CST Blog

CST's Mark Gardner to EU Colloquium: attitudes need to change to tackle antisemitism

2 October 2015

CST’s Director of Communications Mark Gardner spoke today about antisemitism and the threats facing European Jews at an EU Colloquium on combating antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe. The Colloquium was hosted by EU Vice President Frans Timmermans and EU Commissioner Věra Jourová.

Mark’s speech is reproduced in full below.

The Community Security Trust is a charity that works with hundreds of UK Jewish organisations and cooperates very closely with Police and Government. I believe the model should be emulated by other minority communities across Europe.

We collect and analyse hate crime data and our volunteers provide physical security at Jewish events, in the same way that the Danish security volunteer Dan Uzan was doing, when he was murdered outside the synagogue in Copenhagen while protecting a Bat Mitzvah party from the terrorist who earlier that day had attacked the Muhammad cartoon meeting. 

Immediately after the Paris terrorist attacks, CST asked senior Government ministers for heightened policing, and we gave costings and plans for commercial security guards at sensitive Jewish locations.

The Police reassessed the risk to British Jews and raised it to the same level facing British Police and armed forces. In practical terms, this means more Police in Jewish areas and a quicker reaction time to emergency calls, including investigation of potential cases of hostile reconnaissance against Jewish targets.

At CST’s annual dinner, the Prime Minister announced an unprecedented package of over £11 million of support for Jewish communal security, to be administered by CST.

My first and most important request to this meeting is that the severe terrorist threat to European Jewish communities be formally recognised by Governments, by Police and by security services. We need proper financial and policing support for our security efforts, including investigation of antisemitic crimes and of suspicious activity at Jewish locations.

European Jewish communities also faced antisemitic terrorism throughout the 1970s and 80s, mainly from pro-Palestinian groups. At its height between August 1981 and October 1982, 130 people were injured and 13 people, including two children, were killed in attacks against synagogues and kosher restaurants in Vienna, Antwerp, Berlin, Paris, Brussels and Rome.

Those attacks did not cause Jews to question their futures here in Europe, unlike today’s Jihadi terrorism which is felt as being a far more internalised threat, with Jews amongst the priority targets for supporters of Islamic State, Al Qaeda, etc. Many European Jews also regard the terrorism as being the most brutal and radicalised manifestation of various extreme antisemitic, anti-Zionist and anti-Israel attitudes, most publicly shown by the overall levels of antisemitic hate crimes; and an antisemitic anti-Zionism spanning Islamists, the far left and the far right.

It is the overall trajectory of that terrorism and all of that hostility, its steady entrenchment from the Year 2000 to the present day, and its unavoidable interconnectivity with global, regional and local conflicts and trends that causes European Jews to wonder how it can ever be slowed down, never mind stopped and somehow magically reversed.

The impacts were highlighted by the excellent 2012/13 FRA survey of Jewish experiences and perceptions. The findings were bad enough, but would be even worse if conducted now.

At CST we analyse the scale, perpetrators and modus operandi of the antisemitic incidents that are reported to us by members of the public and that we share with Police in confidential data exchange programmes. I recommend that similar reporting and exchange mechanisms for all minorities be created across Europe.

At CST, we decide if the incident is antisemitic, rather than going by the victim’s perception, or that of the Police. We believe this makes more accurate and consistent analysis. About 40% of reports to CST are not classified by us as antisemitic and these are not included in our analyses.

We know from crime surveys that over 70% of antisemitic incidents go unreported, but last year, we still received and analysed 1,174 cases. Of those, 543 occurred in July and August, during the Israel-Hamas war. This is exactly the kind of trigger event and severe escalation that causes Jews to fear for their future.

Most years, the majority of perpetrators fit what British Police categorise as white North or South European. January to June 2014 was quite typical, with 52% of perpetrators fitting those categories, but the percentage fell to 34% for July and August: whilst perpetrators described as South Asian rose sharply from 27% to 50%; as did those described as Arab or North African, from 4% to 12%.

