I am very pleased to have the opportunity to address the 2021 Mayors Summit against antisemitism and I warmly thank the Combat Antisemitism movement and the city of Frankfurt for this invitation.
Antisemitism is a serious problem in our societies and it’s getting worse. This is not just a problem for the Jewish community, it is a problem for all of us. It is a challenge to the values on which we base our societies, our communities. And here in Europe if we fail our Jewish community then we have failed as the modern European project.
We at the Fundamental Rights Agency know that the situation is getting worse through our surveys. In 2018, we published major survey results, having engaged with over 16,000 Jewish people from across 12 EU Member States. They told us a dispiriting story. They told us of deeply disturbing levels of harassment, discrimination, even violence. They told us stories of not reporting incidents because they don’t have confidence in the State to investigate. They told us about worrying levels of people thinking about emigrating from Europe. We saw also that the situation of children, or young people at least, was notably worse than that for older people.
During 2020, things got even worse in the Covid context. Thanks to the Anti-Defamation League, we are aware of hideous, shocking calumnies perpetrated on social media against Jews, blaming them, for instance, for the spread of the virus.
Now, there is much that we need to do, and there is much that we can do to push back against antisemitism. It engages everybody in our societies. But central to the effort must be cities.
Cities are in the frontline, if you will, of the fight against antisemitism. Now cities across our countries have wildly differing mandates, responsibilities, resources and authorities. But, nevertheless, there are at least four things that we can do together regardless of which city we’re in in the fight against antisemitism.
The first of these is to either gather the data on what’s going on or support the gathering of the data. We know from our work that this is an area of great weakness, at least here in Europe, where in some countries very little effort at all is made. So, cities can either do it or support the doing of it. Have a look, for example, at what’s happening in the city of Bordeaux, which has some good practice in this regard.
Second, we’ve got to tackle antisemitism in ourselves, in our administrations. We’ve got to make sure that our offices, our departments, are antisemitism free zones. This we do through an investment in awareness raising, in training, in challenging, in identifying the hidden biases across our workforces. We also have to do it by holding people accountable for anti-Semitic acts.
The third thing we can all do, regardless of the mandate of this or that city, is we can contribute to the building of a culture of respect for Jews within our societies. A culture, a community that repudiates antisemitism. And again, this can be done in many different ways, including through a deliberate effort to celebrate Jewish life and Jewish culture in our societies. And here, for example, look at the experience of Cologne in Germany where there has been much good practice in this type of work.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, regardless of what we do for the Jewish community, let’s do it with the Jewish community. This is not about working for them, it is working together in partnership. That way, we can in a far more meaningful way, understand the issues and the smart responses.
Now as cities across the EU at least, embark on all of this work, or further intensify it, please count on the Fundamental Rights Agency. We will continue to support you by generating evidence and data. Above all else, through our periodic surveys. We will also work with you in investment in human rights at the heart of city life. Above all else, through our support for the human rights cities movement.
I wish you very well for this conference.