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Anti-Semitism in the European Union: Recommendations

(Updated December 2003)

The upsurge of anti-Semitic criminal offences and verbal assaults against Jewish citizens and institutions, but also against Muslims, prompted the Interior Ministers of five EU Member States (Belgium, Germany, Spain, France and the United Kingdom) to issue a “Declaration against Racism, Xenophobia and Anti-Semitism” in April 2002. The Ministers said that they had already introduced preventive measures (in particular the surveillance and protection of places of worship) on a national level against the violent attacks occurring in connection with the Middle East conflict. It appears to them in the future to be of particular importance that “joint measures are undertaken on a European level” and “that a series of actions are to be resolved which encompass the rapid acceptance and implementation of concentrated measures, such as an intensifying of the exchange of information and experience between the law enforcement agencies in the Member States and Europol and providing more support for the EUMC, using the data collated by the EUMC. We consider it to be particularly useful that suitable penalties can be applied for racist offences in a comparable way in every Member State.”

To be able to do that, state institutions must assume responsibility for monitoring anti-Semitism in the individual EU Member States. These institutions should work in accordance with well-defined categories (see below), enabling them to recognise an anti-Semitic element within any politically motivated criminal offences they register and to then incorporate them into their statistics. The NFPs’ reports make it clear that information on anti-Semitic attacks in many countries is mainly presented by Jewish institutions or NGOs registering incidents – and they often only do so when they have received reports from the persons affected. All too often we are faced with chance findings, which, for example, have only become public through the regional press release of a committed journalist. Thus, NGOs have recorded 259 racially motivated murders between 1995 and 2000 in Italy; whereas the Italian police have not registered a single case. In Germany NGOs registered five times as many racist murders as the police. Although the violent attacks upon minorities with a racist background has raised the sensitivity of state agencies to such criminal offences in the last few years, the attention required to accept and perceive incidents motivated by anti-Semitism is still lacking in many countries.

In those countries in which incidents are already registered by the security authorities, a swifter processing and publication of the results must be ensured, and not first presented – as in current practice –in the middle of the following year by the police, the authority responsible for the protection of the constitution etc.

We recommend that:

The EUMC requests state authorities to acknowledge at the highest level the extraordinary dangers posed by anti-Semitic violence in the European context.

There is a definite need to distinguish clearly in reporting between acts of violence, threatening behaviour, and offensive speech, and to make transparent government norms and procedures for registering and acting upon racially motivated crimes and offences motivated by anti-Semitism. Only in this way can a genuinely comparative basis for incidents be attained for European countries, a comparison that till now has been limited to a mere juxtaposition of incomparable individual results.

The EUMC should propose to the European Commission and to the Member States to consider a decision for police cooperation according to Article 34 of the Treaty of European Union, which shall bind all Member States to collect and disseminate data on relevant offences, following the model of States such as Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. This decision should also involve EUROPOL and EUROJUST. Such a decision needs to be complemented in all Member States by a coordinated programme of victim studies to overcome the problem of underreporting, which is generally recognised by experts in this area.

The EUMC should propose to the Member States to adopt the proposed framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia (COM 2001/664) as soon as possible and call on the Council of Ministers to ensure that it is amended to be as effective as possible to deal with the reported incidents. To achieve effective regulation of the Internet concerning racist propaganda, it is essential to extend the jurisdiction of European courts to include detailed provisions on the responsibility of Internet service providers. As the Internet must be seen as the central networking medium of the different ideological directions as regards anti-Semitism, it is precisely here where a particularly intensive monitoring is required, one which in the first instance must be undertaken by state authorities, but also by academic and research institutions engaged with racism and anti-Semitism. For this purpose it is thus necessary to establish joint committees at national and international levels. Through mutual exchange these committees shall make available research results, cases of police prosecution and information from state security authorities, establishing a basis for an improved recording and combating of racist and anti-Semitic developments.

