Last summer's war with Hizbullah blamed for rise in anti-Semitic attacks in France
'It was not always like this in France. Forty years ago, Parisian Jewry was discreet, but not because of fear of violence'.
By YANIV SALAMA-SCHEER
Anti-Semitic acts continue to increase in France, according to an report released by the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) on Tuesday.
The annual document reports that violence against French Jews, as well as threats of violence, increased dramatically in 2006 over a year earlier, with a 45 percent rise in physical attacks (112) and a 24% increase in registered anti-Semitic acts (371).
The Israel-Hizbullah war last summer played a significant role in the increase, according to CRIF.
"Anti-Semitic acts are sometimes carried out with real determination, sometimes simply because an opportunity presents itself," CRIF said in a statement.
The director-general of the French National Police and the country's Interior Ministry have been gathering data on hate crimes in an effort to address the problem.
"We feel overwhelmed by anti-Semitism in France," said French olah Joanne Goethe in Jerusalem. "I feel safer in Israel then I do there."
The violence has prompted the French Rabbinical Council to say religious Jews are not required to wear kippot in public, to avoid being attacked.
"Since the resurgence of anti-Semitic violence in France which was sparked by the second intifada in October of 2000, our yearly reports show that these acts are linked to the events in the Middle East," said Elizabeth Cohen-Tannoudji of CRIF.
"After the war in the summer, anti-Semitic incidents increased for the months of September and October."
"Obviously this year has been marked by an odious and atrocious anti-Semitic act, the torture and murder of Ilan Halimi," CRIF president Eric de Rothschild said in a statement. "We try and do everything in our power to ensure these tragedies do not repeat themselves."
Halimi was left naked by a railroad track south of Paris in February 2006, after being held captive and tortured for three weeks. He died shortly afterward.
The murder was followed by a wave of attacks on Jews in Paris, as well as vandalism at synagogues and other religious institutions. "The incident sparked France to battle anti-Semitism," French Ambassador Jean Michel Casa said at Halimi's reinterment in Jerusalem on February 9.
"It was not always like this in France. Forty years ago, Parisian Jewry was discreet, but not because of fear of violence. It was unheard of that someone could not go wherever he wanted at any given time," a professor at Netanya College who grew up in France told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. He asked not to be named.
He said that anti-Semitism in France today is firmly planted on the extreme right, and is very much alive in the Muslim and African communities.
The administrative branches of government no longer display these feelings, he said, but it still exists at some levels of the judiciary levels.
"It is anti-Semitism as much as it is anti-Israel. The French look at what happens in Gaza, for example, and they say they feel bad for what happens to Palestinians, but their sympathy is rooted in their antipathy toward Israel," he said.
"When I was a boy, it was the Arabs who were afraid to go near the police. Today it's the police who are scared to go near the Arabs," the professor said.
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