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January 11, 2016 0

Fighting Anti-Semitism, Fighting for France

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

Roger Cukier­man
Pres­i­dent of CRIF, the Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil of Jew­ish Insti­tu­tions in France

This blog orig­i­nally appeared in The Huff­in­g­ton Post

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One year ago this week, an ISIS-affiliated Islamic extrem­ist mur­dered four Jews at the Hyper Cacher kosher super­mar­ket in Paris. That attack fol­lowed the shoot­ings of the Char­lie Hebdo jour­nal­ists and police offi­cers just two days ear­lier, a heinous act also com­mit­ted by ISIS trained terrorists.

In 2012, a ter­ror­ist, who claimed affil­i­a­tion with al-Qaeda, killed three sol­diers in Mon­tauban and days later mur­dered a rabbi and three chil­dren at a Jew­ish school in Toulouse. Accord­ing to leaked doc­u­ments in the ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion of the mas­sive Novem­ber 13 attacks in Paris, Jew­ish tar­gets also were con­sid­ered by the ISIS-affiliated terrorists.

Anti-Semitism is a core tenet of Islamic extrem­ism, so it should not come as a sur­prise that French Jews are attacked in tan­dem with rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sym­bols of the French Repub­lic: sol­diers, police, and those exer­cis­ing free­dom of the press. For too many years, though, the wave of anti-Semitism that began in 2000 was con­sid­ered by French pub­lic opin­ion and French author­i­ties as sim­ply the import of the Arab-Israeli con­flict and thus not the respon­si­bil­ity of France.

The Hyper Cacher mur­ders marked a turn­ing point toward an under­stand­ing that the French Jew­ish com­mu­nity and the French Repub­lic share more than com­mon ene­mies. They share a com­mon destiny.

In a major speech to the French par­lia­ment just days after the attack, Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls admit­ted that French soci­ety had let down its Jew­ish com­pa­tri­ots by not react­ing suf­fi­ciently. He vowed to imple­ment a multi-pronged strat­egy against anti-Semitism and against rad­i­cal­iza­tion in the Mus­lim com­mu­nity. That work is underway.

French author­i­ties waged a sim­i­lar bat­tle against rad­i­cal­iza­tion and anti-Semitism a cen­tury ago among mostly rural Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ties. Pub­lic poli­cies were imple­mented to empha­size crit­i­cal think­ing and sec­u­lar­ism in edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tions. Those efforts should be rein­forced to address Islamic extrem­ism in schools today.

In 2015, almost 1,000 stu­dents were iden­ti­fied by their teach­ers as at risk of rad­i­cal­iza­tion. In some schools in France — for­tu­nately a minor­ity of them — the anti-Semitism of the past 15 years pre­saged a rise of other illib­eral ten­den­cies: homo­pho­bia, sex­ism, con­spir­acy the­o­ries, and hatred of the French Republic.

Increas­ing Islamic extrem­ism has con­tributed to the polit­i­cal gains of the far right, which also has a long his­tory of anti-Semitism. The mutual rein­force­ment of these move­ments — with the far right con­tribut­ing to rad­i­cal­iza­tion among French Mus­lims — is not good for the Jews nor does it augur well for demo­c­ra­tic values.

Today the sit­u­a­tion in France is grave and very dif­fer­ent from the con­di­tions famil­iar to Jews liv­ing in the U.S. Com­par­ing eight years of ADL’s records for anti-Semitic assaults in the U.S. and data from SPCJ, the French Jew­ish secu­rity agency, we see that French Jews are nearly 40 times more at risk of being attacked than Amer­i­can Jews (after adjust­ing for the size of the two com­mu­ni­ties). While it is ille­gal in France to keep sta­tis­tics based on eth­nic­ity or reli­gion, strong anec­do­tal evi­dence sug­gests that the over­whelm­ing major­ity of the assailants are young men of North African descent.

Accord­ing to a 2013 sur­vey of Euro­pean Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties by the Euro­pean Union, sixty per­cent of French Jews feared being the vic­tim of an anti-Semitic assault. Half of French Jews always or usu­ally avoid wear­ing any­thing that will iden­tify them as Jew­ish. Fear­ing for their phys­i­cal safety, a grow­ing num­ber of French Jews sim­ply have left their native coun­try. The num­ber of French Jews who moved to Israel dou­bled in 2014 from the prior year to more than 7,000, and reached almost 8,000 in 2015. While no hard sta­tis­tics are avail­able, Jews also emi­grated in large num­bers to the UK, the US, and Canada. More­over, most of these are core mem­bers of the com­mu­nity: fam­i­lies with chil­dren, iden­ti­fied Jews com­mit­ted to their faith, peo­ple who feel that they have been forced to choose between their beliefs and their safety.

