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June 29, 2020 4:08 pm

Amid Rising Antisemitism in Europe, Many Victims Still Reluctant to Report Ordeals, EU Coordinator Says

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avatar by Ben Cohen

The European Commission’s coordinator on combating antisemitism, Katharina von Schnurbein, speaking at a press conference, October 2019. Photo: Reuters / Andreas Gebert.

Underreporting of antisemitic incidents in European Union member states may be as high as 80 percent, the bloc’s top official tasked with combating antisemitism said on Monday.

Addressing an online seminar of academic specialists on antisemitism, Katharina Von Schnurbein — the coordinator on combating antisemitism of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm — underlined the importance of individual EU states accurately monitoring hate crimes against Jews.

Yet, in spite of a statistical picture showing a continent-wide rise in antisemitic outrages, ranging from vandalism and verbal abuse to physical assault and murder, many Jewish victims were still reluctant to report their experiences either to law enforcement agencies or to the Jewish community, leading to a “70-80 percent” shortfall in reports, von Schnurbein observed.

“The two most common reasons given for not reporting an incident were, firstly, that doing so would not make a difference, and secondly, a lack of trust or confidence in the authorities,” von Schnurbein said.

She noted that in France in particular, some victims had kept silent out of concern that their own ordeals would seem trivial when compared with major antisemitic outrages, such as the murder of four Jewish hostages by an Islamist terrorist at a kosher supermarket in Paris in January 2015.

Surveys of Jewish victims conducted over the last two years by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) demonstrated that a significant majority did not file an incident report. One survey of from December 2018 revealed that in France, 80 percent of incidents went unreported during a year that nonetheless saw a 74-percent increase in antisemitic crimes, while in Hungary, home to a Jewish community of 100,000, the figure was 88 percent. 

Von Schnurbein also addressed the objections voiced in Europe to the definition of antisemitism framed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and adopted by numerous governments and public institutions around the world.

Some detractors have argued that the definition’s inclusion of key anti-Zionist tropes as antisemitic — such as denying Israel’s right to exist or comparing Israeli policies to the Palestinians with the Nazi genocide of the Jews — blunted free speech.

Von Schnurbein countered that while EU countries maintained laws on hate speech, expressing opposition to Zionism remained legal. Moreover, the IHRA definition is not legally-binding, but rather a guide for victims and authorities alike to determine whether an incident is antisemitic.

“The IHRA definition is rejected by the Israel-haters,” von Schnurbein told Monday’s seminar — which was hosted by the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism (ISCA) at Indiana University Bloomington.

But, she continued, “the IHRA definition doesn’t change the law. What it does is provide an instrument for those who oppose anti-Zionism that wasn’t there before.”

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