EU’s new anti-Semitism chief prioritizing online hate, implementing laws


PRAGUE (JTA) – Tackling online hate speech, implementing hate crime legislation and education are among the priorities of the European Union’s newly appointed coordinator for combating anti-Semitism.

On Tuesday, Katharina von Schnurbein presented her strategy for addressing growing levels of anti-Semitism in Europe in Prague at her first meeting with special envoys from several nations and international organizations. They included the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom and France, as well as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

“We have very good legislation on the EU level which, for instance, prohibits Holocaust denial,” von Schnurbein told JTA. “But this legislation has only been implemented in 13 out of the EU’s 28 member states. So the European Commission is now moving to ensure proper implementation of those laws.

“There is also a very worrying spike in online hate speech. We are already in touch with IT companies so that we can come up with a common solution to this Europe-wide.”

The coordinator, appointed by the European Commission to the newly created post in November, said she also was planning to focus on education that places more emphasis on civic values. The EU should also adopt a common definition of anti-Semitism, she said.

“We will now be in touch with Jewish communities and organizations in EU member states so that we know what their concerns are and also to listen to what they suggest in terms of solutions,” she said.

The Israeli ambassador for combating anti-Semitism, Gideon Behar, told the meeting that this was the right time for commitments.

“The situation for Jews in Europe is deteriorating,” Behar said, “and we might have to start asking whether Jewish life can continue to exist in Europe.”

Some, however, noted that in light of growing levels of hate speech and anti-Semitism in Europe, the EU should be acting faster.

“The appointment of Katharina von Schnurbein to the post is the result of the Let My People Live conference which was held in Prague a year ago,” Tomas Kraus of the Federation of Czech Jewish communities said. “I would have foreseen a much quicker reaction.”

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