European Conference on Antisemitism

Sirpa Rautio
FRA Director's keynote speech during the European Conference on Antisemitism in Vienna on 6 May 2024. She addressed the high-level panel on 'Antisemitism as the “new normal”? Addressing rising antisemitism effectively at universities and on social media'.

Dear, Minister Edtstadler, President Faβmann, President Deutsch, Ambassador Roet and Ambassador Lipstadt. Dear colleagues, friends and distinguished participants of this important conference. It is an honour to speak here as the newly appointed Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.

For almost two decades, FRA has documented the pervasive and lasting nature of antisemitism. Over such a period, one would have hoped that education, legislation, policies, and compassion would have led to a decrease in this phenomenon. Regrettably, this is not the case, and we, in this moment of profound importance, witness antisemitism increasing, evolving, and anchoring itself in our societies, including online.

The numbers of antisemitic incidents and attacks have reached unprecedented heights in the history of data collection after the Holocaust. In a consultation with Jewish community umbrella organisations, we learned of the stark surge in antisemitic incidents following 7 October 2023, with some organisations reporting increases of more than 400%.

Not only are we seeing numbers increase, but also the nature and intensity of incidents shifting towards more insidious cases of harassment, intimidation, and violence. Organisations use the words ‘fear’ and ‘anxiety’ when describing the sentiments within their communities. We are watching in real time as an already worrisome situation escalates steeply.

Prior to the brutal terrorist attacks by Hamas on 7 October 2023, my agency collected information from 8,000 self-identified Jews in 13 EU Member States, as part of its 3rd antisemitism survey. The information on lived experience, collected between January and June 2023, showed that little had changed. About half of respondents indicated that they cannot live a life free of worry for their own safety and that of their family members. 80% stated that they, on occasion, avoid wearing items that make them recognisable as Jews in public. 4 out of 10 have considered emigrating because they do not feel safe as a Jew where they currently live.

Our societies have normalised the near-constant presence of security at synagogues and Jewish schools- we cannot allow that same normalisation to happen with antisemitism more broadly, including online. We must continue to highlight and call out such incidents, and to prosecute hate crimes. To deny Jewish people the right to live in dignity, free from hate and without fear is a violation of fundamental rights, and should be named as such.

My agency will continue to be your fierce partner in many ways: through our data collection which maintains a focus on antisemitism, through using our work in other areas, such as online content moderation, to identify newer forms of hate crime and through providing the EU and Member States with evidence upon which to base their strategies and actions. Through raising our voices on the need for strengthened Holocaust education and awareness-raising, and through encouraging others, such as political and religious leaders, to do the same. Above all, we will continue to build upon our strong and respectful cooperation with Jewish communities.

Dear friends, we should be dedicating speeches and conferences such as this to discussions on celebrating Jewish life, and on preserving and showcasing the rich Jewish culture we all know exists. However, for now, we must be dedicated to combatting the negative: overcoming the tidal wave of antisemitism and facing the new ways in which hate is manifesting. I pledge my own, and my agency’s support in this endeavour. We must all do more.

Thank you.


See also