The EUMC should encourage and assist civil society to complement the improved legal basis. Most of the EU Member States in recent years already have enacted laws against hate crime or the “Holocaust lie” as well as anti-discrimination laws, which include religious or racial discrimination. Due to these improvements in legislation and law enforcement, and as a result of intensified police activities and increased public awareness, anti-Semitic incidents and violent attacks as well as Holocaust denial have less chance to evade punishment. But as the increase of anti-Semitic attacks shows, laws – although necessary - are not sufficient to stave off incidents, and in most cases do not cover verbal threats.

Registering anti-Semitic incidents

The measures put forward by the five Ministers already imply improvements in monitoring and combating anti-Semitic and racist attacks. In some Member States (Belgium, Ireland, Greece and Portugal) “racist attacks were simply not identified separately in crime statistics”, while others (Germany, France, Sweden and the United Kingdom) have at their disposal state-sponsored instruments which monitor and pursue anti-Semitic incidents. In Germany for instance this is incumbent upon the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which in turn receives its information from the various State Offices for Criminal Investigation. However, these offices record and investigate only punishable offences. In Sweden the Swedish Security Police (Säpo) records systematically anti-Semitic incidents. Since 2001 in the United Kingdom the Community Security Trust (CST), the monitoring body, has been accorded third-party reporting status by the police, allowing it to report anti-Semitic incidents to the police and act as a go-between between them and those victims who are unable or unwilling to report to the police directly. The function performed by the CST thus goes beyond the possibilities accorded to the German agencies and also involves the victims themselves. Other countries, which till now have hardly known any anti-Semitic incidents, do not possess such instruments and were till now not forced to develop monitoring guidelines. The European-wide wave of anti-Semitic incidents has shown that there is now an urgent need for action in these countries as well.

We recommend joint strategies for action to be developed, whereby those countries possessing years of experience in this regard should pass this on to the other Member States. A prerequisite for such joint action must be to establish common guidelines for categorising anti-Semitic incidents. Some countries have for some years now already based their activities on prescribed guidelines for registering anti-Semitic incidents; these though have not been coordinated with one another and hence the results have only a limited comparative value. The most recent definition of anti-Semitic incidents used by the Community Security Trust in the United Kingdom appears to us to be the most suitable for dealing with the demands of a European-wide phenomenon. This definition goes beyond the usual criteria for registering racist incidents, focusing specifically on criteria geared towards anti-Semitism:

1. Extreme violence: any attack potentially causing loss of life;
2. Assault: any physical attack against people, which is not a threat to life;
3. Damage and Desecration of Property: any physical attack directed against Jewish property, which is not life threatening;
4. Threats: includes only clear threats, whether verbal or written;
5. Abusive Behaviour: face-to-face, telephone and targeted abusive/anti-Semitic letters (inter alia those aimed at and sent to a specific individual) as opposed to a mail shot of anti-Semitic literature, which will be included under Category 4. Anti-Semitic graffiti on non-Jewish property is also included in the category;
6. Literature: includes distribution of anti-Semitic literature, based on the following criteria:

a. the content must be anti-Semitic (except see (d) below);
b. the recipient may be either Jewish or non-Jewish;
c. the literature must be part of a mass distribution, as opposed to that directed at a specific individual;
d. racist literature that is not anti-Semitic is included when it is clear that Jews are being deliberately targeted for receipt because they are Jews (implying an anti-Semitic motive behind the distribution);
e. It should be noted that the statistics for this category does not give any indication of the extent of distribution. Mass mailings of propaganda are only counted as one incident, although anti-Semitic leaflets have been circulated to hundreds and possibly thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and organisations.


As already established, laws offer only limited means to counteract anti-Semitism because it is after all a problem of society as a whole. Changes in anti-Jewish attitudes can only be achieved by education. Parents, teachers and day care providers can provide opportunities for children to express their feelings and channel them into positive direction. The most important issue is to promote knowledge on Jewish history, on all dimensions of Jewish-Christian relations and on the Holocaust but without moralising admonitions. To learn about the Holocaust and apply the lessons of the past to contemporary issues of prejudice, racism and moral decision-making is an important aim for the future.

The Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research, founded in 1998 on the initiative of the Swedish Government, is composed of representatives of government, as well as governmental and non-governmental organisations. Its purpose is to mobilise the support of political and social leaders to foster Holocaust education, remembrance, and research both nationally and internationally. The ITF creates programmes and develops guidelines for teaching about the Holocaust. Currently fourteen countries are members of the ITF: Argentina, Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

We recommend that the governments of the EU Member States still absent should undertake initiatives to become members of this international board. The guidelines of the ITF are an important basis for counteracting prejudices and anti-Semitism especially not only because Holocaust denial is part of radical groups (right-wing and radical Islamist groups) who practise anti-Semitism but also because Holocaust education must be part of European historical knowledge. According to the ITF in general, teaching about the Holocaust should advance knowledge of this unprecedented destruction, preserve the memory of the victims, encourage educators and students to reflect upon the moral and spiritual questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as they could be applied to world of today. In order to see the differences between the Holocaust and other genocides, comparisons should be carefully distinguished and similarities also should be articulated. The study of the Holocaust must be studied within the context of European history as a whole. Educators should provide context for the events of the Holocaust by including information about anti-Semitism and Jewish life in Europe before the Holocaust. The main task is to provide teacher seminars on these subjects but also on racism and intolerance and on neo-Nazi music and propaganda.


The fact that in connection with the radicalisation of the Middle East conflict an anti-Semitic body of thought has gained currency and become relevant in many Arab countries, or that an already virulent anti-Semitism, circulating since the Six Day War and which in the last few years has become more and more focused on the denial of the Holocaust, has once again broken out, raises the issue of how the media exploits and hands down anti-Semitic stereotypes.

State authorities have obviously till now paid too little attention to Arab-language publications which spread anti-Semitic propaganda in European countries, whether they be newspapers, audio tapes or the Internet, which in the view of British authors “enjoy, as far as one can tell, nearly total impunity” in the United Kingdom. In order to acquire knowledge of the degree of media influence upon sections of the European population with Arab or North African descent, a research study should be undertaken on the Arab-language television, press and homepages operating in the 15 Member States. Until now it is known that the Arab newspaper “al-Hayat” published in London and “explicit – the political magazine for an Islamic Consciousness” both spread radical anti-Semitism. This is also the case with the Internet, where Hizb-ut-tahrir (the party of Islamic Liberation) operates a site containing anti-Semitic propaganda in German, English, Danish and French, incidentally via a Russian server.

Press reporting of the Middle East conflict was frequently lacking in balance as well as in a perspective on the contexts and the formative background history of the current conflict. Partisanship for the Palestinians as a people allegedly oppressed by a so-called imperialist Israeli state was mainly to be found in the left-oriented media. Quite often there were also caricatures, which used anti-Semitic stereotypes (see Italy, La Stampa). To date there has been no well-founded media analysis of the European press on this subject.

We recommend studies such as the one about how the German print media reported four important incidents in the Middle East during the second Intifada between September 2000 and August 2001, initiated by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), should be organised also for the other Member States.


One of the effective counter-strategies against anti-Semitic agitation on the Internet stems from the providers themselves. They remove upon notification – often only after outside pressure – such websites from the net, or increasingly undertake voluntary self-monitoring. The developments in the last months in partly impeded or completely obstructed access to some homepages have shown that such an approach at least hinders the possibility of placing propaganda on the Internet, even if some suppliers of the homepages removed from the net find alternatives for spreading their material through smaller American or Russian providers. There exists a genuine danger that the far-right extremists can achieve an even more intensive networking through the Internet, although the respective links offered, which suggest close co-operation, are often completely obsolete. Some may lead to the next related homepage, but this does not necessarily mean that there is automatically a close connection with the link partner. In addition, the relevant sites realised with the latest technology are often the work of a single individual or, at the most, of a few persons whose circle of sympathisers is small.