If the major­ity of French Jews lose con­fi­dence that their sit­u­a­tion will improve, those num­bers will con­tinue to grow, leav­ing Europe’s largest Jew­ish com­mu­nity much dimin­ished and on the brink of collapse.

Our analy­sis and other polls have shown the French Mus­lim com­mu­nity to be one of the most mod­er­ate Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties in Europe, but the ter­ror­ists who emerged from it have already deeply affected the Jew­ish com­mu­nity. Will Islamic extrem­ists, with their intrin­sic anti-Semitism, rad­i­cal­ize enough French Mus­lims to cause half a mil­lion French Jews to flee? Or, will the endur­ing French val­ues of equal­ity and fra­ter­nity pre­vail among the French Mus­lim com­mu­nity of eight mil­lion as an anti­dote to rad­i­cal­ism? Indeed, let us not for­get, it was a young Mus­lim employee, Las­sana Bathily, who saved six Jews at the Hyper Cacher mar­ket by hid­ing them in a walk-in freezer, an act which could have cost him his life

We all have roles to play. The gov­ern­ment must ensure secu­rity for all French cit­i­zens, allow Jews to live openly as Jews, edu­cate the pub­lic against anti-Semitism, and com­bat rad­i­cal­iza­tion through a vari­ety of means includ­ing bet­ter inte­gra­tion of French Mus­lims into French soci­ety. French Mus­lim lead­ers must encour­age their com­mu­ni­ties to assist the author­i­ties to iden­tify those at risk of rad­i­cal­iza­tion or already rad­i­cal­ized. Polit­i­cal par­ties com­mit­ted to the val­ues of the French Repub­lic must pre­vail over par­ties who oppose those core ideas. Jew­ish lead­ers in France and around the world must con­tinue to raise the alarm and make clear what is at stake: as goes the fight against anti-Semitism, so goes the French Republic.

In the words of Pres­i­dent François Hol­lande, “it is not the Jews who should be leav­ing France, but the anti-Semites,” and of Prime Min­is­ter Valls: because if French Jews leave, “France will no longer be France.”

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January 8, 2014 1

Speaking Out Against Dieudonne

Update: Accord­ing to France 24, Dieudonne was taken into cus­tody on Jan. 22 for allegedly assault­ing a bailiff who came to col­lect fines Dieudonne owes for “incit­ing racial hatred.”

Along­side French gov­ern­ment actions to ban per­for­mances of Dieudonne’s new show, con­cerned and respon­si­ble offi­cials and civil soci­ety lead­ers are pub­licly voic­ing out­rage at the behav­ior of the anti-Semitic come­dian and the grow­ing use of the quenelle ges­ture he invented.dieudonne-speaking-out

The Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil of France’s Black Asso­ci­a­tions (CRAN) issued a state­ment, say­ing “For a long time, Dieudonne fought against racism and the far right.  We still remem­ber with emo­tion his actions in the town of Dreux. But for sev­eral years his main fight seems to be against the Jews of France, and he is closer and closer to the far right, his for­mer ene­mies. The CRAN has noticed this evo­lu­tion with dis­may and can only deplore it. (…) The CRAN calls on the Blacks of France not to accept the quenelle or the appeals to anti-Semitism…”

Com­ment­ing on the quenelle ges­ture, pop­u­lar­ized by Dieudonne, the pres­i­dent of the French Coun­cil of the Mus­lim Faith (CFCM) Dalil Boubakeur con­demned its use by the French soc­cer player, Nico­las Anelka, say­ing he opposed “all anti-Semitic or racist acts or state­ments in sports.”

Even the own­ers of Dieudonne’s home the­ater, La Main d’Or, are look­ing for legal means of break­ing his lease.

Pres­i­dent François Hol­lande said, “No one should be able to use this show for provo­ca­tion and to pro­mote openly anti-Semitic ideas.”

Inte­rior Min­is­ter Manuel Valls, who issued the request to local offi­cials to pre­vent the per­for­mances, said, “Dieudonné is deeply anti-Jewish.  We must carry out a polit­i­cal cam­paign to mobi­lize soci­ety against him.”

Cul­ture Min­is­ter Aurélie Fil­ip­petti said, “Mr. Dieudonne is no longer a come­dian.  He has become a Holo­caust denier and revi­sion­ist.”  And Jus­tice Min­is­ter Chris­tiane Taubira called him a “piti­ful buf­foon” and “recidi­viste anti-Semite.”

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