'French Jewry robust despite Toulouse attack'

French envoy says al-Qaida attack did not undermine 600,000 French Jews overall sense of security.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
June 27, 2012 22:55
2 minute read.
Ozer Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, France

Ozer Hatorah school in Toulouse, France 370. (photo credit: Courtesy Ozer Hatorah website)

 
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The Jewish community of France – the third largest in the world – remains robust despite the deadly attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse earlier this year, that country’s ambassador to Israel, Christophe Bigot, told a Knesset panel on Wednesday.

Speaking to the Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee, Bigot said the shooting carried out by a French national with links to al-Qaida has not managed to undermine the overall sense of security that the roughly 600,000 Jews in his country feel. Nonetheless, he said, his government has increased spending on securing Jewish institutions in response to the murder of the three Jewish children and a Jewish teacher.

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“We have invested 500,000 euro to bolster security of Jewish institutions in the country,” he said.

MK Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor), who participated in the debate, said diplomatic relations between the Jewish State and France were better than ever.

“Let there be no misunderstanding, France is not on trial here today,” said the former journalist, who was once a correspondent for Haaretz in Paris.

“The relationship between Israel and France has never been better, and you can ask your own prime minister if you like. The current French government has the largest Jewish representation ever, is that not true Mr. Ambassador?” “Absolutely,” responded Bigot.

Still, an unofficial inquiry commissioned by the Knesset committee claimed the number of violent anti-Semitic incidents in France since the March attack has increased by about 50 percent.

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According to the data presented by MK Danny Danon (Likud), there were 274 such cases in the first half of 2012 in comparison to 179 during the same period last year.

The firebrand legislator who heads the committee called the rise in recorded anti-Semitic incidents “meteoric.”

“You are responsible for quashing anti-Semitism in your country,” Danon said. “Don’t let violence against Jews rear its head – stop anti-Semitism before it’s too late.”

During the hearing, a Jewish immigrant from France complained about the experience he had living in his country of birth.

“There are many things that won’t fit into any document and they are the constant remarks, the teasing, the jokes," he said.

“If one shows they are Jewish they will sooner or later be on the receiving end [of such an experience].”

If anti-Semitism in France has risen dramatically, however, it has yet to have any effect on the rate of Jewish immigration to Israel. A Jewish Agency for Israel official said aliya was “steady.”

“There were no changes from January until June, about 500 Jewish immigrants,” said an official.

“We think in 2012 there will be the same number of French Jews. French Jews do not come here to escape anything, they come here by choice.”

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