By Zach Itzkovitz
Europe has experienced “a shocking and intolerable growth in violence against specifically Jewish targets,” the American Jewish Committee’s Jason Isaacson told AJC Atlanta’s annual meeting Tuesday, May 19.
Isaacson, the AJC’s associate executive director for policy and director of government and international affairs, cited the 2014 shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium, “just a mile from the AJC’s Transatlantic Institute offices in Brussels”; the fatal shootings of four Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris two days after the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in January; and the shooting that killed a Jewish security guard in front of a synagogue in Copenhagen Feb. 15.
He expressed discontent for the way European officials and the public have responded to anti-Semitic outbursts. Isaacson said the AJC recommends steps that European officials should take to ensure the safety of Jews and to diminish anti-Semitism.
“Jewish communities and the general public need to hear directly from European leaders that anti-Semitism violates core European principles and will not be tolerated,” Isaacson said.
The size and sources of regional anti-Semitism must be clarified, he said. He cited a recent survey conducted in France in collaboration with the AJC that found anti-Semitic sentiments to be stronger in certain political and demographic sectors.
European leaders must acknowledge and counter the radicalization of alienated Muslim youths to prevent them from joining anti-Semitic efforts, Isaacson said.
“We call on the European Union and its member-states to formulate and implement broad-ranging counter-radicalization programs,” Isaacson said, “working in partnership with Muslim and other faith and civil society leaders.”
Isaacson called for proactive steps against radicalization in European prisons and suggested increased and refined initiatives in European schools to vilify anti-Semitism.
Laws that vary by region, as well as free-speech concerns, stand in the way of efforts to closely monitor social media and websites for anti-Semitic exchanges and calls to violence.
“AJC calls on European governments to re-examine such laws,” Isaacson said, “to adopt and strengthen hate-speech measures to prevent, limit and punish the worst offenders, to share information on this dangerous phenomenon, to seek the cooperation of Internet service providers, and that means self-policing by Internet service providers, and to block sites and accounts that promote and incite violence.”
The anti-Semitism at the core of much “European derision of Israel” must be confronted directly, he said. “We certainly mustn’t always assume that criticism of Israel is essentially anti-Semitic. But we mustn’t be naive, or allow our European friends to be naive, about how much of it is.”