ADL Statement for the Record Before the House Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment Regarding Resisting Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia in Europe

January 29, 2020


Since 1913, the mission of ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) has been to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” For decades, ADL has fought against anti-Semitism and bigotry by exposing extremist groups and individuals who spread hate and incite violence. Today, ADL is the foremost non-governmental authority on anti-Semitism, extremism, hate groups, and hate crimes.

ADL combats anti-Semitism both at home and abroad.  ADL’s International Affairs Division pursues ADL’s mission around the globe: fighting anti-Semitism, bigotry and prejudice, promoting the security of Jewish communities worldwide, and working for a safe and democratic State of Israel. The International Affairs staff, based in the U.S., Israel, and Germany, works with partners around the world using programs and resources on anti-Semitism, hate crimes, cyber hate, and anti-bias education. It also works to counter the delegitimization of Israel as well as the terrorist threats that Israel faces. ADL places a special emphasis on Europe but advocates for all Jewish communities around the world facing anti-Semitism.

Jewish Communities Under Threat:

In failing societies, Jews are often the proverbial canary in the coal mine.  During times of upheaval, Jews are a convenient scapegoat for extremists and demagogues because of perennial anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that imagine evil Jewish puppet masters behind all of society’s ills.  Such animus against Jews rarely ends there either, since it frequently presages a broader downturn in pluralism and rising violence against not just Jews but other ethnic and religious minorities as well. 

Throughout Europe’s history, anti-Semitism has purged entire societies of their adherents to Judaism when rulers have expelled Jewish communities based on bigoted ideas about Judaism or Jewish life.  Pogroms and the Holocaust serve as a chilling reminder that hatred against Jewish people can manifest in even more violent forms as well.

Today, anti-Semitic incidents in Europe often take the form of attacks against Jewish religious or communal institutions (such as arson, vandalism, or attacks against Jewish people during prayer), or against visibly Jewish people on the street or in their homes, or even just against people known to be or perceived to be Jewish.  In numerous European countries, Jewish communal leaders advise their community members not to display outward signs of their Jewish religion or identity, such as kippot, for fear of violent attacks by anti-Semites in public.  In much of Europe, synagogues must be surrounded by armed guards, and attacks against Jewish houses of worship force many Jews to feel frightened of attending religious services or to disconnect from their faith community entirely.

Threats to ban kosher animal slaughter or ritual circumcision could also have a major impact on freedom of religion in national or subnational jurisdictions in Europe where they are pursued.  Consideration of such prohibitions demonstrates intolerance that negatively affects observant Jewish communities.  Likewise, prohibitions of this sort have a destructive impact on observant Muslim communities as well.

Tracking Anti-Semitic Incidents and Attitudes:

In order for Jews to feel that they have a future as a community in Europe, to be able to live their lives without fear, and to exercise their religious freedom, they must feel free to live their lives, identify publicly as Jews, and to attend Jewish events if they wish to do so.  Two factors in particular impact their sense of security in this regard: the number and nature of anti-Semitic incidents and the level of animosity towards Jews in the general public.  We have data to attest to the worrying state of both. 

The three largest Jewish communities in Europe are in France (450,000), the UK (300,000), and Germany (200,000).  The latest data from France shows a 27% increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2019 and revealed that a shocking 60% of racist hate crimes documented by the Interior Ministry were directed at Jews, who make up less than 1% of France’s population.[1] In the UK, anti-Semitic incidents are at their all-time highest rate, with 892 incidents in the first half of 2019, a 10% increase of the same period in 2018.[2]  In Germany, data collection is not as developed, but just in Berlin, on average, there are two anti-Semitic incidents per day.[3]

ADL has compiled unique data on anti-Semitic attitudes amongst the general population in countries where major Jewish communities exist.  ADL’s Global 100 Index Survey measures anti-Semitic attitudes around the world using a core 11-question index that has served as a benchmark for previous ADL polling around the world, starting in the U.S. in 1964.  In November, we released the findings of our latest iteration of the poll, a survey of more than 9,000 adults in 18 countries, in Eastern and Western Europe, Canada, South Africa, Argentina and Brazil.[4]  We found that anti-Semitic attitudes remain pervasive.  In the 12 EU countries surveyed, plus Ukraine and Russia, the poll found that one in four respondents agreed with a majority of the 11 stereotypes tested.

Some of the most disturbing findings involve stereotypes about Jews that relate to political attitudes and perceptions of Jewish power and loyalty.  In seven Western European countries – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Spain – more than 40 percent of respondents believe that Jews are more loyal to the State of Israel than to their own country.

