More than 70 percent of Polish people believe that Jews seek to benefit from their forebears’ suffering during the Nazi era, a new report on racism and xenophobia in Europe shows.
The report, entitled “Intolerance, Prejudice and Discrimination,” was published Wednesday by the German-based Friedrich Ebert Foundation, and focuses on European attitudes toward minority groups including migrants, black people, Jews, Muslims, women and homosexuals. The report found the highest rates of anti-Semitism in Poland and Hungary. In Portugal, followed closely by Germany, anti-Semitism is significantly more prominent than in the other Western European countries. In Italy and France, anti-Semitic attitudes as a whole are less widespread than the European average, while anti-Semitism is least prevalent in Great Britain and the Netherlands.
About half the respondents in Portugal, Poland and Hungary said their anti-Semitic sentiments were boosted by Israel’s political activities, while around 40% of respondents in most participating countries affirm the drastic assessment that "the Israeli state is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians." In Poland, 63% of respondents hold that view.
According to the report, about one-third of respondents believe there is a natural hierarchy of ethnicity. Half or more condemn Islam as “a religion of intolerance." A majority in Europe also subscribe to sexist attitudes rooted in traditional gender roles and demand that "women should take their role as wives and mothers more seriously."
The analysis is based on data collected in telephone interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 people age 16 and up per country; the calls were conducted in the fall of 2008 in the framework of the group-based Enmity in Europe study. The countries involved were France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Portugal. The countries were selected to reflect the different geographical regions of the EU, taking old and new member states into account.
According to the report, almost half of Poles and 69% of Hungarian respondents believe that Jews in their countries have too much influence, while only 14% in Great Britain and 6% in the Netherlands are of this opinion. In Poland and Hungary, a similar majority of respondents believe that Jews try to take advantage of having been victims during the Nazi era. More than half of Portuguese respondents also agree with these statements – and the least agreement is in the Netherlands and Great Britain, where about one-fifth believe Jews are profit-seeking and self-interested. In all the countries surveyed, a majority agree that Jews enrich their culture.
According to the report, about half of all European respondents agree that there are too many immigrants in their respective countries. Similarly, about half of all European respondents believe that jobs should be given to locals first when work is scarce. The report showed a correlation between anti-immigrant attitudes and anti-Semitism. For many respondents, prejudice against immigrants goes hand in hand with prejudice against Jews.
The report states that in all European countries, a shift appears to have occurred from traditional anti-Semitism to what it calls secondary anti-Semitism, which developed following World War II. In Germany, Italy and the Eastern European countries, a reversal of perpetrator and victim is observed with alarming frequency; many respondents agree with the accusation that “Jews try to take advantage of having been victims during the Nazi era.” The data also shows anti-Semitism often appearing in the guise of criticism against Israel.
Anti-Semitic criticism of Israel comes close to majority support in all European countries. "If this observation is any measure of Europeans’ attitudes to Israel, then we must conclude that perceptions of Israel are colored by anti-Semitism," the report concludes. "In that context we also need to discuss whether secondary anti-Semitism – refusal to acknowledge the crimes of the Holocaust – has taken the place of traditional anti-Semitism."