CST Blog

FRA survey - antisemitic harassment and violence in the EU

11 November 2013

Last week the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) published its ground breaking survey of Jewish people’s experiences and perceptions of hate crime, discrimination and antisemitism in the EU. The survey covers the UK, France, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Italy Hungary, and Latvia: around 90% of the estimated Jewish population in the EU.

On Friday CST Blog posted an overview of the key findings of the survey. This week we will be looking at some of its findings in more depth, beginning with what it shows about Jews' experiences of antisemitic violence, harassment and abuse, and how this affects their lives.

Antisemitic incidents - how common are they?

The survey showed that a minority of Jews, and in some countries a large minority, had directly experienced antisemitic violence, abuse or harassment over the past five years. The situation seems to be worst in Hungary and Belgium, while the UK appears to have less of a problem than most other EU countries. The experience of antisemitic incidents in Latvia was significantly lower than in other countries.

The most common form of antisemitic incident experienced by respondents to the survey involved offensive comments made in person. 18% of all respondents had experienced antisemitic verbal abuse over the past 12 months, and 25% in the past 5 years. For comparison, 10% had experienced offensive comments made about them on the internet (including via social media) in the past 12 months, and 12% in the past 5 years.

4% of respondents  said that they had been physically attacked, or threatened with violence, because they are Jewish in the past 12 months, and 7% said it had happened to them in the past 5 years. This figure was highest in Belgium, at 7% for the past 12 months and 10% for the past 5 years. It was lowest in Latvia, with 3% experiencing violent attacks or threats over both time periods.

26% of respondents had experienced some form of antisemitic harassment over the past 12 months, and 33% had done over the past 5 years. This included offensive or threatening emails, text messages or hate mail; offensive, threatening or silent phone calls; verbal abuse or non-verbal harassment on the street; or offensive comments about the victim on the internet (including social networking websites). Hungary was the worst country for this kind of non-violent antisemitism against individuals, with 35% of respondents suffering antisemitic harassment over the previous 12 months and 43% over the past 5 years. Latvia was the lowest, with 12% and 15% respectively.

In the UK, 3% of respondents had suffered antisemitic violence or threats over the past 12 months, and 5% over the past 5 years. 21% had experienced antisemitic harassment over the past 12 months, and 29% over the past 5 years.

23% of EU Jews said that a close family member or friend had suffered antisemitic verbal abuse, harassment or violence over the past 12 months. This rose to 30% for Hungary, 31% for France and 32% for Belgium; it fell to 19% for the UK, 16% for Latvia and 12% for Italy.

27% had witnessed other Jews being attacked, harassed or abuse for being Jewish in the past 12 months. This rose to 43% in Hungary and 35% in Belgium. The figure stood at 21% for the UK and 17% for Italy.

Reporting incidents

Most antisemitic incidents go unreported. 77% of respondents who had suffered an antisemitic incident over the past 5 years said that they did not report it to any organisation. The best rate of reporting was in the UK and Germany, where 28% of incidents are reported, and the worst was in Hungary, where just 10% are reported. Incidents involving violence or threats of violence are more likely to be reported: 35% of such incidents were reported across the EU, rising to 43% in the UK and 50% in Italy.

The UK shows the highest proportion of incidents reported to a non-Police organisation (such as CST), at 15%. 6% of incidents in the UK are reported just to the Police and 7% to both the Police and another organisation. Germany polled highest for reporting only to the Police, at 14% of incidents, while Hungary polled the lowest, at 5%.

When asked why they did not report an incident to the Police, 47% of respondents said that they felt nothing would happen as a result of their report - the most common answer given. 27% of respondents said it was not worth reporting because it happens all the time; 23% said that they dealt with the incident themselves; 18% felt it would have been too time-consuming; 10% said that they did not trust the Police; 9% felt they would not be believed or taken seriously and 7% said they were satisfied with reporting it to another organisation instead of the Police.

Fear of antisemitism

Significant numbers of EU Jews say that they worry about being victims of antisemitic violence or abuse. This fear appears to be most widespread in France and Belgium and least common in Sweden and the UK.

60% of French Jews say they fear becoming a victim of antisemitic violence in public over the next 12 months, while 54% of Belgian Jews expressed this concern. In the UK and Sweden the figures were 17% and 18% respectively. The average for the survey as a whole was 33%.

46% of all respondents said that they are worried about being a victim of verbal insults or harassment in public because they are Jewish over the next 12 months. This was highest in France (70%), Belgium (63%) and Hungary (57%). It was lowest in the UK (28%) and Sweden (32%).

Overall, 76% of respondents said that they felt antisemitism had got worse in their country over the past 5 years, while 68% said that they felt racism had got worse over the same period.

Changing behaviour to avoid antisemitism

Worryingly large percentages of Jews in the EU regularly hide their Jewishness or change their behaviour in public due to their fear of antisemitism, and significant minorities have considered emigrating due to fear of antisemitism. These problems appear to be less severe in the UK than in most other EU countries polled.

38% of respondents always or frequently avoid wearing, carrying or displaying things that might identify them as Jews in public. This rises to 68% if it includes those who occasionally do so. In Sweden and France most Jews always or frequently do this (60% and 51% respectively). Over a third of Swedish Jews never wear, carry or display anything in public that might identify them as Jewish. In the UK, 21% of Jews - over a fifth - always or frequently avoid doing so. Latvia is again an outlier: just 6% of Jews always or frequently feel the need to hide their Jewishness in public.

27% of respondents always, frequently or occasionally avoid places in their local neighbourhood because they do not feel safe there as a Jew. This rises to 42% in Belgium and 41% in Hungary. It is lowest in Italy (15%) and the UK (20%). 23% always, frequently or occasionally avoid Jewish sites or events for the same reason.

29% of EU Jews have considered emigrating from their country at some point over the past 5 years because they do not feel safe as a Jew. In Hungary, almost half - 48% - have considered leaving; 46% have thought of doing so in France and in 40% in Belgium. Latvia, Sweden and the UK all polled lowest for this question, with 18% of respondents having considered emigrating.

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