Negative attitudes toward Israel are on the rise in most Western European countries even as anti-Jewish sentiment decreases across the continent, according to a new survey by the Anti-Defamation League.
The survey, Attitudes Toward Jews, Israel, and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict in Ten European Countries, was released Monday in Berlin ahead of an international conference on anti-Semitism sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It found that since 2002, anti-Semitism has decreased in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland while anti-Israel sentiment has increased almost across the board.
The greatest drop in anti-Semitism was recorded in France, where antipathy toward Jews decreased to 25% from 35% in 2002, and Spain, which saw a similar drop, to 24% today from 34% in 2002. Just two nations recorded increases in anti-Semitism: anti-Jewish sentiment in the United Kingdom shot up to 24% compared to 18% in 2002; the Netherlands experienced a slight rise to 9% vs. 7% two years ago.
ADL national chairman Abraham Foxman attributed the drop in Semitism to the efforts of EU officials and the nations populaces to confront the issue after initially hesitating to respond to a series of violent, anti-Semitic attacks across Europe in 2002. French President Jacques Chirac, for example, “finally stopped denying that anti-Semitism existed in France, declared it unacceptable and created educational and legislative initiatives to combat it,” Foxman noted. The OSCE held its first conference on anti-Semitism in June 2003 in Vienna, and in March 2004, after months of delays, the EU’s Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia released a report on anti-Semitism in Europe.
“Actions bring results and these findings demonstrate that when denial is out and action is in, not just the number of acts of anti-Semitism decrease, but also many negative attitudes about Jews,” Foxman stated. He noted, however, that large numbers of Europeans still ascribe to negative stereotypes about Jews, including the belief that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their country of citizenship.
Meanwhile, Israel s favorability rating decreased in nine of the ten nations surveyed, with the most pronounced decreases found in the Netherlands, (25% today compared to 34% in 2002); Belgium (23% vs. 31%) and Germany (21% vs. 29%). Just one nation, Austria, reported an increase in pro-Israel sentiment, to 23% today from 21% two years ago. In other findings, just 31% of respondents described Israel as an open and democratic society and 26% held Israel responsible for the current violence in the region, compared to 14% who said that the Palestinians are responsible for the violence.
“These findings reflect a bias against Israel in Europe among government and media,” Foxman said. He called for “responsible and balanced European positions that engender trust on both sides of the conflict” in light of the EU s role as a member of the quartet.
The survey of 5,000 Europeans was conducted by First International Resources and Taylor Nelson Sofres between March 16 and April 8, 2004. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4%.