PARIS – A joint Israel-France forum founded to battle antisemitism met in Paris this week for the first time since the start of the corona pandemic.
Representatives of government ministries from both countries, civil society, and the French Jewish community convened in Paris for two days to discuss ongoing efforts to reduce antisemitic acts in Europe in general and France in particular.
“We took stock of all ongoing efforts in battling antisemitism, both on the national and the multilateral-European levels,” said French Ambassador Delphine Borione, who is in charge of human rights and battling antisemitism. “We are looking into our respective policies on education, research and remembrance. We are also looking into the issue of restitution of Jewish property stolen during the war by the Nazis.
“It is a dialogue that brings together different cabinet ministries. Organized by the special French delegation in charge of battling antisemitism, racism and anti-LGBTQ with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, it also includes the Interior, Justice, Education and Culture ministries, present according to the themes we discuss.
“On the Israeli side, we have the Foreign Ministry, the Diaspora Affairs Ministry and the Justice Ministry. Yad Vashem is present as well as experts and researchers on related issues, and also representatives of the civil society, including the CRIF (the umbrella organization of French Jews), Memorial de la Shoah, the Young Jewish Committee, etc.”
For Borione, the dialogue presented an occasion to deplore the increase in antisemitic acts in France, especially online.
“For instance,” she said, “we had 400,000 antisemitic posts on social media in 2021 in France, out of 3.5 million worldwide. Almost half of French Jews had experienced in their lifetime, one way or another, antisemitic verbal of physical aggression.
“At the same time, the dialogue yesterday and today offer us, the French side, an opportunity to demonstrate and reiterate our strong commitment, repeatedly expressed by the president – be it at the 2021 international forum on Shoah memorial and battling antisemitism in Sweden, at the annual CRIF dinner, and on other occasions – to battle all forms of antisemitism.
“Some of the principal issues we have been discussing are education programs we are conducting, especially that of young students, supporting the work of French memorial institutions against Holocaust negation and distortion, and advancing their educational projects, not just vis-à-vis schools but also the formation of civil servants such as teachers, police officers and judges.
“We discussed at length the best ways of working with the social media giants Facebook, Twitter, etc. France has taken very strong positions on that during its presidency of the European Union, including a legal framework to increase the responsibility of the social media platforms for deleting hate and antisemitic content. Unfortunately, we know that they don’t operate quickly enough.”
Israeli Foreign Ministry statements
According to Ruth Cohen Dar, director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Department for Combating Antisemitism, Israel is interested in advancing a mechanism of exchanging information, especially in monitoring social networks.
“From the talks we had yesterday and today, it is clear to me that the French side is equally interested in such exchanges. That being said, such a mechanism of exchange could serve not only to study the scope of online antisemitism and the different forms it takes place, but also to share good practices and data on formations and other programs that each country has been carrying out."Ruth Cohen Dar
“From the talks we had yesterday and today, it is clear to me that the French side is equally interested in such exchanges,” said Cohen Dar. “That being said, such a mechanism of exchange could serve not only to study the scope of online antisemitism and the different forms it takes place, but also to share good practices and data on formations and other programs that each country has been carrying out.”
Shuli Davidovich, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Bureau for World Jewish Affairs and World Religions, said Israel aspires to set up a sort of a coalition.
“We are not necessarily speaking about a structured coalition, with defined criteria and a legal framework,” Davidovich said. “A rigid structure would actually be more difficult to put in place, more time-consuming. We would rather unite all interested partners in a looser coalition committed to the same values of battling antisemitism in all its forms.”
Ronit Ben Dor, minister plenipotentiary at the Israel Embassy in France, said discussions with the French counterparts were frank and open.
“The French participants avoided no issue, laying out the situation as it is,” he said. “We spoke about sensitive issues, such as the murder of the French teacher Samuel Paty, and how hate speech is gaining terrain in France. Like us, France is interested in creating a global coalition. Hate and antisemitism, they noted to us, know no boundaries.”
The joint forum, first launched in 2017, previously met four times.