In his first official outing to Maresille, France’s second largest city, the newly elected French Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, sent a strong message of commitment to the country’s Jewish community.
Addressing the Representative Council for Jewish Institutions in France (CRFI) at the annual dinner yesterday, Valls said he would not accept the presence of “so-called theologians” preaching “hatred of the Jews.”
“As interior minister, I will not accept so-called preachers who advocate Jew-hatred, whether with harsh words or sweet words. When a Jew is attacked in France, it is the Republic itself that is under attack.”
The evening began with a moment of silence in commemorating the victims of the Toulouse attacks, and was also attended by Mohammed Moussaoui, President of the French Muslim Council.
Valls, who originally ran against new French President Francois Hollande in the Socialist Party’s primaries last year, was appointed as Interior Minister on May 16. Hollande’s new government, only the second Socialist government in the last two decades, stirred mixed feelings among the 800,000 Jewish population of France, with Richard Prasquier, president of the CRIF expressing concern that it might lead to a rise in the anti-Israel left.
French Jewish artist Ron Agam, who has close ties in the French diplomatic community, told the Algemeiner that the elections worried the Jewish community as extremist and fascist groups had gained more power than at any previous elections.
However, Agam says he doesn’t anticipate any “major changes,” adding that although the government has not made clear its foreign and internal policies, he believes Valls’ statement was “not as an individual, but as a representative of the government.”
Pointing to the Toulouse attacks, which killed three Jewish schoolchildren and a Rabbi, Agam said the trauma will “stay in the minds of French politicians for a long time,” and has “reawakened [French politicians] to the growing threat of radical Islamic sentiments and propagation of hate within the country.”