May Plenary debate on anti-Semitism

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At its last Plenary, the EESC hosted a debate on the proliferation of anti-Semitism in Europe. Ms Raya Kalenova (Vice-president of the European Jewish Congress), Mr Michał Bilewicz (associate professor at the Centre for Research on Prejudice, Faculty of Psychology, University of Warsaw) and Mr Joël Kotek (Professor at the Free University of Brussels and the Paris Institute of Political Studies) were invited to take the floor as guest speakers. 

Ms Kalenova emphasised the global increase of anti-Semitism and the impact it has on the lives of the Jewish population as well as on the future of Europe. The fight for Europe and the fight against anti-Semitism are in essence the same fight.

Prof. Bilewicz introduced research findings on anti-Semitism in Europe. The studies show that the public perception of the Jewish people is rather negative across Europe, and that the Jewish feel a recent increase of anti-Semitism. He highlighted the importance of including the Jewish influence to the European history into school curriculums.

Mr Kotek presented the history of movements related to anti-Semitism and its meaning.

What is important is to come away with is the realisation that the difference between racism and antisemitism is that the Jews almost disappeared in Europe – In France they represent 1% of the total population but 51% of racist acts involve or target Jews. 

The president of our group, Mr Metzler, contributed to the debate and highlighted that the EU was built on the memory of the Holocaust. This energy from those experiences and those decisions and those feelings enable us until today for the long and difficult struggle to a European Union as a peace project of the 20th and the 21st century.

Mr Metzler also commented on the responsibilities of the CSOs as being neutral in respect of any political and religious aspects.

I think it is both a public and a personal obligation to defend our European values including the opposition to anti-Semitism, he stressed. We all should protest and speak up frankly and freely in our personal circles when we hear unpleasant jokes about Jewish people and the past. I think it is a public obligation and it is also a personal obligation to defend our European values, Mr Metzler noted. Watch his full intervention here

The president of the REX section and Group III member, Ms Slavova, highlighted that education is a key in preventing anti-Semitism: That is why it is vital to introduce training into our school curricula concerning all forms of intolerance, racism and hate crime, in particular anti-Semitic prejudices and hate crimes. These should also be included in vocational trainings, for people working in the field of security and justice, as well as into the curricula of integration courses, encouraging exchanges between children and young people of different faith via joint activities. Furthermore, it is the role of civil society to promote respect to all faiths and appreciation of diversity.

We should all know and remember!, Ms Slavova concluded. Watch her full intervention here.