‘We Want to See Jewish Life Thriving Again’: European Union Unveils Nine-Year Strategy to Combat Antisemitism
The European Union’s executive branch on Tuesday unveiled its long-anticipated strategy to counter antisemitism and foster Jewish life among its 27 member states.
The 26-page document from the European Commission (EC) focuses on three pillars — preventing and combating all forms of antisemitism, protecting and fostering Jewish life in the EU, and education, research and Holocaust remembrance.
“Today we commit to fostering Jewish life in Europe in all its diversity,” the EC’s President, Urusula von der Leyen, declared in a statement. We want to see Jewish life thriving again in the heart of our communities. This is how it should be.”
Von der Leyen added that the “strategy we are presenting today is a step change in how we respond to antisemitism. Europe can only prosper when its Jewish communities feel safe and prosper.”
The EU’s latest initiative on antisemitism — a nine-year strategy involving its member states — comes at a time when antisemitic incidents across Europe have been increasing sharply year-on-year, with the COVID-19 pandemic over the last eighteen months unleashing a raft of antisemitic conspiracy theories, as well as the appropriation of Holocaust imagery by vaccine refusal advocates.
The strategy document emphasized the enormous contribution that Jews have made to European civilization. “From Gustav Mahler to Sigmund Freud, Hannah Arendt and Simone Veil, Jewish people have enriched Europe’s cultural, intellectual and religious heritage,” it stated. “At the same time, antisemitism has been present in Europe for centuries, manifesting in the form of expulsions, persecutions and pogroms, which culminated in the Holocaust, an indelible stain on European history and erased Jewish life and heritage in many parts of the continent. The European Union has its historical roots in the Second World War and the unequivocal commitment of Europeans to ensure that such atrocities never happen again.”
Citing polling data showing that nine in 10 European Jews believes that antisemitism has worsened and that 85 percent consider it a “serious problem,” the strategy calls for “preventing and combating” all forms of antisemitism. “Contemporary antisemitism can be found in radical and fringe groups espousing right-wing, left-wing or Islamist extremism, it can hide behind anti-Zionism, but it can also be found in the centre of society,” the strategy observed.
The several measures that EU member states have been urged to adopt includes the formation of “national strategies by end 2022 on combating antisemitism, or include measures in their national action plans against racism, and provide sufficient funding to implement them.”
Jewish groups welcomed the EC’s announcement.
“This is an unprecedented and vital document that will act as a roadmap to significantly reduce antisemitism in Europe and beyond,” said Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), in a statement.
“As the head of the political representation of all Europe’s Jewish communities, I am pleased that the EU addressed our concerns and recommendations in this initiative and we stand ready to assist in any way towards the implementation of this important strategy,” Kantor said.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said he applauded the EC “for putting forward an ambitious plan that encompasses all aspects of fighting antisemitism, Holocaust remembrance and embracing the Jewish contribution to the European way of life.”