PARIS, Jan 28 (AFP) – In a rare show of official praise for France, an Israeli minister Wednesday lauded the country for imprisoning people found guilty of anti-Jewish hate crimes.
Israeli Internal Security Minister Tzahi Hanegbi, on a visit to Paris, said “France is the only state in all of Europe in which people who exercise anti-Semitic activities are behind bars.”
He singled out French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, with whom he had just met, for promoting the tough measures.
“I don’t know about other places in the world, but France is a leading state in this sense and I know it is only a result of the leadership and the determination of Mr Sarkozy,” he said.
“France is not an anti-Semitic state, on the contrary. The people are not anti-Semitic, the leadership is not anti-Semitic, but there are some phenomena in the country that have to be addressed,” he said.
The French and Israeli governments have often clashed over Israeli claims that anti-Semitism is on the rise in France and is being largely ignored by authorities.
Last weekend the Jewish state alleged anti-Semitic incidents in France had actually increased last year, despite official figures put out by Sarkozy showing that they had dropped by more than a third.
Officials – from President Jacques Chirac on down – have in the past repeatedly stated they they would vigorously punish any proven anti-Semitic crimes.
France has Western Europe’s biggest Jewish community, estimated to number around 600,000.
Israel’s President Moshe Katsav is due to travel to France next month to discuss the issue with Chirac.
Subject: France news