CST Blog

FRA survey - what statements and actions do European Jews think are antisemitic?

14 November 2013

Last week's survey of Jewish people’s experiences and perceptions of hate crime, discrimination and antisemitism in 8 EU countries (Belgium, Germany, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the UK, covering 90% of the Jewish population of the EU) included an interesting section about the kind of statements and views that European Jews do, and don't, consider to be antisemitic. Given that attempts to define antisemitism can sometimes be a contentious and controversial exercise, it is useful to know what Jews actually think on the subject.

What statements are antisemitic?

The survey, conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and published in full here, put a series of statements to the respondents and asked whether they consider a person who makes those statements to be antisemitic. For example, 94% of respondents across the EU think that a person is  definitely or probably antisemitic if they say that "The Holocaust is a myth or has been exaggerated." In contrast, 43% of respondents think the same about the statement "Jews are only a religious group and not a nation." The full set of statements and results are in this table:


For the first four of these questions, all the countries returned similar results with the exception of Latvia, which tended to poll about 10% lower than the other countries. There is more variation for the last four questions: 87% of respondents in Italy and France consider a person to be definitely or probably antisemitic if they say that "Israelis behave "like Nazis" towards the Palestinians", compared to 76% in the UK and Sweden and 67% in Latvia. 53% in France consider a person definitely or probably antisemitic if they say that "Jews are only a religious group and not a nation", compared to 37% in Germany and Sweden. A full breakdown of the figures by nation (and by other criteria) for all the questions in the survey can be found in a data tool here.

How often do Jews hear these statements?

The survey shows that of the eight statements above, the most commonly heard is that "The Israelis behave "like Nazis" towards the Palestinians"; and that three of the statements are heard more frequently than the others:


These statements vary widely from country to country. 90% of respondents in Hungary had heard "Jews are responsible for the current economic crisis" in the past 12 months, compared to just a third of respondents in Sweden and the UK. 96% of respondents in Hungary had heard "Jews have too much power in [COUNTRY]" in the past 12 months, compared to 60% in Sweden and the UK. 63% in Hungary had heard "Jews are not capable of integrating into [COUNTRY] society" in the past 12 months, compared to 18% in Sweden and 22% in the UK. Over three-quarters of respondents in every country had heard "Israelis behave "like Nazis" towards the Palestinians" in the past 12 months - except for Latvia, where the figure fell to 56%.

Where are antisemitic statements made?

The survey found that the Internet is the most common location for Jews to hear antisemitic statements. This table shows where statements were heard, country by country:


Again, this table shows some interesting variations. 66% of respondents in Hungary had heard antisemitic statements in political speeches or discussions in the past 12 months, compared to 22% in Germany. Jews in Latvia appear to encounter antisemitism in social situations far less frequently than in other countries. 37% of respondents in the UK had heard antisemitic statements at university or school in the past 12 months - more than any other country. Given the topicality of racism and antisemitism in football, it is interesting to note that 40% of respondents in Hungary and 20% in Italy had heard antisemitism at sports events in the past 12 months, while the results for Sweden, the UK and Latvia were all in single figures.

Who makes antisemitic statements?

The respondents who had heard one or more antisemitic statements in the past 12 months were asked to place the person who made the statements into one of the following categories: someone with a right wing political view; a left wing political view; a Muslim extremist view; a Christian extremist view; none of the above; or they could say that they did not know. The results were as follows, country by country:


Overall, the most common description was of someone with a left-wing political view; closely followed by a Muslim extremist view; then right-wing political view; and so on. Generally speaking, left-wing 'offenders' are more common in France, Italy, Belgium, Sweden and the UK, and less so in Hungary and Latvia. Muslim extremist 'offenders' are more common in France, Belgium, Sweden and the UK, and less so in Hungary, Latvia and Italy. Right wing 'offenders' are more common in Hungary and Italy, and less so in France, Latvia, Belgium, Sweden and the UK - although they are not as uncommon in those countries as left wing or Muslim extremist 'offenders' are in Hungary and Latvia. Christian extremists are most commonly cited in Italy and Hungary. In Germany, the figures for left wing, right wing and Muslim extremist 'offenders' are broadly similar to each other. These variations are not entirely unexpected, given the demography and nature of political extremism in the various countries polled.

What actions are considered to be antisemitic?

As well as asking Jews about antisemitic attitudes, the survey also asked them about whether they consider a person to be antisemitic if that person supports or carries out certain actions. These include supporting a boycott of Israeli goods and products, or not wanting to marry a Jew. The results, country, by country, were as follows:


As this table shows, there is wide consensus - again, with the exception of Latvia - that to consider a Jewish person living in their country to not be a true national of that country is definitely or probably antisemitic. Over half the respondents in every country say they consider a person who boycotts Israeli goods to be definitely or probably antisemitic. This rises as high as 85% in France and falls to 53% in Sweden. In contrast, less than half in every country consider a person who criticises Israel to be definitely or probably antisemitic. 43% in Latvia think this is be the case, compared to 21% in Sweden. The UK returned the lowest percentage of respondents who think that a person who would not marry a Jew is definitely or probably antisemitic: 53% said this, compared to 78% in Hungary and 68% in Germany.

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