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Sunday, January 25, 2004

Antisemitism: The French Crisis

by Michel Gurfinkel, in the NY Sun, Jan. 21
There is currently an upsurge of anti-Semitism all over Europe. In France, the European country with the largest Jewish community (600,000 to 1 million, or 1% to 1.5 % of a global population of 62 million), it is reaching alarming proportions. According to recent polls, anywhere from one-third to one-half of French Jews either feels threatened enough or unsure enough about the future to consider leaving the country or to advise his children to leave the country. . .

Since 2000, anti-Semitic violence has been rampant in France. According to the Interior Ministry, anti-Jewish violence has dramatically increased, to a yearly average of about 120 incidents in the 2000-02 period from a yearly average of about 10 incidents throughout the 1990s. Som! e 80% of all racist incidents in mainland France (except for the island of Corsica), are anti-Semitic. Some 20 synagogues, schools, and other communal facilities were destroyed either by arson or vandalization in the 2000-02 period. Two further cases of complete vandalization (one synagogue, one high school) occurred in 2003.

Several Jewish shops have been attacked. Jewish people are routinely being molested or harassed in some areas, especially on their way to synagogue or school or at school. Several rabbis have been attacked and beaten in the street. Jewish youths have been attacked while exercising at public sports facilities. Jewish school buses have been stoned or even shot at. One case of abduction and one of near lynching in the street have been reported. And there is some reason to believe that two murder cases in 2003 were motivated by anti-Jewish hatred.

Even if and when actual violence is subsiding, the climat! e of the country is deteriorating. Murderous anti-Jewish slogans such as "Death to Jews!" are routinely being shouted at large-scale street demonstrations. Various groups and even elected officials are campaigning for a global boycott of Israeli and "Israeli-related" (i.e., Jewish) goods, or for the suspension or the termination of academic cooperation with Israel or even with individual Israeli scientists, a move prohibited under French law.

Explicitly anti-Jewish books have been published by major publishing houses, including books intended for children and teenagers, a market that, in theory, is strictly regulated by law in France.

A radical Islamist preacher who publicly singled out some French intellectuals for being Jewish and therefore foes of Islam, Tariq Ramadan [Y -note: Ramadan was recently hired by Notre Dame in Indiana, USA, to teach "peace" courses] was turned into a television superstar of sorts. So has an Afro-French humorist who indulges in provocative anti-Jewish jokes and statements, Dieudonne Mbala.

Moreover, according to various reports and at least two recently published books ("Les Territoires Perdus de la Republique," edited by Emmanuel Brenner, and "La Republique et L'Islam," by Michele Tribalat and Jeanne-Helene Kaltenbach), schools and universities are becoming major hotbeds of anti-Semitism.

In some cases, both parents and pupils insist on rewriting the textbooks in a more anti-Jewish or anti-Israel way, and dropping programs and debates about Judaism and the Holocaust, which are part of the government-mandated curriculum. In many places, Jewish students, teachers, and academics feel physically or verbally threatened or abused but get precious little support from principals or teachers and colleagues. . .