December 6, 2003
European Group Takes Wraps Off Study Linking Muslims and Anti-Semitism
By RICHARD BERNSTEIN
ERLIN, Dec. 5 — Responding to criticism from Jewish groups, European lawmakers and others, a European Union institute has made available the text of a previously withheld report that lays a major share of the blame for the much noted rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe with Arab and Muslim extremists.
The institute, the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, commissioned the study on anti-Semitism from the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism at the Technical University in Berlin. However, the center decided against publishing the study, partly on the ground that it stigmatized entire Muslim or Arab communities in Europe for what it called "the acts of individuals or fringe elements within those groups."
That decision provoked strong protests and critical editorial comment in Europe. In deciding to release the report on Thursday, the monitoring center, created by the European Union in 1997 and based in Vienna, reiterated its finding that in its current form it "is not fit for publication," but that the center was making it available in electronic form "in the interests of transparency." [Click here for the full report]
Explaining its decision on its Web site, the center said that the report was based on data that was "neither reliable nor objective nor sufficiently robust to enable an authoritative comparative analysis of the manifestations of anti-Semitism in the E.U." [Click here for the statement]
In the days since the report's existence became known, several individuals or organizations, including the World Jewish Congress, have obtained copies and posted the full 105-page text on their Web sites. The report's defenders said its main findings coincided with other studies of the rise of anti-Semitism and with the everyday experience of many European Jews.
In Berlin on Friday, Natan Sharansky, the Soviet dissident who is now an Israeli cabinet minister, said the report's conclusion "more or less coincides with our studies. There is a clear correlation between the size of the Muslim community in one or other country and the number of physical incidents of anti-Semitism, a kind of feeling of fear by Jews in the streets," he said at a news conference after meeting with the report's authors.
Mr. Sharansky criticized the decision to withhold the report, saying it stemmed from "a desire to appease some of the groups that can seem as potentially dangerous in Europe and you don't want really to incite. The moment you start appeasing extremists instead of fighting extremists, that's really dangerous," he said.
In interviews in past days, the report's authors have defended their conclusions and criticized the decision not to publish them. "Clearly this was a political decision," Juliane Wetzel, a research associate at the Berlin Center and one of the report's two main authors, said in a German newspaper.
But in a telephone interview on Friday, the monitoring center's director, Beate Winkler, rejected those accusations, saying her organization had found itself in what she called a "dilemma," wanting to fight anti-Semitism but concerned at the same time that the Berlin Center's report did not establish a credible basis for its conclusions. "This was our initiative," Ms. Winkler said of the decision to study anti-Semitic violence in Europe. "It was our early warning system."
In its Web site statement on Thursday, the monitoring center said that it "remains 100 percent committed to its ongoing research on anti-Semitism and all forms of racism and intolerance." The statement said the center would continue to study anti-Semitism in Europe and would issue a report on it in the first quarter of next year. "Let's use this opportunity to launch a discussion about anti-Semitism," Ms. Winkler said, "and let's not fight each other. Let's fight together."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company