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French leaders debate state of anti-Semitism

PARIS (JTA) — Concerns that the global financial crisis will fuel anti-Semitism spurred The French Jewish Business Union to move up a discussion on anti-Semitism.

French political, religious and media leaders gathered Sunday for an often heated debate over the state of anti-Semitism in France more than two months before the event’s planned date.

"As in every crisis, we note a certain anti-Semitic reaction," said Claude Barouch, the union’s president. "So we decided to move forward and create relationships between people in case of big problems connected to the [financial] crisis, and also what is happening in Iran.

"We’re trying to dialogue with Muslims and Christians to say we’re all in the same boat," he added.

Round-table talks featured religious figures such as the country’s chief rabbi, Joseph Sitruk, and Imam Hassan Chalgoumi of Drancy, who has reached out to the Jewish community despite threats from Islamic extremists.

A discussion on the French media’s reporting on anti-Semitism included, among others, Edwy Plenel, the former editor in chief of the moderate left daily Le Monde. Many in the largely Jewish crowd heckled Plenel for appearing to excuse anti-Semitism as resulting entirely from social ills and for not reporting on resurgent anti-Jewish feelings in France in the first half of the 2000s, during the second Palestinian intifada.

Plenel acknowledged that many in the French media were wrong not to have reported on legitimate "fears" from France’s Jewish community.

Panelists agreed that the French media no longer "deny" the existence of a new form of French anti-Semitism stemming from the political far left and some pro-Palestinian radicals. However, they worried that politically correct forms of anti-Zionism mask Jewish hate in French society.

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