In the Central and Eastern European countries surveyed, the most common stereotype is that Jews have too much power in the business world. The numbers are astonishing: Ukraine 72 percent, Hungary 71 percent, Poland 56 percent, and Russia 50 percent. Combining the trope about Jews and money with the notion of illegitimate Jewish power is classical anti-Semitism.

The European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) polled Jewish communities across Europe, covering about 95% of the Jews in Europe, to learn about their experiences with anti-Semitism, first in 2012, then again in 2018.[5]  The 2018 report paints a portrait of fear in Europe’s Jewish communities, and a disturbing deterioration compared to the 2012 survey.  It concludes that “Anti-Semitism pervades everyday life,” and “Anti-Semitic harassment is so common it is normalized.”  Some of the key findings were:

  • Those who have experienced anti-Semitic harassment increased by a third over the past 6 years. 
  • Attitudes about anti-Semitism in Germany, the UK, and Sweden show some of the most significant changes.  The percentage of Jews who consider anti-Semitism to be a “very big” or “fairly big” problem increased in Germany from 62% to 85%, in the UK from 48% to 75%, and in Sweden from 60% to 82%.
  • 28% experienced some form of harassment for being Jewish in the past 12 months; 2% were physically attacked during that same period.
  • Half of Europe’s Jews worry about being targets of verbal assaults, and 40% fear being physically attacked. 
  • 9 out of 10 considered anti-Semitism online to be a problem in their country. 
  • A third of Jews have avoided Jewish events at least occasionally because of safety fears.
  • A quarter of Jews have been exposed to Holocaust denial.
  • 38% have considered emigrating in the past five years over safety fears, up from 27% six years ago.

The report says anti-Semitic abuse has become so common that most victims do not bother reporting the incidents.  It found that 79% of the respondents who said they had experienced anti-Semitic harassment in the prior five years chose not to report the most serious incident that they experienced to the police or to any other organization.

ADL Data on Xenophobia in Europe:

In our 2019 update on ADL’s Global 100 polling data, we also asked questions about European public attitudes toward a range of other vulnerable groups.  As such, our study also offers a window into contemporary levels and trends pertaining to xenophobic sentiment in Europe.

For example, compared to our 2015 study, unfavorable attitudes in Hungary toward Muslim people jumped dramatically from 20% to up to 47%, compared to only 12% currently in Russia, for example.  Favorable attitudes toward refugees and immigrants in Hungary were only 13%, compared to 71% in neighboring Ukraine, for example.

In Sweden and Denmark, roughly two-thirds of respondents reported favorable attitudes toward Muslims, roughly three-quarters of respondents reported favorable attitudes toward immigrants and refugees, and large majorities reported positive views toward people of African descent.

In the Western European countries that we polled, attitudes toward Muslim people were generally positive, with favorable attitudes ranging from about 60 to 75%.  Immigrants and refugees had highly favorable ratings, from 60 to around 80%. 

However, the belief that immigrants threaten national culture or traditions in these countries represented a significant plurality of views, falling in the 30 to 50% range for most of these countries.  This was also the case in Sweden and Denmark.

States Are Failing to Report Anti-Semitic Incidents to the OSCE:

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has 57 Participating States, all of which have committed to report meaningful data to the OSCE on an annual basis regarding the levels of hate crimes that take place inside their territory.  And yet the vast majority of these states are still failing to follow through on this commitment.

Although 41 out of 57 OSCE Participating States reported statistics to the OSCE on hate crimes in their territory for the 2018 reporting year, less than half of these countries provided statistics that were disaggregated by bias motivation – meaning how many incidents targeted which vulnerable communities their territory.  This is both inexcusable and deeply harmful, since the first step toward addressing bias motivated violence is typically to assess how significantly various communities are being affected.

For example, only 19 of these states actually reported anti-Semitic hate crimes in their territory to the OSCE for the most recent reporting year of 2018: Austria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.  This is despite the fact that anti-Semitic incidents were reported to the OSCE by civil society groups in numerous other Participating States during this period, such as violent anti-Semitic assaults in Belgium, Georgia, Hungary, and Switzerland as well as other categories of anti-Semitic hate crimes in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estonia, Italy, Moldova, Romania, Russia, and Serbia.[6]

Less than half of all OSCE Participating States reported whether any racist or xenophobic hate crimes took place in their territory during the most recent reporting year.[7]  During this period only 16 out of 57 Participated States reported hate crimes against Muslim people[8] and only 10 out reported hate crimes against Roma or Sinti people,[9] response rates that are simply not credible.

Responding to Incidents:

Anti-Semitic incidents affect the sense of security of European Jewish communities.  But so do the responses to those incidents.

