Official Says Threat to French Jews Has Likely Increased Since Paris HyperCacher Attack (INTERVIEW)
France is fighting a long-term battle against domestic antisemitism, and the threat of a terrorist attack against the country’s Jews remains as high as it was after the grisly attacks last January in Paris, if not higher, France’s Inter-Ministerial delegate to fight against antisemitism and racism, Gilles Clavreul, told The Algemeiner on Thursday.
As part of the government’s efforts to protect some 717 Jewish sites in the country, 7,000 soldiers and 3,000 police forces have been mobilized in what Clavreul says may be the largest mobilization of French troops in the country since World War II.
“The risk [of terrorist attack] is as high as it was in January if not higher,” he said, adding, “and it will be for some time.”
This is why France has agreed to assign millions of euros annually for efforts aimed at combating antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism, said Clavreul, who was tapped by President Francois Hollande’s office to lead this initiative.
France has taken a four-pronged approach to tackling this issue, he explained: mobilization of NGOs and local groups to jointly develop working plans to fight racism; strengthening law enforcement’s hand to ensure that criminal acts are reported and criminals effectively prosecuted; regulating the Internet to ensure netizens are protected from hate speech; training citizens through education, sports, culture and other social activities.
Clavreul is confident the government plan, which actually launched last December before the January attacks in Paris against the HyperCacher kosher supermarket and Charlie Hebdo satire magazine, has begun to yield results. He said reports of antisemitic and racist abuse have increased since January, and punitive actions against the perpetrators of racist crimes is on the rise.
Additionally, the government has boosted its cooperation with major Internet platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google to prevent the dissemination of hate speech online. Clavreul said these companies have been receptive “more or less.” He noted that Facebook in particular has been responsive in developing tools to report and flag inappropriate content.
Still, he said the Internet giants “are more responsive to pornography than hate speech,” and they should “do more in terms of moderation and taking down inappropriate content.”
The most serious breeding grounds for antisemitism are low-income neighborhoods especially in and around Paris, where disenfranchised young people are most susceptible to radicalization, he said, noting the thousands of French who have traveled abroad to fight alongside terrorist groups like ISIS in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, only to return trained and possibly equipped to France. It is among these communities that education is most important, he said.
In a melancholy twist of history, Clavreul explained that while many of France’s older Jewish and Muslim immigrants from North Africa share a similar cultural heritage and language, the younger generation has dissociated from this common past.
“The history of Jewish and Arab [Muslim] relations in North Africa was at times [hostile] and at times brotherly. But they have so much in common, which is particularly conspicuous among the older generation. These Jews speak Arabic, and as of now in the suburbs, these people, the old Arabs and the old Jews, they eat together and speak together. The problem is in the younger generation,” he said.