Anti-Semitism in France, a constant reality for Jews

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Anti-Semitism has become a chronic and recurring problem for many French Jews and has damaged the fabric of the Jewish community in parts of France, according to Francis Kalifat, president of CRIF, the umbrella organization of Jewish organizations in France.

A central concern of French Jews is anti-Semitism on all sides of the political map, he said Tuesday in an interview in Jerusalem during a CRIF mission to Israel. The anti-Semitism of the Muslim community has had a particularly damaging effect on Jewish communities, he added.

Nonetheless, Jewish life in France is flourishing, Kalifat said, adding that Jewish communities are developing and expanding their institutions and activities.

Kalifat is in Israel with other French Jewish officials for CRIF’s first mission here since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group is due to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and has already met with Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai.

Asked what is on the agenda of French Jews, Kalifat said the main concern was on-going and persistent anti-Semitism.

Protesters gather outside the French Embassy in Tel Aviv on Sunday to demand justice for Sarah Halimi, who was murdered by an anti-Semitic attacker in her Paris apartment in 2017 (AVSHALOM SASSONI / FLASH90)

Anti-Jewish hatred continues to emanate from the far right and far left, often masked by anti-Zionism, he said.

But the anti-Semitism of radical parts of the Muslim community is what worries French Jews the most, Kalifat said, adding that 12 French Jews have been killed in France in the past 15 years by extremist Muslims.

Anti-Semitism in the Muslim community, especially in the suburbs of French cities, has been particularly damaging, he said. These regions often have large immigrant communities from North Africa of low socioeconomic status, but they also have large Jewish communities, he added.

Anti-Semitic incidents include the theft of mail from the mailbox of a Jewish residence, anti-Semitic graffiti, the removal of a mezuzah, the scratching of a car belonging to Jews or the puncturing of its tires, as well as general anti-Semitic abuses.

“This is what makes Jews uncomfortable in these deprived areas of big cities and drives them to more privileged areas once they can to avoid being harassed by this kind of everyday anti-Semitism. “said Kalifat.

Anti-Semitic incidents do not necessarily happen every day, but French Jews in these neighborhoods must constantly live in a reality where they could be subjected to anti-Semitism, he said.

Either way, the phenomenon is having a real effect and leading to an exodus of Jews who can afford to leave these areas, Kalifat said.

“It’s internal exile,” he said.

This situation also has an impact on the many Jews who cannot afford to leave these suburbs, as it reduces the size of the local Jewish community and therefore weakens it.

Synagogues are facing reduced membership, this impacts the ability to organize prayer services and sometimes leads to the closure of local kosher grocery stores which cannot survive due to declining numbers. clients.

It is “a total failure of the French Republic in these neighborhoods, not only because of anti-Semitism but for the lack of public authority,” Kalifat said.

France already has strict laws against racism and anti-Semitism, but these laws are not well enforced in many cases, and these crimes are not punished severely enough by the courts, he said.

“It encourages people to reoffend,” he said.

Political parties are involved in the efforts to resolve the problem, but the fight is taking place against a backdrop of “the general population’s indifference” to anti-Semitism, Kalifat said.

“To get rid of anti-Semitism, we need the mobilization of the whole of French society in all its diversity and in all sectors,” he said.

“Anti-Semitism is not the problem of the Jews; it is the problem of the French Republic as a whole, and the public authorities must understand that these threats against Jewish life can affect the decision of people living as Jews in France and in Europe and must be taken into account ”, a- he added.

Despite the gloom of anti-Semitism in France, French Jews are doing well, Kalifat said.

“Jewish life in France is flourishing,” he said. “We are building synagogues, Jewish community centers, [and] there are a lot of Jewish cultural events in France. Jewish education is doing well, and France is truly the center of Jewish life in Europe.

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