EU Commission boosts Jewish, Muslim protection amidst Israel-Hamas war

EU Commission boosts Jewish, Muslim protection amidst Israel-Hamas war |

The European Commission unveiled on Wednesday (6 December) a set of measures and recommendations across policy areas to tackle hate crimes across Europe, especially against Jewish and Muslim communities – but some say it may fall short. 

Austria has recorded a 300% rise in antisemitic incidents compared to 2022, with the Netherlands observing an 800% increase compared to the previous monthly average, said Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas. 

In the second half of October, the number of anti-Muslim incidents in Germany has increased to three a day on average, including 10 attacks on mosques, with a “high number of undetected cases”, according to CLAIM, a government-supported German non-profit.

“We’ll try to activate everything we have to prevent the situation switching from worrying to dramatic,” Schinas said. 

The Commission will top up its fund for the protection of public places and places of worship with €30 million in 2024, €5 million of which will be specially dedicated to combating antisemitism. 

Other measures include training for stakeholders, enhanced fact-checking efforts, further collaboration with Europol, and closer enforcement of the Digital Services Act (DSA), which requires online platforms to monitor and prevent online hate speech. 

“Some of the very large online platforms are or might not be fully compliant with the [monitoring] requirements,” Commission vice-president Věra Jourová said, while stressing she is particularly concerned by X and TikTok. 

“These platforms are now receiving letters with a concrete set of questions stemming from our findings and observation of what we see online,” she added.

Interfaith dialogue

The European Jewish Association (EJA) welcomed the “seriousness and diligence” of the Commission’s communication, especially the increased €5 million funding to protect Jewish places of worship and the early opening of calls for the Internal Security Fund to 2023, instead of 2024, EJA’s chairman, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, told Euractiv. 

“With a clear and present danger to Jewish Communities everywhere in Europe right now, our communities don’t have the time for lengthy form-filling and procedures, we need help with security yesterday, not in months from now on completion of a process,” Rabbi Menachem said. 

The “game-changer”, he pointed out, is the recommendation by the Commission to include hate crimes and hate speech as EU-level crimes.

Even though the set of actions by the Commission is aimed at preventing all kinds of hatred, “antisemitism is a special case in my view”, Jourová pointed out. “I had a duty to speak yesterday to the Jewish students and different Jewish communities, and I can tell you they have a big fear that they cannot live anymore in Europe, so they are considering emigration.”

Representatives of the Muslim community in Germany told Euractiv in November they are concerned about increased marginalisation and a rise in Islamophobic incidents amidst a heated debate around anti-Semitism, while Islamophobia goes overlooked. 

As part of the package, the Commission will hold a special meeting on interfaith dialogue on 19 December, bringing together representatives from the main religions in Europe to discuss future measures and to convey the Commission’s message “to their audiences”, Schinas said.

Lacking “holistic protection”

With the communication highly focused on hate against Muslims and Jews, the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) calls for a more “holistic approach” including racism, with monitoring mechanisms “that ensure that marginalised communities are not further systematically affected”.

Though welcoming the initiative, “the EU’s ambition can only be successful if we recognise hate as a symptom of systemic racism, acknowledging its historic and structural roots,” Julie Pascoët, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator at ENAR, told Euractiv, while also warning against an emphasis on security and criminalisation, and questioning “the lack of current restrictions of fundamental rights”.

According to Kim Smouter, executive director of the European Network against Racism: “Now is the time for political courage, will and deeds. We expect the European Commission to deploy a more holistic approach and challenge member states whilst removing any doubt that hierarchies of discrimination exist when combatting hate, racism, and discrimination.”

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

Read more with EURACTIV

EU Commission boosts Jewish, Muslim protection amidst Israel-Hamas war |

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