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French antisemitism report: a warning

This is a cross post from The CST Blog by Mark Gardner

France is home to approximately 500,000 Jews. It is the largest Jewish community in Europe. When people discuss modern West European antisemitism and argue about its seriousness, its components and its impacts, it is developments in France that often drive the debate.

So, the most recent annual “Report on antisemitism in France“ by the Service de Protection de la Communaute Juive (SPCJ) is important and very concerning. The English summary is here; and the more detailed report pages, analysis, graphs and examples of specific antisemitic incidents in French is here on the SPCJ website, orhere in pdf form. (It is equivalent to CST’s annual Antisemitic Incidents Report.)

The basic statistical facts include:

- 614 antisemitic “acts” recorded in 2012. (58% more than in 2011.)

- Four people (three children, one adult) murdered in terror attack in Toulouse, March 2012.

- One teenager seriously injured in Toulouse attack, one person injured in grenade attack in Sarcelles, October 2012.

- 96 further acts of “physical violence” and two of arson. (Nearly double 2011.)

- “25% of physical attacks are carried out with a weapon.”

- The terrorism in Toulouse and Sarcelles caused “significant” increases in antisemitic acts. There were 90 acts in the ten days after Toulouse; and 28 acts in 8 days after Sarcelles. Four separate “cases involving pistol shots” were reported after Sarcelles.

- “Most attacks are perpetrated by groups.”

-  “Most attacks are perpetrated by people aged 15 to 25.”

- “When analysing what the attackers said, it appears that the most frequent references relate to the desire to kill Jews, Palestine, Hitler and the Holocaust”.

The French report has 614 “acts” against a population of approximately 500,000 Jews, whereas CST’s UK report showed 640 incidents against a population of approx. 300,000 Jews. Superficially, this suggests that Britain is essentially a more antisemitic place than France, but the two reports’ methodologies are not exactly the same; and it is very difficult to gauge the actual reporting rates, both in absolute terms and also in specific categories, such as violence, graffiti and verbal abuse. (The drive to standardise and professionalise such processes is important. It is why CST has given so much time to the Facing Facts project, and it is why we deplore those seeking to undermine the work done on this by the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union and its predecessor, the European Union Monitoring Centre.)

Nevertheless, the following lessons can be drawn:

  • French statistics show a large number of attacks by groups and that 25% of attacks involve a weapon of some sort. This denotes a degree of premeditated violence that goes well beyond the current UK situation.
  • The murderous terrorist attack at a school in Toulouse actually sparked a surge of antisemitism, as did the grenade attack on a kosher store in Sarcelles. This has obvious ramifications for communal security and policing in the aftermath of any terrorist attack. It shows the profound depths of antisemitic hatred.
  • The analysis of what “attackers said” echoes CST’s findings. Antisemites will say whatever they feel is likely to be most hurtful to their targets.

Then, there is the vital question as to how all of this impacts upon Jewish communal morale and emotional well-being. This motivated the recent poll of Jews in nine European countries (including France and Britain), backed by the EU’s Rights Agency and supported by CST. The results of the poll will not be known for many months, but antisemitism and/or the fear of it, seems to be playing a major role in some French Jews relocating within France, buying homes overseas and also leaving the country entirely.

Another poll, conducted in March 2012, suggested that 26% of French Jews are considering emigrating due to antisemitism. Anyone who has visited Israel in recent years will testify as to how many more French Jews there appear to be. In London, there is now a French synagogue service. (See here for Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks on this.) The gravity of this situation does not seem to bear comparison with Britain, where demographic data released yesterday by Jewish Policy Research contains no such indicators.

To conclude, this latest report on French antisemitism is yet another direct warning about the future of Europe’s largest Jewish community. It includes important lessons for communities across Europe, including Britain. In the main, however, Jewish communities, and their allies in Government, law enforcement and the EU, are already fully aware of the situations that they face and the potentialities that may occur down the line. In Britain, this is why CST does its work. It is why we and our counterparts will continue our efforts for the foreseeable future.

(This post was altered on 21.02.13, due to SPCJ updating its English language version of the report.)