French Jewish Leaders Decry ‘Wall of Indifference’ Surrounding Antisemitism, as Recorded Attacks Leap by 74%
The representative body of Jews in France called on Tuesday for French society to “break the wall of indifference that surrounds antisemitism,” as figures published by the country’s Interior Ministry showed a colossal increase of 74 percent in the number of attacks on Jews in 2018.
The increase reflected the “disturbing liberation” in France from the taboo around antisemitic hatred established after World War II, Francis Kalifat — president of the French Jewish communal organization CRIF — said in a statement.
Kalifat emphasized that incidents recorded only in the last few days “testify to the banalizing and violence of antisemitism in France in 2019.”
Among the outrages he cited was the defacing with swastikas on Sunday of a mural of the late Simone Veil — a Holocaust survivor and pioneer of women’s rights in France who was interred last July in the famous Pantheon in Paris that commemorates French citizens of distinction.
Kalifat also pointed out that on Monday, a tree commemorating Ilan Halimi — the young French Jew kidnapped, tortured and murdered by an antisemitic gang in Paris in Feb. 2006 — was chopped down in an act of vandalism. The tree was discovered by municipal workers in the suburb of Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois — where Halimi’s body was discovered — as they arrived to prepare for the annual remembrance ceremony for him that is scheduled for later this week.
The attack on Halimi’s memorial, Kalifat continued, came two days after the window of a popular Jewish-owned bakery in Paris was daubed with the antisemitic slogan “Juden!” — the German word for “Jews.”
The CRIF statement underlined that the figures issued by the Interior Ministry “do not include acts that did not lead to a complaint, or antisemitic remarks on the internet.”
The numbers “therefore only very partially reflect the reality of the ‘everyday antisemitism’ facing the Jews of France,” the statement said.
CRIF’s Kalifat added that he was now calling for a “national surge against antisemitism.”
“Beyond being a threat to Jews, antisemitism is a signal of the democratic weakening of our country,” Kalifat asserted. “On the eve of the anniversary of the murder of Ilan Halimi, CRIF is hoping for a welcome surge from French society to break the wall of indifference that surrounds antisemitism.”
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner headed straight to the site of Halimi’s memorial on Monday after learning of the vandalism.
“We are crying tonight like we were thirteen years ago,” a visibly moved Castaner told journalists at the site.
“Antisemitism is spreading like poison,” Castaner continued. “By attacking Ilan Halimi’s memory, it is the [French] Republic that’s being attacked.”
Perhaps even more worryingly, data on antisemitism recorded by one Jewish organization since the beginning of 2019 indicated that the number of attacks was still on the rise.
According to the National Office of Vigilance Against Antisemitism (BNVCA), more than 100 complaints concerning antisemitism have been filed with the authorities since January. “Over the same period, compared to 2018, the figures have almost doubled,” said René Lévy, secretary general of the BNCVA.
Lévy said that of the incidents recorded so far in 2019, around half had involved direct threats, with violent assaults reported in eight of the cases.