French Prime Minister Manuel Valls Identifies Fight Against Antisemitism as ‘Major National Cause,’ Vows to Maintain Heavy Security at Jewish Institutions
Following last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has vowed to maintain heavy security measures at Jewish institutions for as long as needed, saying that the fight against antisemitism was now a “major national cause.”
“As long as all the accomplices of the murderers remain at large, and as long as we recognize that we are dealing with serious threats, I am afraid this protection will be necessary for many months,” Valls told American Jewish activists. While conceding that he was “shocked” at having to mobilize 10,000 military personnel to provide additional security, he promised that “I will do everything possible to maintain that protection.”
Valls, who was speaking from Paris this afternoon on a conference call organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, addressed a range of subjects, but was forced to cut his remarks short, as news emerged of heavy gunfire and casualties during an anti-terrorism operation in neighboring Belgium.
Speaking through a translator, Valls underlined that last week’s attacks targeted three symbols of the French Republic: “our press, which represents the freedom of opinion, our police, who represent the protection of our rights and our security, and our Jewish community, who represent the tolerant identity of France.”
Valls also highlighted the emergence of a “new” antisemitism in France, “which was born in our suburbs, which is based on hatred of Israel, and which is now feeding jihadis.” The Prime Minister also specifically named the self-styled comedian and antisemitic provocateur, Dieudonné M’Bala M’bala, whom he warned had visited Syria and Iran with his political ally Alain Soral, a neo-Nazi activist. “There are different dangers and different threats,” Valls said.
Valls pledged that the fight against antisemitism was now regarded by the French government as a “major national cause.” Particularly urgent, he said, was the task of educating young people against the antisemitism they encounter “in their families and on the internet.”
In discussing the issue of engaging Muslim partners in the fight against terrorism, Valls pointed out that many imams, most prominently Dalil Boubaker, the current rector of the Great Mosque in Paris, had decisively condemned last week’s terrorist atrocities.
“Many Muslims were shocked by what happened and are scared of what could happen to them as a consequence,” the Prime Minister said. He emphasized the importance of “training” imams and of combating the spread of jihadi ideology among inmates in French jails.
Addressing last month’s decision by France to vote in favor of a UN Security Council Resolution recognizing a Palestinian state, Valls rejected the idea that this was in any way connected to the Paris terror attacks.
“We voted to recognize the State of Palestine, but this was not binding on the French government, and nor did it prevent the terrorist attacks,” Valls said. Pointing out French military involvement in territories from west Africa to Iraq, Valls asserted that “even if there are two states, Israeli and Palestinian, alongside each other, we will still face a threat from other territories. Al Qaeda and Islamic State follow a logic that is not related to what is happening in Israel and Palestine.”
“Of course,” Valls added, “we have to deal with Palestine, but I do not believe this issue is what is feeding the jihadis who are targeting France and our Jewish fellow-citizens.”
Valls concluded his remarks by reminding his audience that the jihadi threat was not confined to France, citing terrorist attacks during the last decade in London, Madrid, Sydney and Boston.
“What happened on our streets in the past few days makes me optimistic,” he said, referring to the unity rally last Sunday and other similar demonstrations. Valls said that he was heartened by “the fact that parliamentarians from all parties gave me a standing ovation after I spoke about antisemitism in the National Assembly, something which hardly ever happens. These terrible events have generated greater awareness.”
Valls’s remarks were followed by a briefing from Roger Cukierman, the President of French Jewish communal body CRIF. “Barbarian armies fighting in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Gaza are bringing this war to Europe,” Cukierman said.
Cukierman highlighted the trauma facing French Jewish children, who now arrive at their schools and see “soldiers carrying heavy guns.” Nonetheless, Cukierman added, around two-thirds of Jewish parents have elected not to send their children to public schools, because of the danger of antisemitic bullying and attacks.
“The choice is between public schools and insults, or Jewish schools where the children are targets for fanatics and murderers,” Cukierman said. “This is why we see more and more people leaving for Israel, or for other countries like US, Canada and Australia.”
Echoing Valls, Cukierman identified social media, the prison system and the Arab satellite television networks as three sources “responsible for the education of jihadis.” He urged the French government to sue social media platform Twitter for allowing “hatred to spread through its network,” revealing that 21,000 people had shared the hashtag “#JeSuisKouachi” as a tribute to the two brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo massacre.