Monday, May 21, 2018

Europe: Treatment of Jews is a “seismograph” for society says EU coordinator on combatting anti-Semitism

Via Politico:
Katharina von Schnurbein is firmly in the political spotlight. As the European Commission’s coordinator on combatting anti-Semitism, von Schnurbein finds herself in the middle of questionable, difficult and downright nasty behavior.

Multiple reports show that anti-Semitism is rising across Europe, and at times the rhetoric comes from leading politicians.

For every show of inclusion from Europeans — such as last week’s victory by Netta, Israel’s entry in the Eurovision Song Contest — discussion about anti-Semitism becomes complicated by political controversy, such as Israeli Defense Forces killing more than 50 people in Gaza during protests against the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Von Schnurbein feels the debate should look at not just extreme behavior but all of society. “To some extent the floodgates are open and anti-Semitism is expressed more openly [today]. Conspiracy theories are found in the middle of society. Teachers who have lost a compass as to what is anti-Semitism and therefore do not react properly in school when Jewish students are being harassed. Judges who think that throwing Molotov cocktails into a synagogue is a legitimate expression of a political opinion.”

Citing growing harassment of staff at the Auschwitz concentration camp museum, von Schnurbein said “it is not for nothing that in most EU countries it is necessary to have security in front of Jewish institutions”

What can people do in their everyday lives to combat anti-Semitism? “Fighting anti-Semitism in the end is a question of civic courage. It’s not easy to fight it in your own environment but this is where it starts. In your own party, with your own parents, your own sports club, to react when you hear something at a dinner party. It’s that kind of civic courage that we need and that will in the end change the situation.”

Von Schnurbein said treatment of Jews is a “seismograph” for society, citing the number of terror attacks against Jewish targets in Europe that included attacks in Paris, Brussels and Nice. Rising anti-Semitism “is a sign that something’s going wrong in society and therefore it needs to be tackled also by society at large.”

There is also “imported anti-Semitism,” often from migrants from Muslim-majority countries. Von Schnurbein said it’s important not to stigmatize a whole community but to recognize there is a problem. Criticism of Israeli policies is not anti-Semitic, she said, but questioning the right of Israel to exist and the right of Jewish people to self-determination is.
The ultimate aim of her work: “Normality for Jews in Europe” so they do not have to second-guess their movements and life choices in order to enjoy their basic freedoms and rights.

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