Press Release: AJC Welcomes EU Council Declaration on Fighting Antisemitism

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Press Release: AJC Welcomes EU Council Declaration on Fighting Antisemitism

Brussels, 3 December 2020 – The AJC Transatlantic Institute welcomes the European Union’s decision to extend the fight against antisemitism across all of the EU’s policy areas. The bloc renews its 2018 call on all member states to adopt and implement the Working Definition of Antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which recognizes anti-Zionism as a form of antisemitism.

The statement, supported by all 27 member states and passed under the auspices of Germany’s EU presidency, spells out that anti-Jewish bigotry constitutes an attack on European values. Amid rising antisemitism and conspiracy theories in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the bloc urged countries to protect Jewish communities and institutions, combat online hatred, and make the fight against antisemitism a central pillar of its policy making. 

“The EU and, specifically, the German presidency, deserve praise for “mainstreaming” the fight against antisemitism, in other words committing all levels of government to this cause and obliging EU institutions to consider it in all of its measures and decisions. If properly implemented, this could bring about real progress,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Brussels-based EU Office, the AJC Transatlantic Institute. “In this context the Council rightly noted that the IHRA working definition remains a crucial tool to train law enforcement, judges, and educators to correctly identify antisemitism in all its forms, whether it comes from the far right, the far left, or from Islamists,” Schwammenthal added.

According to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights' December 2018 survey of some 15.000 Jews, there was an alarming rise of antisemitism in Europe. The European Commission’s 2019 “Eurobarometer” showed a striking discrepancy of perception of antisemitism in Europe: While 89% of Jews say it has significantly risen over the past 5 years, only 36% of the general public agree.

“The fight against antisemitism is far from over,” Schwammenthal added. “But the EU statement is an important step in the right direction, as is the announcement by Commissioner Margaritis Schinas to draw up a comprehensive EU Strategy on combating antisemitism. Within living memory of the Holocaust, the Europe-wide agreement on the urgent need tackle antisemitism holistically is heartnening. Ultimately, however, Europe will continue to be judged by its actions in the coming years.”