Could Spreading European Anti-Semitism Drive Jews From Homelands?

85% of French Jews See Hatred as Major Problem

getty images

By Liam Hoare

Published November 25, 2013, issue of November 29, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

The perception is that the level of anti-Semitism on the Internet over the past five years has increased, as discussion forums and social networking sites are now the main places where European Jews are most likely to have seen or heard anti-Semitic comments. While 75% reported seeing or hearing anti-Semitic comments on the Internet in the past 12 months, 51% saw or heard them in a social situation, 47% among the general public and 42% at a political event.

And what exactly are they hearing? Forty-eight percent of respondents have seen or heard someone make the statement that Israelis behave “like Nazis” toward the Palestinians; 38% that Jews have too much power in the economy, politics and the media; 37% that Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes, and on and on. Small wonder, then, that European Jews fear that they, their friends or their families might become victims of an anti-Semitic attack, if all this is a regular part of European discourse.

That the threat has gone online, as well, rather complicates the question of what is to be done. The FRA suggests that E.U. member states consider enhancing “the legal basis for the investigation and prosecution of hate crime and crime committed with anti-Semitic motives on the Internet.” In so doing, states should establish “specialized police units that monitor and investigate hate crime on the Internet and put in place measures to encourage users to report any anti-Semitic content they detect to the police.”

One problem, however, is that the FRA’s own survey also showed an entrenched disbelief in the ability of national police forces to deal with anti-Semitism. When it came to reporting anti-Semitic incidents, only 8% of respondents reported harassment to the police: 17% reported physical violence, and 22% cases of vandalism. When asked why they did not report the offense, 47% said that nothing would happen or change by reporting the incident.

Thus, if anti-Semitism on the Internet is to be considered a hate crime equal to verbal or physical confrontation, there must be other avenues to reporting it. To that end, it would be a decent idea for E.U. member states to foster closer cooperation between police forces and Jewish community organizations.

The other issue, however, is the question of whether one can — or should — police the Internet at all. A case of anti-Semitic harassment or intimidation online is one thing, but to monitor the discourse is quite another.

By way of example, 21% of European Jews report hearing or seeing the statement that the Holocaust is a myth or has been exaggerated in the past 12 months. In Belgium, France, Germany and Hungary, it is a crime to deny or minimize the Holocaust, but it is inherently impractical to police the Web for signs of it, never mind the question of one’s right to make a statement as abhorrent as that the Holocaust never even happened.

The struggle against anti-Semitism in Europe is unwinnable to the extent that it is ineradicable. It is a virus for which there is no cure — it can only be contained. What makes the FRA survey disheartening in particular is the knowledge that the Internet has become for European Jews the main context for encountering anti-Semitism. It only makes the struggle that much harder.

Liam Hoare is a regular contributor to the Forward.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.