Paris, February 20th, 2019 – This week the European Coalition for Israel made a solidarity visit to Paris, following a week of unprecedented acts of anti-Semitic violence and vandalism in the French capital which culminated on Sunday with an open assault on the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut who was called a dirty Jew and told to leave France. Earlier in the week a memorial to Ilan Halimi, a young French Jew who was kidnapped and tortured to death in 2006, had been vandalized, and a swastika had been painted over a picture of Holocaust survivor Simone Veil. During the weekend a bagel shop owned by a Jew had been spray painted “Juden”. Then on Tuesday, in a Jewish cemetery in Alsace, 80 graves were vandalized. Last week the French Ministry of Interior acknowledged that anti-Semitic violence had increased by 74 percent in 2018. However, according to a recent EU survey, 80 percent of such incidents go unreported.
On Tuesday morning Gregory Lafitte and Tomas Sandell of the European Coalition for Israel met with Rabbi Moshe Sebbag of the Grand Synagogue of Paris to express their solidarity with the Jewish community in France.
“There can be no security for anyone in Europe as long as the Jewish communities in France are not safe. An assault on French Jews is an assault on the very soul of European democracy. If the national motto of France: “liberté, égalité, fraternité” does not also apply to the Jewish communities then we are all under threat”, Sandell said.
During the one-hour meeting Rabbi Sebbag and the ECI delegation discussed how the current wave of anti-Semitic activity could be brought to an end.
“The antidote to Jew hatred is to be openly thankful for all the contributions that the Jewish people have made to French culture and European civilization”, Gregory Lafitte said. “Without the Jews, France would not be what it is today. A central component of Jewish culture is to contribute – not to ask what the Republic can do for you, but what you can do for France. These contributions need to be better known by the general public in order to stem the negative stereotypes of Jews”, he added.
“While those responsible for the anti-Semitic attacks may be relatively small in number, the problem is still the indifference of the public at large. If the anti-Semites feel that they can get away with violent attacks and slander in the open they will never stop”, Rabbi Sebbag noted.
On Tuesday one of the main perpetrators of the attack on Finkielkraut was identified and placed under house arrest in the French city of Mulhouse, while at least one million French citizens were joining demonstrations against antisemitism in some seventy cities across France. In Paris ECI joined a crowd of some twenty thousand people who had met on the Place de la République to express their concern and opposition to the recent wave of antisemitism.
Sandell remarked, “It is not simply the number of people who show up in a public demonstration that makes the difference for the Jews of France, but how we think and act in everyday life. Now is the time to stand up for the Jewish communities in France. There can be no indifference against the plague of antisemitism.”