Just a few weeks ago, in eastern France, a Jewish cemetery suffered a major vandalism attack.  Over 100 graves were spray-painted with swastikas and other graffiti.  The reaction of the French government was swift.  The very next week, Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner announced the creation of a new national hate crime office to coordinate with police forces to ensure – in his words – that “perpetrators of these vile acts are brought to justice.”[10]

Unfortunately, law enforcement are not always responsive to Jewish security concerns, and the consequences can be devastating.  This past Yom Kippur, the Jewish community in Halle, Germany, had asked for police protection during services on this High Holiday.  The local police did not respond,[11] so they weren’t there when a white supremacist opened fire on the synagogue.  Only following that attack did the German Federal Ministry of Interior gather all state-level Ministries of Interior to develop and announce a 10-point plan against extremism, including securing all major Jewish facilities.[12]

We have also seen heartening responses from outside of government.  In the UK, many non-Jewish political and civil society leaders have spoken out forcefully against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.  Just as the local Muslim community in Pittsburgh rallied to support their Jewish neighbors after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, so did the Muslim community in Denmark after the shooting at the Copenhagen synagogue.[13]  Members of the Danish Muslim community, many of them young adults, came together to form a symbolic protective ring around the synagogue.

Too often there is indifference to anti-Semitism, but the forceful responses by governments and civil society are important factors in reassuring Jews.

How Anti-Israel Bigotry Affects Jewish Communities:

In countries with Jewish communities, we often see the issue of anti-Semitism occurring through the prism of Israel.  For example, it would be impossible to fully understand the UK Labour Party’s descent into being institutionally anti-Semitic under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership without understanding the kneejerk anti-Israel orientation of Corbyn and his inner circle.

European Jewish university students have told ADL that they face both anti-Semitism and severe anti-Israel bias.  Through a new partnership with the European Union of Jewish Students, ADL will provide significant training on how best to respond. ADL's "Words to Action" training has many years of proven success with Jewish students in the United States, and it has been field tested with European Jewish students over the last year.  ADL and EUJS are looking to expand their joint capacity to bring this valuable "Words to Action" training to students across Europe.

Educating law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges about anti-Semitism is a prerequisite for proper enforcement of hate crime laws, when the incidents have an anti-Semitic aspect. Too often we have seen egregious cases, such as a German judge ruling that a Molotov cocktail attack against a synagogue was an anti-Israel protest.  ADL has tremendous experience in educating U.S. law enforcement officials, and educated Austrian law enforcement for over a decade to better understand and react to anti-Semitism and other biases.

How ADL Supports Jewish Communities Abroad:

ADL works day in and day out to protect Jewish communities all over the world.  Europe looms particularly large in these efforts, since it is home to 1.4 million Jews in 38 countries. 

ADL works with large and small communities, from France (450,000) to Finland (1,000), to address issues that confront their ability to live openly and freely as Jews.  ADL’s advocacy in Europe focuses foremost on the physical security of Jewish communities. In coordination with the local communities, we call on governments to ensure that adequate attention and resources are devoted to security, that potential threats are addressed, and any perpetrators of attacks on Jewish communities are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. ADL’s expertise in extremism is increasingly being shared with European interlocutors.  We are training senior European law enforcement and counter-terrorism officials, and we are conducting joint research with leading European extremism experts.

When anti-Semitic statements in Europe are made prominently, pervasively, or by public officials, ADL condemns the hateful remarks and calls on leaders and opinion-makers to join with us. Since 2016, ADL has trained European Jewish students to respond to anti-Semitic comments and anti-Israel bias with techniques that we have honed through decades of work with American Jewish students.

Since 1985, ADL’s work has also included a dedicated team combating cyberhate and online harassment, reporting on trends, sharing intelligence with law enforcement, and helping more than 20,000 individuals face down threats. As part of this work, ADL has worked in close partnership with industry, urging them to adopt best practices for addressing cyberhate. These practices have been guiding brand-name Internet and media companies for years. ADL has provided input on cyberhate to European policymakers in particular and works with European Jewish communities to address cyberhate, helping them to respond to incidents and intervening with tech companies on their behalf.

Policy Recommendations:

Congress should finally pass the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act (H.R. 221/S. 238) to bolster the authorities of the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism position housed at the State Department.  This bill would ensure that the envoy reports directly to the Secretary of State, holds the rank of ambassador, and can coordinate efforts to combat anti-Semitism abroad across all relevant federal agencies.  This bipartisan bill was endorsed by a coalition of over 70 national and local Jewish communal groups in a letter organized by ADL.[14]  It passed the House with around 400 votes both this session of Congress and the last one, and yet the Senate still has yet to take a single meaningful action on this bill.  U.S. Special Envoy Carr is working diligently to press European governments to prioritize tackling this problem, and this bill would help him and future U.S. envoys have a greater impact.

