Israelis to quiz Chirac on anti-Semitism

12th January 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 11 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac will discuss allegations of French anti-Semitism in a meeting with about 30 Israeli journalists Tuesday, organisers said Sunday.

PARIS, Jan 11 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac will discuss allegations of French anti-Semitism in a meeting with about 30 Israeli journalists Tuesday, organisers said Sunday.

During the week other French officials including Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and Justice Minister Dominique Perben will also have talks with the group on how best to fight anti-Semitism, said lawyer Nicole Guedj and Rabbi Joseph Pevzner, director general of Jewish schools in France who helped organise the meetings.

The visit will come before Moshe Katsav arrives in France in February on the first official visit by an Israeli president since 1988.

Guedj and Pevzner said the meetings were arranged because the Israeli public is concerned about the situation of Jews in France and racism and anti-Semitism after a string of anti-Semitic incidents in the past couple of years.

"It is obvious that Jews in France live in a country at peace," said Guedj.

"People must know this because exaggerated reports (in Israel) have a negative impact and hurt Jews in France," he said.

Israel's ambassador to France, Nissim Zvili, told the journalists Sunday that the media must understand "French reality as it is.

"We must not make it look better nor deform it."

There is a real will to improve ties between the two countries, he added.Chirac in November ordered his government to draw up a monthly record of attacks on Jewish targets as part of its response to a growing climate of anti-Semitism in many high-immigration urban areas.

His prime minister said at the time Chirac had given orders to improve security outside Jewish institutions, boost teaching of tolerance and inter-faith understanding in schools, and hand down exemplary punishments when acts of anti-Semitism come before the courts.

Jewish leaders have been warning for more than a year of a growth of anti-Semitic tensions, especially in suburban areas of major French cities where Jews and Muslim immigrants from North Africa often live side-by-side.

Government figures show the number of anti-Semitic attacks has gone down since a peak in 2002 after the start of the Palestinian intifada, but community leaders say this does not reflect the deteriorating climate and the constant petty abuse that goes unrecorded.

There are estimated to be around 500,000 Jews in France and around five million Muslims in an overall population of 60 million.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Chirac agreed last week to meet in the "near future" to discuss the Middle East situation.


© AFP

                                Subject: France news

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