Sharon praises Chirac's efforts tofight anti-Semitism

29th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

BEN GURION AIRPORT, Israel, July 28 (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon paid tribute Wednesday to French President Jacques Chirac's efforts to combat anti-Semitism, as he greeted some 200 new Jewish immigrants from France.

BEN GURION AIRPORT, Israel, July 28 (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon paid tribute Wednesday to French President Jacques Chirac's efforts to combat anti-Semitism, as he greeted some 200 new Jewish immigrants from France.

"We have seen over the past few years a renewed outbreak of anti-Semitism and we greatly value the mobilisation of Jacques Chirac and his government against anti-Semitism," he said in a welcoming speech at Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv.

"I hope this example will be followed by other countries," said Sharon, in a change of tone from comments earlier this month that stirred a diplomatic spat between the two countries.

"A distinction must be made between the fight against anti-Semitism and encouraging immigration (to Israel). The Jews should come and settle here because it is their homeland, not to flee anti-Semitism," he said.

The latest immigrant influx from France comes after Sharon on July 18 urged all French Jews to escape what he called "the wildest anti-Semitism" in the country.

Sharon told a meeting of American Jewish groups in Jerusalem that while he regularly called on Jewish communities around the world to immigrate to Israel, in France "it is a must ... they have to move immediately" because of the hostility towards them from the country's five million Muslims.

Chirac responded icily, with his office issuing a statement saying a visit by Sharon to France would not be considered until Paris received an explanation of the controversial remarks.

Responding to Sharon's latest statement, French foreign ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous said "We have noted the statements of the Israeli prime minister paying tribute to France for its determined efforts to fight anti-Semitism, actions which he said set an example."

"We naturally take note of these statements with satisfaction," Ladsous added.

Ladsous told reporters the "real bilateral visit" was likely to take place in October, adding that the two countries had "very strong ties".

France is home to Europe's biggest Jewish community, estimated to number 600,000. According to French interior ministry statistics, the number of racist incidents and anti-Semitic acts committed in France soared in the first half of 2004, with 135 physical acts carried out against Jews and 95 against other ethnic groups.

Among the latest immigrants from France were 50 children and 55 students who will be integrated in pre-academic programs at various schools and universities.

Beatrice Sillam, a 45-year-old secretary from Paris, flew in with her three children and burst into tears of emotion. "We left to give the children a good education and because of the unbearable climate of anti-Semitism in France," she said.

The group also includes families who will be settled in towns in southern Israel's Negev Desert, a statement from the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency said.

Jewish Agency spokesman Yarden Vitakai brushed aside any connection between the fanfare around Wednesday's arrival and Sharon's statements earlier this month, saying that such welcome ceremonies were not unusual.

The agency, in a statement, said it expected that by the end of the summer, 2,000 Jews would have emigrated from France, noting that emigration from that country had increased by 26 percent in the first half of 2004, compared to the same period last year.

But overall immigration to Israel has sharply decreased over the past few years. In 2003, only 24,000 new immigrants settled in Israel, half of them from the former Soviet Union. In 2002, there were 35,000, in 2001, 44,000 and in 2000, 60,000.

The number of immigrants never managed to pick up again after the mass wave of emigration from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. In 2004, the low trend has continued with only 9,000 immigrants during the first half of the year.

© AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article