A man wears a kippa. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AMSTERDAM – “Growing up behind walls is not what Europe is about,” Katharina von Schnurbein, EU coordinator on combating antisemitism, said to rapturous applause on Monday, the first day of the three-day Conference of European Rabbis in Amsterdam, which drew more than 250 rabbis from across the continent.
Referring to a drop in antisemitic attacks in France due to improved security, the European Union official emphasized the importance of bringing perpetrators to justice and of reminding governments of their duties to make their countries safe for all their citizens.
“Things sometimes start with the Jews but they do not stop there. Some turbulence we see in society was experienced by Jewish communities, at least in the last 50 years since the rebuilding of Jewish communities after the Shoah,” von Schnurbein noted.
“Seventy-two years after end of the Shoah, there is a question of whether there is a future in Europe for the Jews,” she continued, remarking this as a major factor that drives her work.
“The goal must be to arrive at a normality. We will address these issues and there will be a future for Jews in Europe and you will be able to live your lives as you want to live them,” she said passionately to the audience. “This is the goal. Fighting antisemitism is fighting for the very soul of your people.”
Von Schnurbein was tapped as antisemitism “czar” in December 2015, after the EU created the role along with a coordinator to combat anti-Muslim hatred, a position filled by David Friggieri, with whom she works closely.
“When you wear a kippa and you are attacked, or when you wear a head scarf and you are punched in the face, it’s the same fear, the same feeling of insecurity and the same injustice,” von Schnurbein told reporters. “But of course, with antisemitism – this is an ageold hatred that has been here in Europe for so long – and we have to address it.”
Focusing on legislation, she pointed out a law – unique to antisemitism – that specifically criminalizes Holocaust denial and incitement to hatred and violence.
Von Schnurbein also stressed the importance of Internet giants flagging and deleting illegal hate speech within 24 hours. “That’s an important first step,” she said, mentioning Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and YouTube, although she acknowledged there is still work to be done in this area.
“We have all the legislation there already – a hate crime is criminalized. So we have to bring the perpetrators before court,” she reiterated.