Anti-Semitic acts up 69% in France this year, PM says
LOIC VENANCE (AFP/Archives)
Anti-Semitic acts in France rose by 69 percent in the first nine months of 2018, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Friday, the 80th anniversary of the infamous "Kristallnacht" of Nazi attacks against Jews.
"Every aggression perpetrated against one of our citizens because they are Jewish echoes like the breaking of new crystal," Philippe wrote on Facebook, referring to the start of the Nazi drive to wipe out Jews on November 9, 1938, also known as the Night of Broken Glass.
"Why recall, in 2018, such a painful memory? Because we are very far from being finished with anti-Semitism," he said, calling the number of acts "relentless".
After two years of declining anti-Jewish violence in 2016 and 2017, the number of reported anti-Semitic attacks and threats rose 69 percent to 385 between January and September this year, the government said.
France has the largest Jewish community in Europe but has a long history of anti-Semitism, with collaborationist French authorities deporting thousands of Jews, including children, to Nazi death camps during World War II.
In a Facebook post to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) pogrom in Nazi Germany on November 9, 1938, Philippe echoed the alarm of Jewish groups.
"Any attack on a citizen because or she is Jewish sounds like more breaking glass," he said.
"We are very far from being done with anti-Semitism."
He added that from mid-November a national team would be mobilized to intervene in schools to support teachers facing anti-Semitism.
The half-a-million-plus Jewish community is the largest in Europe but has been hit by a wave of emigration to Israel in the past two decades, partly due to anti-Semitism in immigrant neighborhoods.
Over the past decade there have been some violent incidents including the 2012 deadly shooting of three schoolchildren and a teacher at a Jewish school by Islamist gunman Mohammed Merah in the southwestern city of Toulouse.
In 2015 an associate of the two brothers who massacred a group of cartoonists at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo killed four people in a hostage-taking at a Jewish supermarket in Paris.
In April 2017, an Orthodox Jewish woman in her sixties was thrown out of the window of her Paris flat by a neighbour shouting "Allahu Akhbar" (God is greatest).
The latest attack to rock France took place last month when two perpetrators stabbed an 85-year-old Jewish woman 11 times before setting her body on fire, in a crime treated as anti-Semitic. Her brutal death sent shockwaves through France and prompted 30,000 people to join a march in her memory.
France's 500,000-strong Jewish community has been warning about the emergence of a new strain of anti-Semitism -- propagated by Islamists rather than the far-right -- ever since a jihadist shot dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in the city of Toulouse in 2012.
Three years later, Jews were again targeted in a jihadist hostage-taking at a kosher supermarket in Paris, in which four people were killed.
- Attack on Holocaust survivor -
France's then Socialist government reacted by introducing tougher penalties for hate crimes and stepping up teaching about the Holocaust, among other measures.
But the attacks have continued, albeit with fewer deaths.
In recent weeks, graffiti reading "Jewish scum live here" was found scrawled on a Paris apartment building.
And in March, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, was killed in a savage attack in her home believed to be motivated at least partly by anti-Semitism.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the latest increase could perhaps be partly explained by more people coming forward to report anti-Semitic incidents to the police.
The government has announced plans to tighten laws against anti-Semitic content and other forms of hate speech online, and to boost resources available to teachers confronted with expressions of anti-Semitism in the classroom.
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