Europe is boosting its cooperation with Israel in the framework of the struggle against racism and anti-Semitism. This week, senior European Union officials arrived in Israel for a two-day seminar in order to learn how to address racial hatred within society.
"Anti-Semitism is a barometer for the health of a society," said Aviva Raz-Shechter, who heads the Foreign Ministry's Department for Combating Anti Semitism. "When there's a rise in anti-Semitism somewhere, it also symbolizes other phenomena of racism and xenophobia. Islamophobia is also on the rise across Europe. What we have here is globalization of hatred."
Raz-Shechter said "Europeans are concerned by Islamic radicalism, as well as the growing hatred to Muslims and other foreigners." She added that she believes Israel can teach Europeans to address hatred based on the Jewish State's experience as an immigrant-absorbing nation.
"The Jewish people have the most experience with addressing incidents of hatred," she said.
"Today there are Imams in Europe who preach hatred of others and brainwash young children," Raz-Shechter said. "Similarly, it also happens on the other side: European citizens are mostly scared of Islamic terrorism and develop resistance to Muslims. The level of Islamophobia rises all the time and European government realize that's not a good thing. It's something that affects social and political stability, and dismantles society from within."
During the seminar, which took place at the Foreign Ministry and at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, participants were presented with Israeli programs for coping with racism and anti-Semitism. Among the guests at the seminar were the principals of a bi-national school in Jerusalem being run under joint Arab-Jewish management.
During the seminar, new figures were presented regarding the level of anti-Semitism at several European countries. The figures, based on an EU study, show a worrisome trend. In France, for example, there has been a 62% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the years 2001-2006. During the same period, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain almost doubled. In Germany, however, the study showed a 1.2% decline.
Raz-Shechter noted that as a result of the rise of anti-Semitism in France, the French government was the European leader in terms of cooperation with Israel on the subject.
"There is growing awareness of the need to work together – because a response to anti-Semitism would provide a response to other social ills," she said.