RECENT days have shown that both the EU and Slovakia have good reason to seriously think about their attitudes towards Israel and the Jews.
On November 3, the European Commission (EC) released the results of a flash Eurobarometer survey entitled Iraq and Peace in the World. Among other questions, researchers asked EU citizens which countries they perceive as the greatest threat to world peace.
The survey found that "in all member countries (with the exception of Italy) the majority of citizens believe that Israel presents a threat to peace in the world, with 'yes' results as high as 74 percent in the Netherlands and 69 percent in Austria."
In Italy, 48 percent said they perceive Israel as a threat to peace, while 46 percent disagreed.
In total, 59 percent of Europeans believe that Israel is a threat to global amity, putting it on the very top of the list. Another interesting fact came out of the study:
"The one socio-demographic characteristic that stands out is education - the more highly educated respondents are more likely to perceive Israel as a threat to world peace," reads the report.
Interestingly, the US, with 53 percent, shares second place on the list with two members of the "axis of evil" - Iran and North Korea. Israel and the US surpassed such countries as Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya.
The data was included in the full report, but it was omitted from a shortened version released by the EC. However, this did not help to keep the results secret, and they led to prompt reactions.
The findings have caused an outrage among Israeli representatives, who blamed not only the Union's population, but also its opinion-forming elite and policy-makers, for the EU citizens' attitudes.
EC President Romano Prodi immediately released a statement reacting to the survey's results.
"I am very concerned about the results of this survey. They point to the continued existence of a bias that must be condemned out of hand," Prodi said. "To the extent that this may indicate a deeper, more general prejudice against the Jewish world, our repugnance is even more radical. In the Europe born in reaction to the horrors of war and the Shoah, there is no place for anti-Semitism, and it cannot be tolerated," he continued.
It is not known how the EC or member states plan to tackle the issue. The EC has announced plans to host a conference on anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli sentiments in Europe before the year's end, but it is unlikely such seminars can do much to help.
The Slovak media have paid little or no attention to these worrying developments in the EU, which much resemble some of the country's own current problems.
One possible explanation is that the local press is so preoccupied with local developments that it truly has no room to cover such issues as attitudes prevalent in the Union that Slovakia is set to join in six months' time.
It could also be that the media are intentionally turning a blind eye to the EU's problems, not to spoil the high expectations of Slovaks that they have worked so hard to create. We must also not forget that many media have received state funding to inform the public about the EU.
Reporting about the negatives perhaps does not fit into these subsidized campaigns too well.
There is one more reason why the pan-European prejudice against Israel and Jews is not given attention in Slovakia - the country has its own problems to deal with in this field.
Indeed, Slovakia is not unlike the EU when it comes to the feeling that Jews may pose a threat.
On October 29 the daily SME disseminated an excerpt from a classified intelligence service report provided to President Rudolf Schuster, which reads "Miloš Žiak is a Jew and his wife Marina is a Russian Jew, born [with the maiden name] Mesežnikova."
Žiak is an entrepreneur and head of the Israeli chamber of commerce in Slovakia. He is an alleged member of a "group" Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda has claimed strives to destabilize the country, his Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) party, and the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS).
PM Dzurinda named only Žiak and former head of the National Security Office (NBÚ) Ján Mojžiš as members of the group in his testimony before Attorney General Milan Hanzel, according to reports of the TV Markíza channel. However, Slovak Radio has indicated that the group, the list of which has been put together by the SIS, has as many as 36 members.
Some media, political analysts, and members of the Jewish community were alarmed by the report that the SIS allegedly collected data based on citizens' race, belief, or origin.
Dzurinda has said he absolutely rules out any allegations that the SIS might be anti-Semitic.
A survey conducted by the Markant agency released in January 2001 shows that 37 percent of respondents would disapprove if their daughter decided to marry a Jewish person. When asked how they would react if a Jew decided to move into their neighbourhood, 19 percent of those questioned said they would be against it.
It seems this is one of the many problems EU entry will not help Slovakia solve.
10. Nov 2003 at 0:00