EU body shelves report on anti-semitism
By Bertrand Benoit in Berlin, November 21, 2003.
The European Union’s racism watchdog has shelved a report on anti-semitism
because the study concluded Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups were behind
many of the incidents it examined.
The Vienna-based European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia
(EUMC) decided in February not to publish the 112-page study, a copy of which
was obtained by the Financial Times, after clashing with its authors over their
The news comes amid growing fears that there is an upsurge of anti-semitism
in European Union countries. Among many recent incidents, a Jewish school
near Paris was firebombed last Saturday, the same day two Istanbul
synagogues were devastated by suicide truck bombs that killed 25 and
Turkey, which hopes to join the EU, suffered again at the hands of what are
believed to be al-Qaeda inspired terrorists on Thursday with truck bomb attacks
on British targets.
Following a spate of incidents in early 2002, the EUMC commissioned a report
from the Centre for Research on Anti-semitism at Berlin’s Technical University.
When the researchers submitted their work in October last year, however, the
centre’s senior staff and management board objected to their definition of
anti-semitism, which included some anti-Israel acts. The focus on Muslim and
pro-Palestinian perpetrators, meanwhile, was judged inflammatory.
“There is a trend towards Muslim anti-semitism, while on the left there is
mobilisation against Israel that is not always free of prejudice,” said one person
familiar with the report. “Merely saying the perpetrators are French, Belgian or
Dutch does no justice to the full picture.”
Some EUMC board members had also attacked part of the analysis ascribing
anti-semitic motives to leftwing and anti-globalisation groups, this person said.
“The decision not to publish was a political decision.”
The board includes 18 members – one for each member state, the European
Commission, Parliament, and the council of Europe – as well as 18 deputies.
One deputy, who declined to be named, confirmed the directors had seen the
study as biased.
In July, Robert Wexler, a US congressman, wrote to Javier Solana, the EU’s
foreign policy chief, demanding the release of the study.
Ole Espersen, law professor at Copenhagen University and board member for
Denmark, said the study was “unsatisfactory” and that some members had felt
anti-Islamic sentiment should be addressed too.
The EUMC, which was set in 1998, has published three reports on anti-Islamic
attitudes in Europe since the September 11 attacks in the US.
Beate Winkler, a director, said the report had been rejected because the initial
time scale included in the brief – covering the period between May and June
2002 – was later judged to be unrepresentative. “There was a problem with the
definition [of anti-semitism] too. It was too complicated,” she said.
This week, Silvan Shalom, Israel’s foreign minister, proposed a joint ministerial
council to fight what Israel sees as a rise in European anti-semitism.