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French Jewish Groups Urge Action After Survey Records a Rise in Hate

March 23, 2005
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Jewish groups in France are unsurprised, but concerned, by a report stating that anti-Semitic and racist attacks in France have doubled over the last year. Reacting to the report, CRIF, the umbrella group of secular French Jewish organizations, emphasized the importance of combating the increased hate.

In a statement, the group acknowledged that the French government has effectively mobilized local police to fight anti-Semitism and racism, but added: “Anti-Semitic and racist violence, which is expressed in the streets, the schools, the public transportation system, and the workplace, must also be prevented through education and a fight against discrimination.”

The statistics, gathered by the office of the interior minister, Dominique de Villepin, reveal recorded incidents of anti-Semitism unequaled since 1990, when the commission conducted its first study.

The study, the group’s annual report, described the levels reached as “exceptional and disturbing.”

The report was submitted on Monday to Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

“Our Republican system and even the very identity of France is today threatened by racism and anti-Semitism,” Raffarin stated after receiving the report. He added: “Our determination must be unfailing” in fighting these scourges.

The number of reported attacks increased by 132 percent, rising from 833 attacks in 2003 to 1,565 in 2004. This represents a 19 percent increase over 2002, the year that had previously had the largest number of recorded anti-Semitic attacks, attributed largely to the violence in the Middle East at that time.

Attacks specifically characterized as anti-Semitic rose from 601 in 2003 to 970 in 2004, although the number of racist and anti-Semitic attacks decreased during the last few months of 2004.

Nissim Zvili, Israel’s ambassador to France, said: “The French government has made intense efforts to curb the violence, and we look forward to seeing the results.”

“We recognize, however, that there are other causes at work here other than the violence in the Middle East, notably the problems of integration of the North African community, as well as the rise of the extreme right.”

“The report confirms for us that the feelings of discomfort in the Jewish community are based in reality,” he said.

“The larger problem,” he emphasized, “is that French society in general is not supportive enough of the government’s efforts.”

Most attacks against Jews were committed by those with an Arab-Muslim background, and the report noted that schools were an area where anti-Semitic incidents were a particular problem.

At the same time, the proportion of hate attacks committed by those with extreme-right politics is on the rise.

Threats and attacks against Muslims more than doubled to 595 last year, up from 232, with the majority committed by far-right supporters.

The report pointed out that “it seems that the violence of the extreme right is more aimed at Arab-Muslim immigrants than at the Jewish community.”

In the late 1990s, the extreme right was responsible for 90 percent of reported hate crimes in France. By 2002 this number had fallen to 14 percent, but rose to 30 percent in 2004, the report said.

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