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EU encourages members to use IHRA anti-Semitism definition as 'guidance tool'

People wear Jewish skullcaps, during a demonstration against anti-Semitism in Berlin, Wednesday, April 25, 2018.
AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
Member states did not official adopt the IHRA definition which says some criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic

The European Commission, the governing body of the European Union, adopted a new declaration on the fight against anti-semitism on Thursday in an effort to improve its protection of Jewish communities and institutions.

In a joint statement from Brussels, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Commissioner Vera Jourova welcomed the council’s declaration as Europe experiences a significant rise in anti-Semitism throughout the continent.

"In times of growing Anti-semitic hatred, the unanimous adoption of the Declaration on the fight against Antisemitism by the 28 EU Member States sends an important signal to the Jewish community; the EU and each of its Member States stand by their side to guarantee their safety and well-being,” the statement reads.

“We will combine our efforts at European and national level to ensure that Jewish Europeans can build a common future for themselves and their children in Europe, together with all Europeans,” it adds.

The declaration calls on member states to abide by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of Anti-semitism “as a guidance tool” as a step toward fighting hatred toward Europe’s Jewry.

The statement also included background on the Commission’s existing efforts to combat anti-Semitism in Member States.

FREDERICK FLORIN (AFP/File)

Israel's Foreign Ministry released a brief statement in response to the Commission's declaration, saying the most important part of the new initiative is increased funding toward security of Jewish institutions, "deepening the battle against hateful anti-Semitic discourse online," and the call for EU member states to adopt the IHRA's definition of anti-Semitism in full.

On December 10, the Fundamental Rights Agency, at the request of the Commission, will publish the largest survey ever taken of among European Jews on their views and experiences of anti-Semitism.

At the end of November, CNN conducted a survey that revealed at anti-Semitism is still alive and well in Europe, with roughly 25 percent of people claiming Jews have too much influence in in business and wars globally.

“The poll uncovered complicated, contrasting and sometimes disturbing attitudes about Jews, and some startling ignorance,” a summary of the poll read on CNN’s website.

Nevertheless a substantial percentage of the 7,000 Europeans polled across seven nations -- 1,000 from each of Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Poland and Sweden -- recognized that anti-Semitism is a growing problem, with 40 percent answering that Jews were in danger of hate crimes in their countries and half advocating for greater government action on the matter.

Yet at the same time, nearly 20 percent attributed anti-Semitism to the daily behavior of Jews, while roughly 25 percent said that the anti-Semitism stemmed from dissent over Israel’s actions as a state.

Henning Kaiser/dpa via AP

Israel’s preeminent Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center expressed its deep disturbance over the poll results in a press release on Tuesday.

“Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, is deeply concerned about the initial report of the CNN survey, according to which one-third of Europeans claim to know little or nothing about the Holocaust. Additionally, the survey highlights the troubling fact that many entrenched hateful antisemitic tropes persist in European civilization, seventy-five years after the end of the Holocaust,” the statement read.

The premiere institute for Holocaust research urged greater government legislation and raising public awareness in combating these realities.

Conflicting attitudes were especially lucid when it came to the Holocaust and its remembrance.

While there was a broad consensus of the importance of keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive in order to help prevent future atrocities, there is substantial ignorance of the mass murder of some six million Jews at the hands of the Nazi regime during World War II: In France, for instance, 20 percent of young people (ages 18-34) said they had never heard of the Holocaust, and some 12% of the parallel group in Austria said they knew “just a little.”

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