Paris envoy: Jews need not fear life in France

Anti-Semitic acts continue to decline in France, ambassador tells reporters at Tel Aviv embassy.

French Ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot 311 (R) (photo credit: Pool / Reuters)
French Ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot 311 (R)
(photo credit: Pool / Reuters)
The number of anti-Semitic incidents continued to decline in France in 2011, and there is no need for French Jews to be afraid in their country, ambassador Christophe Bigot said on Monday.
Speaking to a small group of reporters at the French Embassy in Tel Aviv, Bigot discussed a report released in late January by the Jewish Community Protection Service, a watchdog group fighting anti-Semitism in France, which showed a 16.5 percent decline in the number of anti-Semitic acts recorded in 2010 in France. The number constitutes the lowest figure since they started compiling the reports in 2002.
“I think it has always been safe for the Jewish community in France,” Bigot said. He noted the displeasure many authorities in France felt after Ariel Sharon in 2004 urged French Jews to immigrate to Israel for their safety.
“We were very upset when some Israelis were promoting aliya [from France] for security reasons; we thought this was unfair and completely inaccurate. We respect aliya, but we think it should be based on values, religion, family, a desire to be a part of the project of Israel, and not out of fear.”
He added that he does not believe there is any reason for a Jew in France to live in fear today.
The ambassador spoke of the issue as one that is of importance not solely to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement Party. “The awareness of the importance of fighting this [anti-Semitism] in the whole French society both in the opposition and the majority is very broad,” he said, adding that all of the main parties in France are “absolutely united to fight this phenomenon.”
Bigot said he does not know how many of the anti-Semitic acts were committed by Muslim immigrants, as in France they don’t differentiate between people based on their religious status.
Bigot does not believe there is a cause and effect between Israeli policies and the frequency of anti-Semitic violence.
While people “use whatever happens here in the Middle East as a pretext for their acts, it’s just a pretext. It’s clear that there are no causes or reasons for these actions,” he said.
He also spoke of the severity with which the French government sees racially-motivated attacks against Muslim or Arab citizens of the country.
The ambassador credited increased police work and education programs meant to counter anti-Semitism for the drop shown in the report, but clarified that there is still work to be done.
“Even one anti-Semitic act is one act too many,” he said.