Anti-Semitism in France is a constant reality for Jews

Anti-Semitism has become a chronic and recurring issue for many French Jews and has damaged the fabric of the Jewish community in certain parts of France, the president of the Jewish umbrella organization CRIF, Francis Kalifat, said on Tuesday.

Speaking in an interview in Jerusalem during an ongoing CRIF mission to Israel, Kalifat said that a central concern of French Jews today is anti-Semitism on all sides of the political map, but noted that the anti-Semitism of the Muslim community has had especially evil effects. in Jewish communities.

At the same time, Kalifat insisted that Jewish life in France is flourishing and that Jewish communities are growing and expanding their institutions and activities.

Kalifat is in Israel along with other French Jewish officials on the first CRIF mission to the country since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group will meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and has already met with Minister for Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai.

When asked what’s on the agenda for French Jews today, Kalifat immediately underscored the community’s concern for ongoing and persistent anti-Semitism.

PROTESTERS GATHER outside the French Embassy in Tel Aviv on Sunday to demand justice for Sarah Halimi, who was killed by an anti-Semitic assailant in her Paris apartment in 2017 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI / FLASH90).

Anti-Jewish hatred continues to emanate from the far right, as well as the far left, which is often masked behind anti-Zionism, he said.

But anti-Semitism by radical parts of the Muslim community is what worries French Jews the most, Kalifat said, noting that 12 French Jews have been killed in France in the last 15 years by Muslim extremists.

And anti-Semitism in the Muslim community, particularly in the suburbs of French cities, which are often areas of low socioeconomic status and with large immigrant communities from North Africa, but where significant Jewish communities are also present, has been especially damaging. .

Anti-Semitic incidents range from stealing mail from the mailbox of a Jewish residence, anti-Semitic graffiti, removing a mezuzah, scratching a Jewish-owned car or puncturing its tires, along with general anti-Semitic abuse.

“This is what makes Jews in these disadvantaged areas of big cities uncomfortable, and makes them go to more privileged areas once they can avoid it to avoid being harassed by this kind of daily anti-Semitism,” Kalifat said.

Clarifying a bit, he said that anti-Semitic incidents do not necessarily happen every day, but that French Jews in these neighborhoods have to constantly live in a reality in which they could be subject to anti-Semitism.

Regardless, the phenomenon is having a real effect and is causing an exodus of Jews who can afford to move from those areas.

“It is a domestic exile,” says Kalifat.

But this situation also has an impact on the many Jews who do not have the means to get out of these suburbs, as it reduces the size of the local Jewish community and thus weakens it.

Synagogues face reduced membership, impairs the ability to conduct prayer services, and sometimes leads to the closure of local kosher grocery stores that cannot survive due to reduced customer numbers.

Kalifat described this as “a total failure of the French Republic in these neighborhoods, not only because of anti-Semitism but because of the lack of public authority.”

He pointed out that France already has strict laws against racism and anti-Semitism, but that, firstly, these laws are not well applied in many cases and, secondly, the courts do not punish such crimes severely enough.

“This encourages people to relapse,” Kalifat said.

He said that political parties are involved in efforts to address the issue, but that the struggle is taking place in a context of “the general population’s indifference” to anti-Semitism.

“To get rid of anti-Semitism, we need the mobilization of all French society in all its diversity and in all sectors,” he continued.

“Anti-Semitism is not a problem of the Jews, it is the problem of the French Republic in general, and public authorities must understand that these threats to Jewish life can affect the decision of people who live as Jews in France and Europe and they must be taken into account, ”said Kalifat.

Despite the sadness of anti-Semitism in France, he said Jews in France are doing well.

“Jewish life in France is flourishing. We are building synagogues, Jewish community centers, there are many Jewish cultural events in France. Jewish education is going well and France is truly the center of Jewish life in Europe, ”said Kalifat.

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