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Attempts to confront antisemitism in the EU, the UK and France

Attempts to confront antisemitism in the EU, the UK and France
I’m the European Commission coordinator on combating antisemitism. I was appointed in December 2015, as an expression of the political will in Europe to address antisemitism head-on and to react also to the increasing fear that we see among Jewish communities while antisemitism has been mounting. My main responsibility has been so far to be in close contact with the Jewish communities, to liaise with them, to listen to them. I’ve visited a lot of them in the past year and a half to really hear from them what their main fears are, their main preoccupations, what they think we on European level could do, what also could be done on national level. And then I take this information back.
I report directly to the first vice-president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans and to Commissioner Jourová who is responsible for justice in the European Commission to see in how far we can introduce policy measures that can have a positive effect with regards to the preoccupations of the Jewish community. So we have taken a very holistic approach. On the one side, the legal aspects enforcing legislation with regards, for example, to the criminalization of Holocaust denial, inciting to violence and hatred, the trivialization of the Holocaust but also, more generally, antisemitic acts. We have looked at educational measures.
We looked at security while we don’t have a competence there but we think that it’s the responsibility of the member states to ensure the security of the citizens and that the costs for that cannot be borne by the community. One of our main preoccupation has been the incredible spike of hatred online and so there we have reached out to the IT companies, the big ones - Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft and YouTube - to ensure that they themselves take the responsibility to take down within 24 hours hate speech that is illegal according to European Legislation, and review it and take it down if necessary.
I think that it’s important to make people increasingly aware of the different facets of antisemitism, to reassure the Jewish community that they have a future in Europe and that there is no doubt that 72 years after the Shoah they are an integral part of European society and that we will do everything in our hands to ensure that.
And I think that if we take all the different elements together, we will be able to decrease antisemitism, decrease also incidents of antisemitic background, and ensure that Jews can feel secure in Europe and that they can lead the lives they want to live - so you know whether secular or religious; whether they want to send their children to public schools or to Jewish schools, that they can make these choices and that ultimately we will arrive - and it’s not around the corner immediately - but we will arrive at a normality for the Jewish community in Europe.
A lot of work is being done to deal with antisemitism in Britain today and a lot of work has been done over the last 10 years or so. Things really got going in terms of political action against antisemitism. In 2006, when there was a parliamentary inquiry into antisemitism by a committee of British members of Parliament organized by a Labour MP called John Mann and chaired by a Labour MP at the time, called Denis MacShane, and this committee was made of MPs who were not Jewish and who most of whom did not have any real interaction with the Jewish community or with Jewish issues up until that date. And they did what all good parliamentary committees do.
They looked at the evidence. They scrutinized it. They called witnesses from the police, from government, from the prosecution authorities, from the media and from the Jewish community. And they looked at antisemitism across all of society in terms of hate crime, in terms of political language; what happens in the media; what happens in sports. Social media was just starting to get going around that time. And they produced a report that validated a lot of what the Jewish community was saying at that time, that there were new forms of antisemitism that were affecting Jews in Britain and I have to say in other European countries too.
That report produced a whole set of recommendations, and still ten years on the government is still working to those recommendations with a plan of action to tackle antisemitism. And, of course, when you do things to tackle antisemitism, whether it’s in terms of reducing hate crime or trying to get social media companies to do more, what happens is that other communities benefit as well, because you come up with measures that tackle all forms of racism - anti-Muslimism hatred, homophobia and other types of bigotry.
Now this committee, this led to a working group in government that brings together all the different departments of government who deal with issues related to antisemitism with the main Jewish Community organizations and they meet on a regular basis, look at the different problems, look at the work being done, come up with new ideas for new measures. And this has gone on through three different governments under different leaderships now, it’s an established part of the government’s work to tackle antisemitism. My name is Frédéric Potier. I am the inter-ministerial delegate for the fight against racism, antisemitism, and anti-LGBT hate. I’m at the head of a small entity created in 2012, currently composed of 12 people with a budget of six million euros.
We finance more than 800 initiatives in France, working with other ministries, the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Culture, of Youth, of Sports, as well as with associations, without which we would not be able to do very much, like The Human Rights League, SOS Racism, and LICRA. Our objective is to fight against acts of hate, or messages of hate, wherever or whatever they are. Racism, antisemitism, or homophobia. The first instrument that we invested in was education. Because you have to fight antisemitism at school and through schools. So we created various tools, like training programs for teachers, working with, for example, the Mémorial de la Shoah. We also created programs to facilitate interventions in schools, to identify incidents and address each one.
It’s not enough to say, this problem occurred at this place. We have to be able to offer a solution, resources. We attribute great importance to person accounts of Holocaust survivors, like Elie Buzyn, for example, which is what Simone Weil did. It’s all part of the strategy that we are implementing with memorial institutions and the Ministry of Education to combat racism and antisemitism at schools and through schools.

Ms. Katharina von Schnurbein, Dr. Dave Rich and Mr. Frédéric Potier

Let’s hear more about what is being done on the governmental and policy levels to confront antisemitism by focusing on the EU, the United Kingdom and France, where important developments in the efforts to combat antisemitism have taken place over the past two decades.

What can the cases of the EU, the UK and France teach us about the efforts to confront antisemitism and their importance?


  • Cardaun, Sarah K., Countering Contemporary Antisemitism in Britain (Leiden: Brill, 2015).

  • DILCRAH (Délégué interministériel à la lutte contre le racisme, l’antisémitisme et la haine anti-LGBT)

  • The European Parliament’s 2017 Motion for Resolution on Combatting Antisemitism.

  • Schnurbein von, Katharina, “Combating Antisemitism in the European Union,” Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, vol. 10, no. 2 (2016), pp.283 – 287.

  • Whine, Michael, “National Monitoring of Hate Crime in Europe: The Case for a European Level Policy,” in Jennifer Schweppe and Mark Austin Walters, eds., The Globalization of Hate: Internationalizing Hate Crime? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 213 – 232.

  • Whine, Michael, “Latest Developments in Combating Racism in the UK,” in María Elósegui and ‎Cristina Hermida, eds., Racial Justice, Policies and Courts’ Legal Reasoning in Europe (Cham: Springer, 2017), pp. 167 – 176.

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Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

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