Research: Many teachers are unable to identify antisemitism
Again and again, there were cases of abuse and mobbing. Now we have a new study about antisemitism in classrooms and schoolyards stating: absolutely nothing other than normal.
During the first days in his new school, a boy received a note with the inscription “Jew” sticked on his back but no one drew his attention to this. In another case, a teacher told a man: “If all the Jews were like you, then I can understand Hitler.” These incidents are documented in a new study by sociologist Yulia Bernstein and her colleagues on antisemitism in schools. It was published Thursday at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences.
The study concludes that antisemitism in schools in Germany is not a marginal phenomenon, and is often the norm. Therefore, it comes from both students and teachers – often underestimating or hiding it. The school as a microcosm: Bernstein states in her study that 20 percent of the population has an antisemitic “latent” mood. In the case of antisemitism that relates to Israel and secondary antisemitism, that is, denial of the Holocaust, the rate is about 40 percent.
Conspiracy theories and feelings of revulsion
Bernstein’s qualitative research, which is not representative, is based on data provided from 227 interviews with Jewish students and their parents, as well as with Jewish and non-Jewish teachers. In addition, social workers and other experts were questioned. The interviews took place over a period of 17 months in various schools, classes and in different types of schools in cities throughout the Federal Republic of Germany.
In classrooms and schoolyards, antisemitism is therefore often cited only when Jewish students suffer from threats or experience violence. “But such attacks are only the tip of the iceberg when talking about antisemitism in schools,” she says. “Oh Jew,” as a derogatory term, is often seen by teachers as “something stated by the way” or as a joke and a provocation. In addition, conspiracy theories and feelings of revulsion were often not recognized, and there were no objections against them. The substantive reference to the Middle East conflict is also seen as a deficient situation. According to the claim, Muslim antisemitism is presented as non-dangerous and harmless, “from a relatively cultural approach.”
antisemitism related to Israel
When this happens again and again, Jewish students have to deal with a “hostile atmosphere that makes it difficult, if not even impossible, to openly engage in their Jewish identity,” according to the study.
Victims of antisemitism were often left alone, forced to experience that they were the ones changing schools and not the aggressive criminals. In addition, both students and teachers did not, out of concern, cope with the fact that they were Jews.
Bernstein found that antisemitism related to Israel is “very often” expressed by students and teachers, and it is often argued that this is an attempt to distinguish it from “legitimate criticism.” Many teachers have difficulties identifying antisemitism while attributing things to Israel. Often Jewish students were assigned a role as representatives of Israel. “After the Holocaust, the expression of racist antisemitism is, to a great extent, taboo in the public sphere, instead of demonizing the Jews, they demonize the Jewish state.”
Nazi symbols among students
Sometimes, therefore, teachers compare and identify antisemitism with racism. “The result is that they do not understand the phenomenon of antisemitism, and do not see the secondary antisemitism and those that relate to Israel, as a problem”. Bernstein also states that there are other references to the Nazis: “The dimension of the use of Nazi symbols among students, as well as the extermination fantasies aimed at Jews with direct reference to the Holocaust, surprised us.”
The study presents recommendations for action for teachers, so that they can act professionally against antisemitism and help the people concerned. On both points, Bernstein sees flaws, even in training. It is recommended to hold training courses. Unlike in practice in many incidents, antisemitic attacks must be stopped immediately and the victims must be protected.