250 French intellectuals demand action on antisemitism

Among the signatories who called for antisemitism to be elevated to an issue of national concern were 3 former prime ministers, several elected officials, artists and prominent thinkers.

April 22, 2018 12:31
2 minute read.
People participate in a unity rally after the murder of French Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll in

People participate in a unity rally after the murder of French Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris. (photo credit: GONZALO FUENTES / REUTERS)


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A manifesto penned by 250 French signatories calling on the government to make the fight against antisemitism a national cause was published by the daily Le Parisien on Sunday.

Notable signers of the letter include former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, singer Carla Bruni, former prime minister Manuel Valls, author Bernard Henri-Levy, actor Gerard Depardieu and Philippe Val, the former director of Charlie Hebdo, among others.

“Antisemitism is not a Jewish affair, it is everyone’s,” begins the letter. France, the authors write, has “become a theater of murderous antisemitism.”

“When a prime minister at the National Assembly declares, with the applause of every country, that France without Jews is no longer France, it does not feel like a beautiful, consolatory phrase, but a solemn warning,” they write, referencing a February speech by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. He spoke on the floor of the French parliament after the assault of an eight-year-old Jewish boy who was attacked while wearing a kippa, saying that France is experiencing “a new form of brutal and violent antisemitism.”

The letter notes that in recent history, 11 French Jews have been killed because of their religion. In the last two months alone, two French Jews were killed: Mireille Knoll and Jeremy Dahan. Knoll, a Holocaust survivor, was 85 years old when she was stabbed to death and set on fire in her Paris apartment. Her murder has been classified as an antisemitic attack; Dahan’s has not.

Knoll’s murder came 11 months after the killing of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman who was beaten to death and thrown off the balcony of her Paris apartment in 2017. It took French courts some 10 months to classify her murder as an act of antisemitism. This slow process was heavily criticized by Jewish and non-Jewish leaders alike.

Shortly after Knoll’s murder, thousands gathered in the French capital to take part in a silent parade, nicknamed the White March, in her honor. Leaders from the far Right and Left were barred from participating.

The authors place blame largely on radicalized Muslims, as well as on silence from the media. They see the majority of French Muslims as living under a reign of terrorism propagated by radical Islamists.

“Why the silence?” the letter asks. “It is because radical Islam is considered exclusively by some of the elite French parties as an expression of social revolt... because the old antisemitism of the extreme Right is added to the antisemitism of the radical Left, which has found anti-Zionism as their alibi for transforming the executioners of Jews as victims in society.”

The letter includes several calls to action. The authors demand that the verses of the Koran that advocate violence against Jews “be struck from the theological authorities... so that no believer may rely on this sacred text to commit a crime.”

The writers conclude the letter: “We ask that the fight against the democratic weakness that is antisemitism will become a national cause before it is too late. Before France is no longer France.”

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