EU struggling to combat antisemitism: hate crimes reported inconsistently

Report makes it clear that antisemitism is a serious concern in the EU

People attend a national gathering to protest antisemitism and the rise of antisemitic attacks in France (photo credit: GONZALO FUENTES / REUTERS)
People attend a national gathering to protest antisemitism and the rise of antisemitic attacks in France
A report on antisemitism released this week by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has “consistently shown that few EU member states record antisemitic incidents in a way that allows them to collect adequate official data.”
The report, entitled “Antisemitism: Overview of data available in the European Union 2008–2018,” explained that “the inadequate recording of hate crime incidents, including those of antisemitic nature, coupled with victims’ hesitance to report incidents to the authorities,” is contributing to the “gross under-reporting of the extent, nature and characteristics of the antisemitic incidents” happening in the EU.
“It also limits the ability of policy-makers and other relevant stakeholders at national and international levels to take measures and implement courses of action to combat antisemitism effectively and decisively, and to assess the effectiveness of existing policies,” the FRA report stated. “Incidents that are not reported are not investigated or prosecuted, allowing offenders to think that they can carry out such attacks with impunity.”
It said that victims who do not report their experiences to the relevant authorities “may also not receive relevant information about available assistance.”
The FRA tracked 11 years of antisemitism in 28 EU states between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2018, making it clear that “due to gaps in data collection and high levels of under-reporting, the data presented... cannot be taken as an accurate portrayal of the prevalence of antisemitism in any given EU member state.”
The report said that this data should not be used to compare the situation in different countries because “they are collected using different methodologies and from different sources across EU member states.”
It pointed out that six EU member states were also unable to provide antisemitism statistics for 2018 by the time the report was being compiled in September this year.
Despite the inconsistency of reporting antisemitic incidents, the data that has been collected makes it clear that antisemitism “remains an issue of serious concern, and that decisive and targeted policy responses are needed to tackle this phenomenon.”
The agency makes it clear that an “effective implementation of these responses would not only afford Jewish communities better protection against antisemitism, but it would also give a clear signal that across the EU, the fundamental rights of all people are protected and safeguarded.”
In 2018, only 16 EU member states had operating national strategies or action plans to counter racism and xenophobia in place, and even fewer had dedicated action plans for addressing antisemitism, the EU body noted.
Several countries, including Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and Slovenia, were shown to be inconsistent in their yearly release and report of antisemitism, with some years missing information on the phenomena gripping Europe. In Sweden, data from police reports of criminal acts with an identified antisemitic motive were unavailable for both 2017 and 2018.
According to FRA’s second survey on discrimination and hate crimes released in December last year, a large majority of Jewish respondents (85%) “consider antisemitism to be a problem in their country, while 89% believe that antisemitism has increased in their country over the past five years.”
The findings of the EU-wide Eurobarometer survey released earlier this year showed that 50% of the respondents consider antisemitism to be a problem in their country.
The FRA’s report said that when it comes to countering the complexities of antisemitism, “sustained efforts are needed at the national and international levels to improve data collection on antisemitism and other forms of hatred and prejudice, to enable EU Member States to combat such phenomena more effectively. These efforts must concentrate on official and unofficial data collection alike, so as to provide a more complete and accurate picture of the situation of antisemitism in the EU.”
The FRA also suggested that given the lack of high-quality data on the manifestations of antisemitism, EU member states could also conduct regular victimization surveys that include questions on the experiences of Jewish people of hate crimes, hate speech and discrimination.
Education, the report said, is an essential component to preventing antisemitism.
“Through education that fosters socialization, tolerance, and universal values, and encourages critical thinking, children and young people can bring change to their families and communities, and ultimately to the broader society,” the report concluded.
Unreliable data surrounding hate crimes is not an issue limited to Europe. Earlier this year, two separate exposés by Investigate TV and BuzzFeed News found that an untold number of hate crimes have gone unreported throughout the US, including hate crimes investigated by the FBI.
The Justice Department reported that US residents experienced about 250,000 hate crimes on average each year from 2004 to 2015. The FBI’s hate crime statistics from those years only reported between 5,500 and 7,800 hate crimes in each year.
The exposés found that although the FBI is required to report hate crime numbers, local and state agencies are not required to do so; for them, reporting hate crimes is voluntary.
About one in five local agencies do not take part in the FBI’s data collection program. Of the law enforcement agencies in the US that did report hate crimes to the FBI, more than 87% reported that there had been no such crimes.
The FBI reported a 17% rise in hate crimes in 2017 compared with 2016, but due to the lack of accurate reporting of such crimes, this could mean that the rise is minuscule in comparison to how many incidents occurred but went undocumented.
Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.