"After Merah case, there has been a spike in anti-Semitic acts"

Jewish and Muslim representatives are received at the Elysee Palace on March 21, shortly after the killing of Toulouse.

Following the assault of three young Jews in Villeurbanne (Rhône), the protection service of the Jewish community (SPCJ) - an organization outcome of Jewish Institutions in France - publishes new figures, noting an increase in anti-Jewish acts since Mohamed Merah case, which, on March 19 in Toulouse, killed four people, including three children, to a Jewish school, after murdering soldiers in Toulouse and Montauban on 11 and 15 March. (Read the report SPCJ PDF)

The SPCJ, in conjunction with the Ministry of the Interior recorded 148 anti-Semitic acts between March 19 and April 30, equivalent to a third of the incidents reported in 2011. The SPCJ counted 43 "violent actions", including violence to persons and damage, as well as 105 "threats and intimidation", including threats, insults, letters, inscriptions, making for some allusions to Merah.

Ariel Goldmann, vice president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF), SPCJ spokesman and lawyer for the families of victims of the killer and the Jewish school are concerned about the link between tragedy and peak reports seen in recent weeks. It calls on governments to make every effort to fight "the absolute minimum of 300 annual acts" found in France.

How do you react to the increase in anti-Semitic incidents recorded since Merah case?

After the carnage, we were so shocked we thought it would be obvious that anti-Semitic acts that could fall. As after the horror of the Halimi case, we expected a reflux. But instead we find an increase in reports of acts of all kinds. We are stunned. Moreover, some authors refer explicitly to Merah, as in Carpentras (Vaucluse) on March 24 and Caluires (Rhône) on April 7, where inscriptions such as "Picnic Merah Jews" were discovered. It has also brought us many incidents in schools where students have refused to observe a minute of silence "for the Jews."

To what do you attribute this context?

In general, there is a freedom of speech. The demonization of Israel by certain individuals or movements also helps amalgams, although today it is found that the peak of anti-Semitism are not necessarily related to a particular climate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We do not attend pitched battles or intercommunal conflict. And if there is a Muslim anti-Semitism, I refuse to target a particular community or to generalize.

In Halimi case, the people involved were from all backgrounds. There is in fact for some time anchoring, installation of anti-Semitism. It never drops below 300 acts or threats a year, as if there was an absolute minimum of antisemitism in France.

How to fight against this phenomenon?

Reflection is needed on education, but also law enforcement, prevention and repression of these acts. I think it would reactivate an interministerial committee to fight against anti-Semitism, including educators, lawyers and police officers. It should also communicate more on the legal consequences of those acts. It puts a focus on aggression and then the case falls into oblivion.

Legal tools exist and prison sentences or suspended are regularly spoken but maybe the law is it not enough deterrent? The lack of communication on judgments does not discourage authors and do not reassure victims. In terms of education, school or university, I think it has not tried everything. Visits to the Holocaust Memorial or Auschwitz are measures to encourage. There should also be the author of an anti-Semitic act makes a community work around the theme of the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism is not an inevitability.

The Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior, officials left condemned the aggression of Villeurbanne. The Jewish community, which had criticized the silence of the socialist government during the wave of anti-Semitism in the early 2000s, she is reassured by this attitude?

The Jewish community has actually bad memories of the period Jospin and Vaillant, but it begs to be forgotten. The Socialists have become aware of misses this time and I think the new interior minister does not intend to fall into these mistakes and responsiveness proves. Willingness to fight against anti-Semitism is no doubt. Hollande himself assured during his inauguration: the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination against is one of its priorities.



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