The rise of physically violent and vociferous anti-Jewish verbal incidents in the Diaspora have persuaded Jews throughout the Diaspora – and that of pro-Israeli non-Jews around the world – that antisemitism has definitely mushroomed in recent years.
On the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Thursday, January 27), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI)’s European Forum conducted a survey of Israelis’ perceptions of the rate of antisemitism in Europe and whether they view antisemitism as the motivating force behind European Union policies and criticism of Israel.
The survey was conducted in face-to-face interviews in the respondents’ homes last October and included 1,006 men and women – both Jews and Arabs – aged 18 and older, in a random, representative sample of the Israeli adult population. The fieldwork was done by the PORI Institute and partly funded by the Hanns-Seidel-Foundation in Jerusalem.
Among the principal findings are that Jewish life in Europe is expected to face more hostility in the future. A significant 53% of Jewish respondents believe the situation of Jews in Europe will worsen, with only 25% believing things will stay the same. The older the respondent and the more religiously Jewish they were, the more pessimistic their view on the situation. Among Arab respondents, the dominant perception was that the situation for Jews in Europe will stay the same (52%) or even improve (20%).
Religious orientation determined which European countries were viewed as most antisemitic. Overall, France (39%) and Poland (33%) led the pack among those European countries perceived as the most antisemitic, with Germany far behind in third place (15%). However, a closer look showed that Germany ranked number one among ultra-religious (haredi) Jews, France was highest among religious and traditional Jews, and Poland led the list among secular Jews. Among Arab respondents, they ranked Poland and Germany highest.
It seems that criticizing Israel is not an antisemitism act per se. While only a third of Jews surveyed drew a direct link between criticism of Israel and antisemitism, a majority of Jewish respondents do believe that “sometimes” there is a link between the two.
Jews and Arabs were divided on whether EU policies are antisemitic. When asked whether they consider the policies of the European Union to be antisemitic, one-third (27%) of Jewish respondents rejected the notion outright, while an equal number (27%) believe that the policies are antisemitically motivated;, 40% of Jewish respondents said some are and some aren’t. The rate of Arabs who saw no link whatsoever between EU policies and antisemitism was significantly higher (53%).
Prof. Gisela Dachs of HUJI’s European Forum and principal author of the survey commented that “while the majority of Israelis see a link between criticism of Israeli policies and antisemitism, the respondents were much more nuanced than Israel’s politicians. Israelis who are familiar with Europe also know how to distinguish among the various countries and that is reflected here in the survey.”
Dachs went on to add that “the perception of France as topping the list of antisemitic European nations did not surprise me. For a long time, it’s been an open secret that France is rife with antisemitism, and not just among the far-right politicians and populations. Since Israel’s second Intifada in 2000, French Jews have started to feel there may be no future for the younger generation in France, and quite a few have emigrated to Israel to maintain their Jewish identity.”
As for the future of Israeli-European relations, sociologist and the director of the HU’s European Forum, Prof. Gili Drori, explained that “this survey reveals the urgency of studying the multi-dimensionality of Israeli-European relations. We see that alongside the very-strong trade relations and formal agreements between Israel and Europe, Israelis observe the rise of anti-Semitism and the growing power of the political right in Europe with great alarm.”
The European Forum includes research centers, graduate study programs and research funds. The common interest of all the centers is the European integration in its broader sense, involving historical perspectives and comparative methods. The Forum focuses on teaching and research of important long-term processes in Europe, and on the European integration and its nexus with Israel and the Middle East.