Xenophobia on the Continent

Xenophobia on the Continent

Mini Teaser: Anti-Semitism is on the march in Europe. But the European’s new turn toward isolationism goes even further than that.

by Author(s): Andrew KohutRichard Wike

There is some evidence that the frequency of anti-Semitic incidents ebbs and flows with the shifting conflicts of the Middle East. A 2007 report by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia suggested that a spike in such incidents may have been linked to periods of increased tensions in the region, noting that:

Dramatic increases in recorded anti-Semitic crime in France, for example in 2002 and 2004, directly reflect periods of heightened conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine, which then manifests itself as anti-Semitism in mainland France.

The European Jewish Committee has also suggested that anti-Semitic violence, as well as anti-Semitic rhetoric, increased during the monthlong clash between Israeli forces and Hezbollah in 2006.

It stands to reason that anti-Israeli views are tied to anti-Semitism. Yale researchers Edward Kaplan and Charles Small have demonstrated this link empirically in their analysis of the ADL survey data, finding that even after controlling for other factors, those who express negative views about Israel are also more likely to express negative views about Jews. Of course, as these authors note, it can be difficult to conceptually disentangle extreme anti-Israeli opinions from anti-Semitism. "Based on this analysis," write Kaplan and Small, "when an individual's criticism of Israel becomes sufficiently severe, it does become reasonable to ask whether such criticism is a mask for underlying anti-Semitism."


WHILE THERE has been a rise in anti-Semitic opinion in Europe, the percentages holding negative opinions toward Jews in most countries studied remain relatively small. However, the recent strong showing by far-right parties in Austria highlights the extent to which extreme views can reach the mainstream of European politics. Moreover, our research suggests that this phenomenon is being fed by a number of important streams of opinion-antiforeigner, anti-Israel, antiglobalization and even anti-Americanism. A dangerous attitude well worth watching, given that it is being fed by such a robust wellspring of public sentiment.


Andrew Kohut is the president of the Pew Research Center, the director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, and the director of the Pew Global Attitudes Project. He is also a contributing editor to The National Interest.

Richard Wike is the associate director of the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

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