Anti-Jewish acts in France hit 15-year high

21st March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 21 (AFP) - The number of racist acts, principally against Jews and north African Arabs, has reached a "worrying" level in France unseen since 1990, according to an official report submitted Monday to Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

PARIS, March 21 (AFP) - The number of racist acts, principally against Jews and north African Arabs, has reached a "worrying" level in France unseen since 1990, according to an official report submitted Monday to Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

The annual study carried out by the National Consultative Commission of Human Rights noted 1,565 incidents of assault and vandalism of a racist nature last year, with anti-Jewish acts comprising 62 percent of the total, or 970 acts.

The total was nearly double the 833 acts recorded in 2003, and was well above the 1,313 acts noted in 2002, it said.

Raffarin declared his government was directing all its energies to fighting the "scourge".

"Our determination must not waver.... There is no 'minor' racism and 'major' racism, as there is no minor terrorism and major terrorism. There are acts that must be condemned, denounced and made the object of the most severe reactions of society," he said.

Israel's government voiced concern at the report's figures.

"Israel has already expressed its concern over the rise of anti-Semitic assaults in Europe and in France in particular. This report confirms our anxiety," spokesman Avi Pazner told AFP.

"We know that the French government is making intensive and laudable efforts to counter this phenomenon, and we hope to see the results," he added.

Regarding racist acts against people of north African origin, the CNCDH's report said the number was at an all-time high - at 595 last year, up from 232 recorded in 2003.

The overall number of racist incidents in schools registered a sharp increase of 20 percent over 2003, the report's authors said, citing interior ministry figures.

The secretary general of the commission, Gerard Fellous, told AFP that there was no obvious explanation for the rise.

"Previously, we saw a correlation between the increase in racist acts and international events. That is not the case for 2004," he said, adding that such violence now appeared to be "a constant" in French society.

France has Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim communities, estimated at 650,000 and five million, respectively.

The report said that, over the course of last year, 56 people were injured in racist assaults including 36 who were victims of anti-Semitism. In 2003, 22 Jews were hurt, and in 2002 the figure was 18.

Since 2000, anti-Semitism has accounted for more than half of all racist violence, the report said.

In addition, the desecration of Jewish and Muslim cemeteries and places of worship occurred 65 times in 2004 compared with 44 times the previous year, it added.

Education ministry statistics showed there were 1,275 racist and anti-Semitic acts in its establishments last year. More than three-quarters of the incidents resulted in disciplinary action being taken against those responsible.

French authorities arrested 77 individuals belonging to extreme right groups for racist violence, more against French Arabs than against Jews.

The report's authors theorised that debates in France over secularism and a ban on Muslim veils in schools, Turkey's bid to join the European Union, and Islamic extremist attacks may have fuelled anti-Arab sentiment.

Regarding anti-Jewish acts, there were 209 arrests, with nearly half of them - 104 - taking place in "Arab-Muslim circles".

The National Consultative Commission of Human Rights noted that, despite rigorous anti-racism laws in France, successful prosecutions were rare. In 2004, just 68 of the 387 cases listed by the justice ministry resulted in legal action.

The newspaper Le Monde said in an editorial: "Behind the dry statistics, we have to imagine the beatings of Jews wearing a kippa or people from the Arab-Muslim community, the fires in the synagogues or the Muslim prayer halls."

It warned that Jews, Muslims and blacks in France were increasingly being seen as separate communities, not an integral part of the country's social tissue. If that perception continues, the danger is of "lasting violence," it said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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