In addition, Congress should continue urging the State Department to examine whether certain violent white supremacist groups operating abroad should be sanctioned as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). It is possible that one or more violent white supremacist groups might meet the criteria for such a designation, and the State Department should determine whether there is sufficient evidence and justification to do so. None of the current 69 organizations on the FTO list is a white supremacist organization. However, while the possibility of designating white supremacist organizations under the State Department’s FTO authority holds potential promise, there are some critical constitutional considerations that Congress should consider, most notably possible civil liberties and civil rights consequences.

Maintain visible contact with Jewish communities in Europe. While many U.S. embassies have deep and longstanding relationships with Jewish community activists, and the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism makes a point of engaging with local Jewish groups in Europe, Members of Congress can help by visibly engaging vulnerable Jewish communities in Europe and elevating their concerns in bilateral government meetings.

Provide training and assistance to improve the policing and prosecution of anti-Semitism. Much more can be done to leverage existing international training programs, particularly those that reach governmental and law enforcement audiences in Europe and beyond. We should not miss an opportunity to provide training on hate crime response, including legal tools, model policies, and on investigating and prosecuting anti-Semitic crimes.

More broadly, there are numerous other proactive steps that Congress can urge governments in Europe to take in order to step up the fight against anti-Semitism inside their jurisdictions. These include:

  • Provide robust political leadership to reassure targeted communities and to discredit, reject and marginalize anti-Semitism by speaking out against manifestations of anti-Semitism and other forms of scapegoating across the political spectrum.
  • Utilize the IHRA (the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) working definition of anti-Semitism with its illustrative examples to provide educational guidance for law enforcement, teachers, and community leaders.  A broad, inclusive definition should include current manifestations of anti-Semitism, allow for protected political expression on Israel and Zionism, but draw the line before such expression becomes intentional, unlawful, discriminatory intimidation and harassment.
  • Promote detailed and comprehensive public reporting on anti-Semitic incidents and all other forms of hate violence and discrimination. 
  • In particular, all governments that are members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe should ensure that they better fulfill their obligations to report to the OSCE detailed data on hate crimes in their territory, including furnishing detailed data about the number and nature of anti-Semitic hate crimes committed in their country in the most recent reporting year.
  • Ensure that governments have specific senior officials tasked with combating anti-Semitism and to do the same for all forms of hate.
  • Mandate hate crime prevention and response training into law enforcement education.
  • Work closely with local Jewish communities to address issues of concern, including security matters and opposing bans on circumcision or kosher slaughter.
  • Ensure that school curricula include education about the Holocaust, modern-day anti-Semitism, and inclusive anti-bias training.
  • Vigorously combat violent extremist groups that perpetrate attacks on Jews or other communities, regardless of whether such extremist groups hail from radical segments of the right wing, the left wing, or other religious or ethnic communities.
  • Ensure that social media and other technology companies adopt and rigorously enforce robust terms of service against cyberhate, including the particular forms in which anti-Semitic slanders and conspiracy theories manifest./li>

[1] Cnaan Liphshiz, “In France, Jews Targeted in Majority of Racist Incidents in 2019,” JTA, January 26, 2020 (

[2] Community Security Trust, Antisemitic Incidents Report, January - June 2019, August 1, 2019. (

[3] Agency for Research and Information on Anti-Semitism (RIAS), Antisemitische Vorfalle: Januan bis Juni 2019, September 26, 2019. (

[4] ADL, Global 100: 2019 Survey Update, November 21, 2019. (

[5] European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Experiences and perceptions of Antisemitism: Second survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews in the EU, December 2018. (

[6] OSCE ODIHR Hate Crime Reporting, “Anti-Semitism,” accessed January 25, 2020 (

[7] OSCE ODIHR Hate Crime Reporting, “Racism and Xenophobia,” accessed January 25, 2020 (

[8] OSCE ODIHR Hate Crime Reporting, “Bias against Muslims,” accessed January 25, 2020 (

[9] OSCE ODIHR Hate Crime Reporting, “Bias against Roma and Sinti,” accessed January 25, 2020, (

[10] “France Pledges Hate Crime Office after Jewish Cemetery Desecrated,” France24, December 4, 2019. (

[11]  Luisa Beck and Rick Noack, “Synagogue Attacker Hoped to Inspire Further Anti-Semitic Attacks, German Authorities Say,” Washington Post, October 10, 2019. (

[12] “German Officials Present Plan to Combat Anti-Semitic Violence, Far-Right Extremism,” Deutsche Welle, October 18, 2019. (

[13] “Danish Muslims Get OK to Form Peace Ring Around Copenhagen Synagogue,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 10, 2015. (

[14] ADL, “Letter to Congressional Leaders Regarding Global Anti-Semitism Bills,” November 28, 2018 (