European Commission Working Group on combating antisemitism
The European Commission initiated the working group on combating antisemitism as a follow-up to the unanimous adoption by EU Member States of the "Council Declaration on the fight against antisemitism and the development of a common security approach to better protect Jewish communities and institutions in Europe" on 6 December 2018.
The working group supports Member States to adopt at national level holistic strategies to prevent and fight all forms of antisemitism as part of their strategies on preventing racism, xenophobia, radicalisation and violent extremism.
The meetings bring together representatives from EU Member States such as special envoys or coordinator on combating antisemitism as well as from lead Ministries, national Jewish representative bodies, relevant international organisations, major Jewish umbrella organisations and experts.
1st meeting “Security for Jewish communities, institutions and citizens” (20 June 2019)
Security of its citizens is a primary responsibility of the state. The first working sessions focused on the pressing issue of security of Jewish communities and premises. The aim of the session was to exchange best practices provided by national and international actors as well as the Jewish community in order to support Member States’ efforts to ensure safety and security for their Jewish communities and premises. Concrete tools were presented to Member States to develop holistic strategies for security where they do not exist already.
2nd meeting “Education on Jewish life, antisemitism and the Holocaust” (10/11 December 2019)
Education facilities are key places to raise citizens awareness about antisemitism with the aim of preventing and combatting its spread in Europe, yet there are many challenges to recognising and addressing its different manifestations effectively. For example, the word “Jew” has become, in some countries, a derogatory term among young people. Also, teachers may face pushback when attempting to teach about the history of the Holocaust.
Young Jewish people have also become the targets of antisemitic harassment or physical violence in education facilities, driving some families to leave public schools and decreasing opportunities to build intercultural relationships with Jewish youth. Too often antisemitic incidents in schools remain invisible, unaddressed and unchallenged.
It is essential to revisit education about Jewish life, antisemitism and the Holocaust in a holistic way. With this in mind, the second meeting examined how to prevent, address and respond to antisemitism in and through education.
3rd meeting “Using the IHRA definition of antisemitism – data-collection, training and support for victims of antisemitism” (17 June 2020)
Next to the many positive effects of the internet, the digital world has also become a central playground for hatred and disinformation. During the confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the surge of conspiracy myths online consisting of antisemitic discourse targeting Jews, increased the worry about the aftermath of the lockdown.
Hence, the first panel of the working group focused primarily on EU action against the proliferation of disinformation and antisemitic conspiracy myths and was followed by a discussion on data collection, proper services for the support of victims of antisemitic attacks, and sharing of best practices.
In order to have a comprehensive understanding of the sources of antisemitism and a veridical account of incidents, it is vital for Member States to ensure comprehensive data collection and adequate support for the victims. This will encourage reporting, investigation of incidents and foster cooperation between communities, law enforcement and judicial authorities. The EU Victims Rights' Directive provides for common rules relating to victims support, including for victims of hate crime.
The 3rd Working Group meeting also discussed the use of the legally non-binding IHRA working definition and the development of national strategies on combating antisemitism in order to be able to address and respond accordingly to all types of antisemitic incidents and hate crimes, online and offline, with a victim-centred approach. Several Member States presented progress made thus far on their respective national strategy on combating antisemitism.