These figures are broadly similar to the FRA findings about perpetrators of antisemitism, with “Muslim extremist view”, and “left-wing political view” scoring far higher than “right-wing political view”.

We work with Muslims who do anti-radicalisation work. They tell us that antisemitism is now the default position for Muslim youth. Survey data is limited, but suggests the problem is certainly bad enough.

For example, in 2005, a serious survey for the Times newspaper showed that 37% of British Muslims regarded British Jews as “legitimate targets as part of the ongoing struggle for justice in the Middle East”.

In the same survey 46% of respondents agreed that “Jews are in league with the freemasons to control the media and politics”.

When far right antisemitism briefly escalated with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, nobody worried what to call it - or its perpetrators. Now, with the meaningful antisemitism being perpetrated by another minority community which itself faces racist attack and racist exclusion, we struggle to find appropriate language with which to accurately or constructively discuss the problem. 

If Jews cannot lead a normal life here, they will either leave, or hide their identities and cease to be Jewish in any meaningful sense. We need moral support and it matters when our concerns are ignored by so many of those to whom we instinctively turn for anti-racist solidarity, including Amnesty International (who are on the panel today).

Even worse are those who misrepresent Jewish concerns as a fake cover for Israel, because they reinforce antisemitic attitudes and serve to legitimise attacks on Jews as local representatives of Israel.

Moving now to anti-Muslim hatred, CST has found that practical opposition to racism is an excellent way to humanise and normalise relations between Jews and Muslims.  

At CST we’ve have helped the Muslim group Tell MAMA establish its collection and analysis of anti-Muslim hate crimes. We’ve provided security advice to mosques that are threatened by far right demonstrations and we’ve helped ensure that British Jews have rejected the opportunistic advances of anti-Muslim right wing groups.

Across Europe, Muslims are depicted by right wing forces as a demographic and cultural threat and this is before we see a concretisation of hostility to the current wave of refugees.

This situation is extremely volatile and I don’t believe we have really seen anything yet. Every Jihadi terrorist attack gives it all a vicious spin; and we may yet see Muslims themselves facing concerted terrorist campaigns from the far Right. 

Vice President Timmermans was right to refer to antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred as existential threats to European society: but they are not twin sides of the same coin. 

I was very sceptical about bringing the two issues together for this colloquium, but in yesterday’s sessions, we benefited deeply from hearing each other’s experiences. It broadened our humanity.

Nevertheless, there is no straight line or parallel between the two hatreds, not in motivations, perpetrators or impacts. We should not be compelled to pay the tax of discussing one every time we discuss the other. 

Jews and Muslims both need so much more than this colloquium. If it becomes the starting point for an overarching strategy but with separate and serious missions that separately seek to define and act against these two vital phenomena, then great. But if not, then Jews will add this meeting to the damaging disappointments of 2003 and 2004 when EU reports on antisemitism left Jewish representatives feeling rejected in favour of an ideological illusion of inter-communal harmony. Over ten years later, let me say that all of our Jewish fears about antisemitism from far too many of our fellow Muslim citizens were fully vindicated, perhaps even more than we had feared.

Legislation cannot solve attitudes, but what can be done, should be done.

Of course we need hate crimes and hate to be uniformly defined, prosecuted and analysed, with victim communities central to that.

In Britain, our systems grew from the 2005 Parliamentary inquiry into Antisemitism and are overseen by a Government working group whose civil servants are here today.

Copy that model or any of the lists of recommendations drawn up in recent years, including the ENAR suggestions.

I applaud the decision to appoint Coordinators for tackling antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred. I ask that you hold inquiries and create permanent working groups: but only if they have the leadership and the authority to succeed.

Every angle of antisemitism and anti-Muslim hate is about attitudes. Long term, the perpetrators and the wider support they draw upon need to change their attitudes: somehow. Right now, Jews and Muslims on the receiving end of the hatred need to believe that they are supported by bodies such as this: and that depends upon attitudes, leadership and actions.

Vice President Timmermans, I know that you care deeply about these issues, and I am sure that we will work with you to somehow change the current reality.

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