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A major European Jewish Congress international conference on antisemitism took place in Vienna in February, organised by New York University, Tel Aviv University and the University of Vienna.
The conference, entitled an ‘An End to Antisemitism’, brought together academics, public intellectuals, religious dignitaries and political leaders, to explore the lasting problem of antisemitism from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including ancient and modern history, the study of Islam, psychology, sociology, media and Internet studies, jurisprudence and political studies. What gave the conference its particularly valuable character was the strong involvement of political leaders and policy makers alongside the academics, and the ensuing focus on public policy.
JPR’s work featured prominently at the conference, with Dr Daniel Staetsky presenting the ‘elastic view’ of antisemitism that he developed as part of JPR’s Antisemitism in contemporary Great Britain study published in 2017. Staetsky explained that there is an established tradition in the empirical study of antisemitism, where the number and proportion of antisemites in any given country is quantified based on the strong feelings of negativity towards Jews declared by respondents to surveys of general populations’ attitudes. However, such a method of quantification is arbitrary: no single figure can capture the level of antisemitism in society adequately, not least because weak antisemitic attitudes matter at least as much as strong attitudes do simply because weak attitudes are more prevalent. Antisemitism thus needs to be seen as an attitude that exists at different scales and levels of intensity in a given society, and this particular aspect of antisemitism has been overlooked so far to the detriment of sound understanding of the phenomenon. If the anxieties of Jews living in Europe are to be adequately understood and addressed, the prevalence of both strong and weak antisemitic attitudes need to be monitored and examined alongside other measures of antisemitism.
Dr Staetsky’s lecture was delivered alongside lectures by Professor Thomas Gergely of the Free University of Brussels, Professor Vivian Liska of the University of Antwerp, and Professor Sergio DellaPergola of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.