A whole series of private initiatives have already originated in the last few years, which combat anti-Semitic and racist content on the Internet, and with serious information and lexical entries counteract, for instance, the denial of the Holocaust on the Internet. In the Netherlands (state-funded) and the United Kingdom (funded by local Internet Service Providers), Bureaux for Discrimination on the Internet were founded. In addition, private and state organisations exert pressure on large Internet providers such as Yahoo and AOL to remove racist and anti-Semitic content from the net. Legislation recently passed in some countries (Germany, Sweden) prohibiting Internet-based hate speech exerts in the first instance a moral pressure, for it is hardly possible to deal with an international medium which is difficult to control with legislative means on a national level.

We recommend that apart from state approaches for combating Internet-based racism and anti-Semitism, which are in a state of flux, the enormous potential for educational purposes must be utilised far more than is presently the case.

The extent to which anti-Semitic and racist content is also conveyed via websites from football fans and how effective they are in mobilising support is being investigated by a joint study undertaken by the EUMC, the Italian organisation Unione Italiana Sport Per Tutti (UISP) and the Internet company ERIN based in Luxembourg.


Above all in the area of European football a whole series of initiatives have been started in the last few years, which combat racism and anti-Semitism in the stadia, following the initiative “Football against Racism”.

The “Let’s Kick Racism out of Football” (LKROOF) campaign is the product of the United Kingdom’s Commission for Racial Equality, working in conjunction with the football associations of England, Wales and Scotland. A Jewish Policy Research (JPR) seminar in London for academics and sportswriters examined the issues concerning anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism and violence that frequently surround football. The research study on “Racism, Football and the Internet” on behalf of the EUMC analysed football supporter sites carrying violence and racism often combined with anti-Semitism.

We recommend similar studies should also be carried out on other issues in the area of anti-Semitic incidents and placed in an overall European context in order to establish a comparative basis. For this purpose close co-operation is also needed between European research institutions, which would submit their regional studies to, for example, the EUMC to form an information pool. This is the prerequisite for the comparison that in turn – based on specific regional symptoms – opens up the possibility of locating and analysing common patterns, the formation of stereotypes and the different determining political and social conditions. Only on this basis, which needs to be interdisciplinary so as to illuminate the various facets of anti-Semitism from different disciplines and so ultimately provide a comprehensive picture, can measures and strategies be developed which lead to a genuinely effective combating of anti-Semitic tendencies.

Other initiatives by NGOs

During the “European-wide Action Week against Racism 2002” in March 2002, activists in 33 countries all over Europe showed their commitment against racism. In France, many organisations co-operated and focussed on anti-racist education. Their activities included meetings, discussions, concerts and theatre performances. In Germany, immigration was the most central issue in debates, demonstrations and games. In the Netherlands anti-racist organisations discussed recent changes in politics related to migration and integration issues. AMARC Europe, the European branch of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, prepared a 24-hour radio-campaign relayed through the Internet. Initiatives such as the International Day against Fascism and Anti-Semitism (9/11/2002) are especially devoted to issues of anti-Semitism, in which most of the European countries – non-profit organisations of the UNITED-network – are involved with corresponding programmes.

The strategies for dismantling prejudices against Jews have till now included exhibition projects (see the reports on Austria: The Jews of Mistelbach; Jewish Museum Hohenems; on Luxembourg and on Germany) and educational projects and pedagogical tools to improve and foster interculturalism and diversity in society (see the reports on Belgium and Italy). It is precisely the efforts undertaken in the school and education sector that are suitable for incorporating the new challenges posed by anti-Semitic prejudices amongst the Arab/north-African Muslim immigrants. In the United Kingdom the teaching method called “Abrahams barn” (“Abraham’s children”), pointing out similarities between Christianity, Islam and Judaism, has – according to teachers – been reported to be fairly successful in schools with a high percentage of immigrants. Along with this, teachers in some schools have reported that a generally increased vigilance against racist and anti-Semitic expressions has been successful in curbing such sentiments. The Swedish Committee against anti-Semitism has been writing articles and arranging a series of seminars in different cities and towns. The seminars were called “Stereotyping immigrants, Jews and Muslims in media and debate” and got a very good response in the evaluations. The Samordningskommittén for Europaåret mot rasism i Sverige (Swedish Commission against Racism and Xenophobia), established in 1996 by Mona Sahlin, former vice-premier of Sweden, continues to organise seminars and support anti-racist projects.

