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March 20, 2019 6:23 pm

‘It’s Coming From the Far-Left, Far-Right,’ President of French Jewish Student Union Says After 89% of Peers Report Antisemitism

avatar by Shiri Moshe

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Demonstrators gather for the rally against antisemitism in the Place de la Republique in Paris. Photo: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer.

The president of the Union of Jewish Students of France (UEJF) called for comprehensive action to tackle antisemitism, after a new poll showed that nearly 90 percent of Jewish students in France encountered anti-Jewish discrimination on campus.

UEJF President Sacha Ghozlan said he was not surprised by the results of the survey, which was carried out in March by the French Institute of Public Opinion on behalf of the UEJF and included 405 French Jewish students.

“We’ve felt the rise of antisemitism for years, and we also felt that the numbers coming from the Ministry of the Interior are very low compared to the reality,” Ghozlan told The Algemeiner, pointing to findings that only one percent of Jewish students filed a police complaint following an antisemitic act.

Nearly one in five who decided not to report an antisemitic incident — which ranged from aggression and insults to the use of anti-Jewish tropes — said they were concerned that the perpetrator would target them again, he added. “There is this feeling that … police just are not strong enough to prevent this act from happening.”

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Ghozlan acknowledged that experiencing antisemitism can often make students feel isolated from the campus community, and can even pressure them to change schools or their lifestyles.

“That’s one of the main reasons they decide not to go to police, they don’t want to feel this loneliness anymore,” he said.

As in the broader society, the perpetrators of antisemitic acts on campus often represent a minority of the population, but can be “very active, very violent, against Jewish people.”

“[It’s] coming from the far-left, from the far-right, from radicalized Muslims — they are the ones who target French Jewish students in universities,” Ghozlan explained. “These groups are very strong.”

While he noted that unlike in the United States, French campuses are not often embroiled in divisive rows over the controversial Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign — a circumstance he ascribes to successful coalition building — some “very active minorities” still “try to modify the day to day lives of the Jewish students.”

The harassment can also be felt online — specifically on social media, where for years “we’ve been seeing people saying, ‘Death to the Jews,'” Ghozlan said. “People are dying in Europe because of this kind of ideology, this kind of hate speech.”

The path to improvement, he argued, lies in raising awareness and understanding of key issues affecting the Jewish population.

A delegation of Israeli students is currently in France for a week-long tour, “going to different campuses to promote dialogue where the BDS movement tries to promote hate,” he shared.

“I think through education, we can tackle the BDS movement,” Ghozlan said, including by exposing anti-Zionism as a fresh expression of centuries-old antisemitism, and highlighting commonalities between French and Israeli students — from the practical career considerations that both face, to their shared struggle against terrorism.

UEJF plans to publish a proposal in the coming days about tackling different forms of antisemitism “through education, through [the justice system], through police, through social media,” he added.

“Everyone should be concerned about this issue,” Ghozlan emphasized. “When you attack Jewish people, you attack France, you attack the French Republic, you attack the values of liberté, égalité, fraternité.”

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