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March 29, 2019 4:08 pm

‘Intolerable’: In Picturesque French Town, Local Jewish Politician Defies Antisemitic Daubings

avatar by Ben Cohen

A view of the French town of Roanne. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Local politicians in the Loire region of central France rallied on Friday in support of a Jewish deputy mayor who was personally targeted by violently antisemitic graffiti earlier this week.

Antisemitic inscriptions including, “Death to the Jews,” and Nazi swastikas were discovered on the walls of municipally-run nautical club in the town of Roanne on Thursday morning. One inscription specifically threatened Roanne’s deputy mayor, who is Jewish, with the words, “Death to the Jew Sophie Rotkopf.”

The latest outrage came just one week after Roanne’s public prosecutor, Abdelkrim Grini, announced an investigation into a similar antisemitic incident on March 18. Swastikas and inscriptions including, “Death to the Jews,” were found daubed at the town’s sports stadium.

Local police said on Thursday that no arrests had been made in either of these incidents.

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Rotkopf, a member of the center-right Republicans (LR), said in a statement carried by local media outlets that the French people should not permit what she called “the ordinary hatred of everyday life” to enter into “our house.”

“When the Jewish community is attacked, France, its citizens and the Republic are attacked, and this is intolerable,” Rotkopf declared.

Several of Rotkopf’s political colleagues rushed to offer statements of support. The Socialist and Democrat Group of Roanne’s local council said on Twitter that it expected the local authorities to fully apply the existing laws against hate crime.

One of the group’s representatives, Jean-Francois Debat, emphasized Rotkopf’s status as a democratically-elected official in his message of solidarity. “These acts of hatred are unacceptable and must be severely punished,” Debat said.

Cécile Cukierman, the president of the French Communist Party’s regional group, emphasized her “unqualified condemnation of these unbearable and unspeakable acts” in a separate statement.

The daubings in Roanne reflect a wider national trend of rising antisemitism in France. In 2018, antisemitic incidents in France — the home of western Europe’s largest Jewish community — rose by an unprecedented 74 percent. Discussing those figures last month, Francis Kalifat — president of the French Jewish organization CRIF — urged a “national surge” against antisemitism.

“Beyond being a threat to Jews, antisemitism is a signal of the democratic weakening of our country,” Kalifat asserted at the time.

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