In order to do justice to the current development of anti-Semitism within the Muslim population in Europe, other ways of dismantling prejudices must also be developed. One important component is intercultural and inter-religious exchange (see Belgium: Jewish-Muslim meeting; Germany: inter-religious dialogue; the Netherlands: organised meeting between CIDI youth group and the youth organisation of the Moroccan association Tans). Also of importance are clear statements from leading personalities in the Muslim community (see country report on Denmark: “Hate of the Jews is not Islamic”; United Kingdom: Condemning the desecration of a synagogue; Germany: protest by the Turkish Association Berlin-Brandenburg against “playing with anti-Semitism”), which are explicitly directed against anti-Semitism and radical Islamic forms of animosity towards Jews. The educational information campaigns within Muslim groups, such as on the theme “to burn a synagogue is like burning a mosque”, have encouraged people to talk again and have improved solidarity between the different communities in this field. Thus, the gesture of a local Muslim group in Aubervilliers (a northern suburb of Paris) is particularly symbolic: it lent its school bus to a Jewish school of the same area after its buses were destroyed during an attack.

Beyond inter-religious dialogue, the spontaneous or organised mobilisation of civil society against the far right has reaffirmed the Republic of France’s common values. Such reactions have at least reminded us that the fight against racism, xenophobia and discrimination remains a common struggle (see country report on France).

Further research

Many of the issues raised above have specific implications for further research. In particular we recommend that research studies should be carried out on anti-Semitic incidents in various fields - for example, sport, entertainment, public service provision – and placed in an overall European context in order to establish a comparative perspective on their occurrence. As stated earlier, a major difficulty with attempting to gain an overview of anti-Semitic incidents is the general problem of under-reporting. To help to overcome this problem it would be helpful to have a programme of victim studies across the different Member States. Another observation has been that the way that the European press draws on and perpetuates anti-Semitic stereotypes has not yet been subject to systematic research analysis. This is another area where research studies should be implemented in order to fill a gap.

Concluding remarks

The public expects from the police, state security agencies and also monitoring offices rapid results and from scientific research bodies a short and precise assessment of the prevailing situation. But unfortunately, there are no patent remedies and quick solutions available. Just as there is no simple and clear solution for explaining anti-Semitic prejudices and stereotype patterns, it is not possible to formulate a once and for all strategy, which is effective everywhere. The strategies are always dependent upon specific situations and must react to the specific national conditions. The individual Member States have to create necessary framework conditions, which has already occurred in many cases, and coordinate these with their European partners, not the least in the face of increasing globalisation – and this has also already taken place in part. At the same time though, state sanctions, legislative regulations and institutionalised monitoring can only then bite when they also lead to changes and the dismantling of prejudices within society. This can only be successful when a re-thinking takes place in society itself that is not directed only by the state. Initiatives from NGOs, religious institutions, trade unions, educational institutions and, not the least, private initiatives therefore assume an extremely important role in reaching as broad a spectrum of the public as possible through dialogue and various actions. Besides initiating intercultural and inter-religious dialogues, generating a greater sensitivity for terminology and themes belongs to their most important tasks in working together with the media, as well as reminding journalists of their public responsibility. The results of the study by Hans Bernd Brosius and Frank Esser on the connection between media reporting and xenophobic violence against foreigners can also be applied to anti-Semitism. Brosius and Esser established that a connection between close-up reporting and violence towards foreigners exists, following the mechanism that the more up to date and current the medial presence is, then the more likely it is that reporting is structured more in a xenophobic form, setting off a rapid spiral of violence. But this also means that journalists must be conscious of their influence on society and act accordingly in a responsible way.

Sources: C.R.I.F. - Released by the European Jewish Congress