In Brief

Anti-Semitic stereotypes ‘alive and well’ in Europe

CNN poll reveals quarter of European think Jews have too much influence in business and politics and one fifth blame them for anti-Semitism

A significant percentage of Europeans believe Jews have too much influence in business, politics and the media, according to a sweeping new poll which reveals anti-Semitic stereotypes are alive and well in Europe.

The CNN/ComRess poll, which interviewed more than 7,000 people across Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Poland and Sweden, found between a quarter and one fifth of people believed Jews have too much influence in business, finance, the media and politics.

Attitudes sharpened when it comes to the relationship between the Holocaust, Israel, Jews and anti-Semitism, with more than a quarter of respondents (28%) saying anti-Semitism in their countries was a response to the actions of the state of Israel.

While few people said they personally have an unfavourable attitude towards Jews, nearly one in five (18%) said anti-Semitism in their countries was a response to the everyday behaviour of Jewish people.

CNN says the poll “the poll uncovered complicated, contrasting and sometimes disturbing attitudes about Jews, and some startling ignorance”.

A third of people polled said they knew just a little or nothing at all about the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of over six million Jews during the Second World War.

This figure was most pronounced among young people in France, with one in five 18 to 34-year-olds claiming to have never heard of the Nazi atrocities. In Austria, the birthplace of Adolf Hitler, this figure was 12%.

The findings are all the more worrying as both countries have experienced a surge in far-right nationalism in recent years, with France’s newly renamed National Rally (formally Front National) and Austria’s Freedom Party repeatedly accused of stoking neo-Nazi sentiment.

In Germany, the arrival of some 1.4 million refugees over the past four years has seen the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, once considered a fringe element, now hold a solid 94 seats in parliament.

“The focus of their anger may be Muslim migrants, but they are reflexively anti-Semitic in their views,” says CNN’s Clarissa Ward.

In a sign that Jewish stereotypes are still being used for political ends, leading far-right figures in Europe have attacked Hungarian-American businessman and philanthropist George Soros, a divisive figure in global politics due to his significant funding of progressive or “liberal” causes.

While many of the most outlandish conspiracy theories are easily discredited, commentators have noticed a dark streak running through many of them.

Mark Fenster, a law professor at the University of Florida, told Business Insider that “many of the claims waged against Soros could have an anti-Semitic slant”, while Soros’ son Alexander has said that the demonisation of his father by the right-wing is “dripping with the poison of anti-Semitism”.

Last week, Jewish and European leaders vowed to combat the resurgence of anti-Semitism on the continent and proposed concrete measures to counter the hatred of Jews.

The head of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, warned at the Europe Beyond Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism conference in Vienna that “Jewish communities in Europe are increasingly concerned about their security and pessimistic about their future.”

He and others called on governments, public and private institutions to implement anti-Semitism policies, including providing better safety for Jewish communities, reinforcing legislation and improving education against anti-Semitism.

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