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Jewish Journal

Group Releases E.U. Anti-Semitism Study

by Toby Axelrod

December 4, 2003 | 7:00 pm

In an act of defiance against the European Union, the main Jewish body in Europe has released an unpublished report that found rising anti-Semitism among Muslims in Europe.

Critics who want the study made public said the Vienna-based E.U. Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia was not prepared to deal with the sensitive subject of anti-Semitism among Muslims, who constitute Europe's largest minority. The E.U. department that commissioned the report said the data was too flawed to publish.

"We cannot accept that a study be confiscated on the grounds that it could create tensions," Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), said in explaining the decision by EJC President Coby Benatoff to release the report without E.U. permission.

The furor that emerged last week around the E.U. decision to withhold the report reflects increasing concern among European Jewish groups for their safety. It also raises questions about the transparency of an organization that is meant to fight discrimination against all minorities in Europe. The report was prepared last year for the Monitoring Center, but it was not released after its completion in February. The Monitoring Center disclosed recently that it was preparing a new report to replace the first one.

Those who released the report publicly insisted that they are not trying to spread fear.

"Most of the Muslims in Europe, and particularly in France, are not anti-Semitic," said Francois Zimeray, a French member of the E.U. Parliament. "They are looking for integration for themselves, and they are looking for peace in the Middle East."

However, he said, "this study shows how deep the link is in Europe between criticism of Israel and anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. It also shows how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict fuels anti-Semitism and how this conflict is used by some to organize the revival of old European Christian anti-Semitic myths."

Cwajgenbaum said other attempts to address the problem of growing anti-Semitism had failed.

"We have approached governments on a national level and on a European level," he said. "And in spite of good will and good intentions, the result is that Jews are still being threatened, which means that more has to be done. And this is one of the reasons why," he said, the EJC "decided to circulate this document."

The report, "Manifestations of Anti-Semitism in the European Union," prepared by Berlin's Center for Research on Anti-Semitism for the Monitoring Center, has been withheld for the past 10 months.

The Monitoring Center insisted it withheld the report on the basis of quality. It is preparing a fuller report to be released in early 2004.

Critics suspect, though, that the real reason for withholding the report is political. The research team that prepared the report, Juliane Wetzel and Werner Bergmann, have said as much.

Finished just before the Iraq War began last spring, the report found an increase in anti-Semitic crimes committed by Europeans of Arab or Muslim background, as well as by some left-wing extremists and anti-globalization activists.

The EJC would not say how it obtained a copy of the report, which it released Monday in English on the official Web site of the French Jewish community, www.crif.org. It was expected to be available on the Web sites of Jewish organizations in all 15 E.U. member countries.

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) joined in the effort almost immediately.

"We are e-mailing it to virtually anyone we know," said Elan Steinberg, WJC executive vice president. "We think the suppression of this study was an act of intellectual dishonesty and moral treachery, and if the E.U. won't release its own poll, we will do it for them."

The report not only focuses on sources of anti-Semitism but "also urges the governments of Europe to act," Zimeray said. "This is why it is not acceptable to know that this report has been kept secret for so long."

The release of the report came two days after Zimeray, who is Jewish, disseminated excerpts via e-mail. Zimeray would not go into detail about how he got the report but said it did not come from the Berlin institute that prepared it.

He said that he had urged the Monitoring Center to release the study before taking measures into his own hands. Zimeray said he intends to follow up with the Monitoring Center.

"I want to know why this report was sleeping in their offices since February 2003," he said. "I want to know why transparency hasn't been the policy of this institute. And I want written answers to these questions."

Neither the institute nor the Monitoring Center could be reached for comment Monday.

The 105-page report found an "increasing number of anti-Semitic attacks, committed frequently by young Arabs/Muslims and by far-right extremists" in most E.U. member countries.

The rise in attacks "was accompanied by a sharp criticism of Israeli politics across the entire political spectrum, a criticism that in some cases employed anti-Semitic stereotypes," the report states.

In another section, the report says that "observers point to an 'increasingly blatantly anti-Semitic Arab and Muslim media,' including audiotapes and sermons, in which the call is not only made to join the struggle against Israel but also against Jews across the world. Although leading Muslim organizations express their opposition to this propaganda, observers assume that its calling for the use of violence may exert a certain influence on readers and listeners."

Bergmann and Wetzel were warned that their report might be seen as making negative generalizations about Muslims in Europe. However, the report cites several examples of Muslim-Jewish cooperation and Muslim condemnation of anti-Semitic acts, and also notes that Muslims often are victims of prejudice themselves.

"Of course we have some Muslim activists who are very anti-Semitic," Zimeray said, "but the majority are looking for peace, and that is a good reason to have hope."

Cwajgenbaum said the EJC is planning to organize discussions among Jews, Christians and Muslims in early 2004, preferably in Turkey.

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