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Support for Israel up among European Jewish leaders, survey finds

(Amos Ben Gershon/GPO photo)

Political support for Israel has increased significantly among Jewish community leaders in Europe, according to a new survey that asked hundreds of said leaders.

The increase was reflected in the “Fourth Survey of European Jewish Community Leaders and Professionals” of 2018, published Tuesday by the International Centre for Community Development of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).

Of 893 respondents from 28 European countries and Turkey, 68 per cent agreed with the statement: “I support Israel fully, regardless of how its government behaves.” In the 2008, 2011 and 2015 surveys, the same statement received 61, 56, and 55 per cent approval, respectively.

Only 42 per cent of respondents concurred with the statement: “I am sometimes ashamed of the actions of the Israeli government,” compared to 51 per cent in 2015. In Western Europe, only 11 per cent of respondents said their communities featured a “great degree of divisiveness over Israel.” The figure was one per cent in Eastern Europe.

Across Western Europe, Jewish community leaders have said that Islamist attacks in that part of the world have sensitized locals to the dilemmas facing Israel and its actions.

The respondents’ answers on their feeling of security suggest it has gradually declined since 2008, when the first survey was published.

A decade ago, 36 per cent said they felt ”very safe to live and practice as a Jew” in their city. The figure declined to 22 per cent in 2011 and 2015, dropping to 20 per cent this year. “Rather safe got a 63-per cent rating, the same as in 2015. And “rather unsafe” rose from six per cent in 2008 to 13 this year.

Still, anti-Semitism was ranked as only the sixth most serious threat to the future of Jewish life by the respondents in their countries, with 56 per cent of them describing it as such. Topping the chart with a 66-per cent rating was “Alienation of Jews from the Jewish community life,” followed by “Demographic decline” with 65 per cent.

Still, concern about anti-Semitism showed the largest increase, from 23 per cent a decade ago to 56 per cent in 2018.

Nearly three quarters of respondents said their national government’s response to their security needs was adequate. Slightly more than three quarters said they had not considered emigrating over the past five years. But 52 per cent said they expected an increase in emigration by Jews from their country. Nearly a quarter said anti-Semitism is the main reason for emigration by Jews from their countries.

Amid rising concern over anti-Semitism, JDC wrote in a statement about the study, “one can also see a commitment to investments in the future of these communities and a determination to remain in Europe rather than emigrate.”