In a comprehensive yet troubling study of European attitudes on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, anti-Semitism continues to plague the continent and has been found to “color” perceptions of Israel.
The study, entitled ‘Intolerance, Prejudice and Discrimination: a European Report’ was undertaken by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a German organization aligned with the Social Democratic Party of Germany. The study surveyed 8,000 people in eight countries in Europe – Britain, France, Germany, Hungary, The Netherlands, Italy, Poland, and Portugal.
Among its results, the study found that 72% of Polish citizens agree or strongly agree that “Jews try to take advantage of having been victims during the Nazi era,” and that 68% of Hungarians share this sentiment. Nearly 70% percent of Hungarians also think that “Jews have too much influence” in their country. The authors identified “Britain and The Netherlands manifesting the lowest levels of antisemitic attitudes.”
The study also surveyed European attitudes toward the state of Israel and the interplay between these attitudes and anti-Semitism. “About half the respondents in Portugal, Poland, and Hungary see anti-Semitic sentiments as based on Israel’s political activities,” the authors wrote.
“Around 40% of respondents in most participating countries affirm the drastic assessment that the Israeli state is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians,” they continued. Breaking down the results further, an astounding 63% of Polish citizens agreed with that assessment, while the number was 49% in Portugal, 48% in Germany, 42% in Britain, 41% in Hungary, 39% in The Netherlands, and 38% in Italy (The question was not asked of French respondents).
And even though Britain and The Netherlands registered the lowest levels of anti-Semitism, “in both [Britain and Holland] there was relatively high agreement with the statement: Considering Israel’s policy I can understand why people do not like Jews.”
One bright spot in the study is the finding that a majority in all of the surveyed countries agreed with the statement that “Jews enrich our culture,” with Germany, Britain, France, and The Netherlands all registering over 60%.
The authors concluded that “[i]f this observation is any measure of Europeans’ attitudes to Israel, then we must conclude that perceptions of Israel are colored by anti-Semitism.”
The results will be formally presented and discussed at Tel Aviv’s Beit Sokolov on May 1, with a keynote speech to be delivered by the prime minister of the German state of Brandenburg, Matthias Platzeck.