A “comprehensive strategy” to combat antisemitism was unveiled by the European Union on Tuesday as part of a broader program to counter rising racism and intolerance on the continent.
Margaritis Schinas — the vice-president responsible for “promoting the European way of life” on the European Commission (EC), the EU’s executive branch — announced the plans at the opening of a High-Level Conference on Protection against Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance, organized by the Portuguese EU presidency.
The strategy “will provide a comprehensive framework to complement and support member states’ effort on preventing and combating antisemitism, educating on the Holocaust remembrance and fostering Jewish life in Europe,” said Schinas.
The new program will receive nearly $2 billion in funding — more than double the previous $800 million that was allocated, making it “the biggest ever EU program for supporting fundamental rights inside the EU,” Schinas added.
“For the next seven years, we will have a new set of standing Citizens Equality Rights and Values program, which will seek to protect and promote open rights-based, democratic, equal and inclusive societies based on the rule of law,” Schinas said.
The EU’s latest initiative comes at a time when antisemitic incidents across Europe have been increasing sharply year-on-year, with the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year unleashing a raft of antisemitic conspiracy theories on the internet.
In France, a report from the Jewish community’s security agency in January emphasized that “the number of violent attacks recorded [in 2020] — 44 — remained almost identical to the year 2019 — 45 — despite the three and a half months of confinement and the decrease in community activities.”
Antisemitic hate crimes spiked in Germany as well during 2020, with at least 2,275 offenses with an antisemitic background recorded. Some 55 of those outrages were acts of violence.
The widespread conspiracy theories about Jews and the pandemic sprang from already fertile soil. A separate report on the Netherlands compiled by the Dutch Jewish organization CIDI concluded that in the 12 months leading up to the COVID-19 lockdown, the country recorded its highest-ever number of antisemitic incidents — 182 in all, marking a 35 percent increase on 2018.
Antisemitism has risen despite a decline in the number of Jews living in Europe. A report published last October by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), a London-based think tank, observed that “the proportion of Jews residing in Europe is about the same as it was at the time of the first Jewish global population account conducted by Benjamin of Tudela, a Jewish medieval traveler, in 1170.”
A total of 1.3 million Jews currently live in the geographical area of Europe, which for survey purposes includes Jews in the 27 EU member states as well as in the United Kingdom, Turkey and Russia.
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Author: Ben Cohen
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