France denies rise in attacks on Jews
PARIS, Jan 26 (AFP) - French officials on Monday disputed figures that anti-Jewish incidents doubled in the country last year, one day after an Israeli minister charged that France led the world in anti-Semitic incidents.
The interior ministry said the number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded fell to 125 in 2003 from 195 the previous year, a decline of 36 percent.
Threats against Jews also fell by 37 percent, said the ministry, adding the figures were compiled in cooperation with Jewish groups.
On Sunday, Israel’s Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky had said the situation for Jews in France was “very problematic”.
While anti-Semitic incidents across the globe fell by almost half last year to 983 from 1,979 in 2002, Sharansky said, they doubled in France to 141 from 77.
With nearly half of all anti-Semitic events registered in western Europe having taken place in France, Sharansky urged immediate action by the authorities in Paris.
The French interior ministry said authorities were responding vigorously to the incidents, with 91 people detained, and courts handing out severe sentences.
“The French government will remain highly mobilized on this question, especially concerning violent anti-Semitic acts in schools and attacks on people,” the ministry said in a statement.
A tough new law against racially- and religiously-motivated attacks came into force last year, and the French government ordered even stronger measures to protect Jewish sites after a fire-bombing of a Jewish school in the Paris suburbs last November.
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.
While official figures show a drop in the number of anti-Semitic attacks since the start of the Palestinian intifada in 2000, 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.
Subject: France news