.”

“France’s democracy is in danger and the horizon for Jews is getting bleaker,” Agam said. “Jews in France are now sandwiched between a growing anti-Semitism from radical French Islamic elements and, now, an ever growing extreme right that will ultimately show its real face sooner or later.”

“More than ever, I am very worried for France’s Jewish community,” Agam said.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Monday also voiced concern over the “alarming” success of extremist, including neo-Nazi, parties in the elections.

“There is no doubt that political extremism is on the rise in Europe, and along with it anti-Semitism is rising as well,” said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman. “The success of extremist political parties, both on the far-right and far-left, has never been good for democracy or for Jews and other minorities. The continuing trend in Europe toward support for these parties is cause for heightened concern.”

The ADL’s Global 100 Index of Anti-Semitic Attitudes, released earlier this month, revealed that on average, 27 percent of the EU’s adult population harbors anti-Semitic attitudes.

Foxman linked anti-Semitism in Europe to the deadly shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium over the weekend and another attack that came hours later when two Jewish brothers wearing kippahs were assaulted outside a synagogue in Créteil, Paris.

“The atmosphere for Jews in Europe is deteriorating,” Foxman said. “The murderous attacks in Brussels this past weekend and two years ago in Toulouse, and the rising number of assaults on Jews, such the attack in Paris on Saturday, are stark examples of the very real dangers facing Jews.”

“The alarming electoral successes of the extremists will only contribute to increasing that sense of insecurity,” Foxman added. “If Jewish life in Europe is to continue and thrive, it will require a serious commitment from all European governments and EU institutions to turn the tide. The choice is theirs and the time is now.”

The Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France (CRIF), the main umbrella organization of French Jewry, said in a statement that it is deeply concerned about the results of the elections. The organization called on the French government to “take strong measures against those who spread anti-Semitic and racist speech to strongly condemn their barbaric acts, and intervene in schools to reaffirm values of the Republic.”

“History has taught us that economic crises promote nationalism and isolationism, which are accompanied by the rejection of the other, racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic sentiments,” the CRIF said. “Moreover, the bombing of Brussels that killed four people on Saturday, and the anti-Semitic attack against Créteil two young people, showed that hatred rose again, from the stage of speech to physical aggression.”

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