The European Union is to publish a new strategy on “combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life” over concern that the pandemic has been the catalyst for widespread extremist activity across the region.
Katharina von Schnurbein, the EU’s coordinator on combating antisemitism, has admitted she was left shocked by how anti-Jewish racism had spiralled online, largely as a result of conspiracy theories linked to spread of Covid 19.
“It really exploded,” said the EU official, of antisemitism online. “We saw many of the old conspiracy myths, the old idea were repackaged.
“How quickly this exploded was really shocking.”
The EU coordinator also recognised has antisemitism soared earlier this year as a result of the latest military conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
This was “unjustifiable”, said von Schnurbein. “We don’t accept elsewhere in the world can be used to justify pressure against our citizens, or even attacks and criminal acts against our citizens here.”
The EU’s new strategy, which is due to be published next month, will aim to “mainstream” the fight against antisemitism across all relevant countries through a series of policies.
It was also involve an “important push” for EU members to transpose and apply legislation that criminalises hate speech.
The new strategy is also expected to express concern that only three EU countries have greed national strategies on tackling antisemitism despite an agreement in 2018 that all members should adopt one.
Elsewhere, within the strategy there will be a section focusing on educating the public about the Holocaust, and on Jews in general.
“We know that awareness about Jewish life is very low,” von Schnurbein told the Politico website’s Brussels correspondent Eddy Wax last month.
The EU official said knowledge of the Holocaust was declining across the EU at the same time as the number of survivors dwindled.
She also spoke of the fact that many towns and cities across the EU that used to be home to Jews now had few or none of them still living there.
As part of a four person team, von Schnurbei reports directly to the EU’s commissioner for promoting our European way of life Margaritis Schinas.
Sources in Brussels say the strategy is likely to be launched on October 13 at a conference in Malmo on Holocaust remembrance and combatting antisemitism.
There has been a spate of antisemitic incidents across Europe in recent years – and only last month a young Jewish man in Cologne, Germany wearing a yarmulke was beaten up by 10 men.
An earlier study commissioned by the EU’s directorate-general for justice found there had been a 13 fold increase in German anti-Jewish hate posts online – and a seven-fold increase was found in France.
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