Anti-Semitism in France alarms Council of Europe

15th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

STRASBOURG, Feb 15 (AFP) - The Council of Europe's human rights monitoring body on Tuesday voiced concern about the sharp increase in anti-Semitism in France, urging the country to do more to battle the phenomenon.

STRASBOURG, Feb 15 (AFP) - The Council of Europe's human rights monitoring body on Tuesday voiced concern about the sharp increase in anti-Semitism in France, urging the country to do more to battle the phenomenon.

"Anti-Semitism has increased alarmingly in France, notably in the school environment," the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), an independent body formed by the 46-nation Council, said in a report.

The document, adopted in June but only released on Tuesday, signalled the "serious deterioration in the situation", notably since late 2000 "following the flare-up of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict".

"A significant increase of anti-Semitic acts in France has since been noted, reaching a peak in 2002 and now decreasing once more, while still remaining at a very high level," the Strasbourg-based ECRI said.

"Furthermore, the violence of such anti-Semitic acts seems to be on the rise," the report said, noting that according to French statistics, anti-Semitic acts accounted for 72 percent of all racist acts reported in 2003.

ECRI recommended that "the French authorities continue to intensify their efforts aimed at combating anti-Semitism," encouraging Paris to identify the reasons for the spike in violence.

Last month, the French interior ministry reported that more than 1,500 racist acts had been committed in 2004, up more than 80 percent as compared with 2003. Nearly two-thirds of those acts were anti-Semitic in nature.

French President Jacques Chirac has made the fight against anti-Semitism a priority for his centre-right government, with Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin now the point man for the struggle.

De Villepin has promised to reinforce security details around likely targets like synagogues and Jewish schools.

On Monday, visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom praised France for its efforts to combat anti-Semitism, saying: "We are very encouraged by the French attitude, especially that of President Chirac."

Saying Chirac was the first European leader to identify the problem, Shalom added: "We would like to believe that his determination will enable other European countries to fight against extremists from the (far) right wing."

France is home to Europe's largest Jewish community, estimated at some 600,000 strong.

Many of the anti-Semitic acts have been blamed on disaffected youths from France's estimated five million Muslims, although some have also been attributed to far-right extremists.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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