A report by CNN has revealed a “shadow over Europe” in the context of recent polls illustrating anti-Semitic stereotypes that are “alive and well” in Europe as the memory of the Holocaust starts to fade. Pollster ComRes partnering with CNN interviewed more than 7,000 people across Europe, including respondents in Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Poland and Sweden.
The report maintained that a third of Europeans know “just a little” or “nothing at all” about the mass murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust and Second World War. A quarter believed Jews have too much influence in business, finance, global conflict and wars. One in five believed Jews have too much influence in media and politics and that anti-Semitism is a response to the everyday actions of Jews.
According to Robert Hassan, president of Institute for the Study of Global anti-Semitism and Policy (ISGAP) Europe, analyst and government relations manager, “stereotypes lead to disasters in human history.” He told Breaking Israel News that this was true leading up to the Holocaust when Jews were “juxtaposed to everything: to communism, capitalism, to media power, to those who support immigration and to those who are anti-immigrants.” Thus, the risk of anti-Semitic stereotypes means that such beliefs could lead to future anti-Semitic violence, or worse – genocide.
Of the respondents, 44% agreed that anti-Semitism is a growing problem in their country with 40% saying Jews are at risk for racist violence, and when Europeans do know about the Holocaust, they believe it is important to keep the memory of atrocities alive.
“Two-thirds of Europeans said that commemorating the Holocaust helps ensure that such atrocities will never happen again. That figure rises to 80% in Poland, where the Nazis established Auschwitz, the deadliest concentration camp of all. Half of Europeans said commemorating the Holocaust helps fight anti-Semitism today,” reported CNN.
Nonetheless, 31% of Europeans who do know about the Holocaust also believe that Jews “use the Holocaust” to advance their own positions or goals. In addition, 18% said anti-Semitism is a response to the everyday behavior of Israel with 28% saying that it is a response to actions of the state of Israel.
The results of the poll among young people between the ages of 18-34 were perhaps most striking – with 20% saying they have never heard of the Holocaust. However, noted CNN, Americans do not fare any better, with 20% of American Millennials also reporting they have never heard of the Holocaust.
Concluded CNN, “The poll uncovered complicated, contrasting and sometimes disturbing attitudes about Jews, and some startling ignorance.”
Another poll published on November 26, conducted by the EenVanddag television show of the NPO 1 channel with the JMW Jewish group and the Central Jewish Board of the Netherlands, showed equally disturbing statistics of anti-Semitism in Holland. According to the report, reported by JTA, 43% of Dutch Jews said they hide their Jewish identity through dress – covering their kippah (skull cap) with a hat or hiding their Star of David pendants.
In response to the statistics of anti-Semitism throughout Europe, Dr. Charles Asher Small, a prominent scholar and public speaker specializing in contemporary anti-Semitism, told Breaking Israel News of the ways his organization is attempting to address such alarming trends.
Small founded ISGAP in 2004 with the goal of “exploring anti-Semitism within a comprehensive, interdisciplinary framework from an array of approaches and perspectives as well as global, national and regional contexts.” With their analysis, the organization creates high caliber academic programming, international seminars series and research projects that address pertinent contemporary subject matter and policy development to map, decode and confront contemporary anti-Semitism effectively.
Toward these ends, Small said “ISGAP is currently engaged in an international project with more than 15 Jewish organizations from around Europe, Israel and North America, the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union and the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs.”
“We are working scholars of big data and also social media and algorithms to develop new tools to measure anti-Semitism more effectively.” he added. “No longer is it possible to count swastikas on walls – the world has changed – and we are developing a way to measure and understand the rapidly changing dynamics of contemporary anti-Semitism and hatred in general.”
Small suggested that anti-Semitism should be solved not through the legal system, but through “creating bonds in every area of society” to cultivate alliances in government, media, education, law enforcement and corporations based on shared interests.
Also calling on changes in the way we approach the problem of anti-Semitism, ISGAP’s Hassan reflected upon Nobel Prize Elie Wiesel’s belief that “anti-Semitism begins with Jews but never ends with the Jews,” concluding that “anti-Jewish prejudice is an attack on every single one of our freedom of identity, of behavior and existence.”
Each of us, he said, regardless of identity or interests, “must fight anti-Semitism as one defends his or her own personal freedom.”