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Thursday, October 20, 2016

CoE Human rights chief Muiznieks: Europe is getting ‘nastier’ for Jews.

Muiznieks: Europe is getting far ‘nastier’ for Jews. (DW).

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, with public figures trying to “brush over” past crimes against Jews, CoE human rights chief Nils Muiznieks told DW. The official also urged teaching European values to migrants.

Europeans ignore anti-Semitism “at their peril,” according to Muiznieks, who serves as Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe. The rights’ advocate urged nations to stand up to bigots and  Holocaust deniers in a Tuesday statement, warning that the “hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.”

Speaking to DW, the American-Latvian official points to fear and insecurity in Europe and dangerous links between words and violence.

Deutsche Welle: What prompted you to issue your appeal and urge European countries to take a stand against anti-Semitism?

Nils Muiznieks: In the last two years, I have systematically visited Jewish communities when I am on country visits. They expressed a number of concerns – one is about their security, about being targeted by terrorists, by right-wing extremists and others, but another was how this issue plays out, about trends in revisionism making a comeback in a number of places in Europe.

You are talking about politicians and public figures trying to diminish genocide, to make it appear smaller than it was?

Yes, and also to brush over some of the nasty aspect of the past, which were particularly targeting Jews as victims. In a number of places you have this competition of who can be the bigger victim and sometimes it takes on an anti-Semitic tone because people belittle the suffering of Jews.

It’s belittling, it’s relativizing, and sometimes it’s outright denial, although the outright denial you get more from the extremists than mainstream politicians.

Can you elaborate on these measures you think countries should taketo fight hate speech and anti-Semitism?

I think there is a whole package of tools – you have criminal law, which can be used to punish people, you have educational tools, teaching the Holocaust, commemorating the Holocaust, and the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the EU all have good tools in that regard.

Regarding the Internet, it's clear that you need cooperation between governments, private internet companies and civil society in order to move forward. But I think politicians bear a huge responsibility here as well.

Another thing, of course, is on integration, to make sure that new arrivals into Europe understand our history and values, and don't contribute to indigenous anti-Semitism and intolerance. But it's a two-way street, there is a lot of ingenuous intolerance that needs to be addressed as well as that among new arrivals.

This applies to immigrants, mostly of Muslim faith, arriving to Europe?

I don't want to stigmatize all people arriving into Europe, and we have plenty of our own indigenous anti-Semites. But, one concern I sense among Jewish communities is about the integration of the new arrivals. They said: Listen, it's important that we help the new arrivals find their way in society and that they learn about European history, human rights' values, because very often they come from places where this is a very foreign concept, so we have to help them. Read the full interview here.

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