The EESC invited Raya Kalnova (European Jewish Congress), Michael Bilewicz (Centre for Research on Prejudice, University of Warsaw) and Joel Kotek (Free University of Brussels – ULB) to discuss anti-Semitism in Europe at its plenary session in May.
The EESC president, Luca Jahier started by saying: "Recent events are showing us that we must not let our guard down and think that the sixty years of peace in Europe are to be taken for granted. And although our fundamental rights are enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union, we need to defend them every single day."
Since fear has become a constant part of Jewish people's lives and an alarming 38% are considering emigrating, Ms Kalnova said that the Jewish World Congress felt an increasing sense of emergency. "To combat anti-Semitism, it is important to know what it actually is." The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition of anti-Semitism has become a reference for governance and civil society. It has already been endorsed by eleven EU Member States, as well as the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. Civil society organisations also need to endorse and apply this definition and provide leadership in addressing the problem.
Mr Bilewicz referred to the results of a survey conducted in 2017 revealing that one in four people believe Jews themselves are to blame for the growing anti-Semitism. Many Europeans (50% in Poland, 37% in Austria, 32% in Germany) also believe that Jews exploit the Holocaust.
"Against all expectations, the conspiracy theory that Jews have too much power is again back in our society, in the media and sometimes even in our parliaments," added Mr Kotek. Hatred against Jews is more perceptible than ever.
EESC members expressed their support for the Jewish community and their commitment to fighting discrimination against minorities.
"It is our duty to fight any act of anti-Semitism in Europe," said Employers' Group president Jacek Krawczyk. "It is anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust. Eighty years after the Second World War started, it would be a serious mistake to forget this. We should all think of this when choosing who to vote for in the European elections."
Arno Metzler, president of the Diversity Europe Group, stressed: "We must all protest and speak up frankly and freely in our personal circles when we hear unpleasant jokes about Jewish people and the past. It is a public and also a personal obligation to defend our European values."
From the Workers' Group, José Antonio Moreno Díaz, president of the EESC Group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law, said: "Tough times are those when the evident needs to be explained. People who do not remember their history are condemned to repeat it. We must leave no room for discrimination. Tolerating intolerance will destroy democracy. Political forces must unite in isolating fascists and expelling them from their ranks." (sma)
Read President Jahier's speech here