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April 11, 2019 1:58 pm

Paris Councillor Calls for Stepped-Up Effort in Fight Against Antisemitism in France

avatar by Ben Cohen

Protesters rally in Paris against antisemitism in France in March 2018. Photo: Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes.

The Paris councillor who last month pushed a determined resolution against antisemitism through the French capital’s Regional Council called on Thursday for redoubled efforts to confront what she called the “scourge” of Jew-hatred.

In an interview with French Jewish newspaper Actualité juive, Valérie Pécresse — a member of the Regional Council for the Île-de-France, an area that includes Paris and its suburbs — said that more “vigorous action” was needed in the fight against rising antisemitism in “public spaces, on online social networks and also in our schools.”

Pécresse, who previously served in government as minister for higher education, was the prime mover of a statement adopted by the Île-de-France council on March 20. Citing the work and testimony of Simone Veil, the noted French lawyer who survived Auschwitz, and Claude Lanzmann, the director of the monumental documentary film “Shoah,” the council’s statement  declared: “We had believed that after Auschwitz and Birkenau, after the Vel d’Hiv [the Paris stadium where thousands of Jews were rounded up by the Nazis in 1942] and Drancy [a Nazi concentration camp on the outskirts of Paris], France would never again experience ‘hatred of the Jew.'”

The statement continued: “This year, we had to open our eyes to a reality we didn’t want to see.”

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That reality included the desecration of Jewish graves with antisemitic slogans, Nazi-like graffiti sprayed on Jewish-owned stores, and the harassment of Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut by a small mob of “yellow vest” protesters near his home in Paris, the council’s statement noted.

The statement also mourned the seven Parisian Jews killed by antisemitic violence over the last thirteen years: Ilan Halimi, who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by an antisemitic gang in Feb. 2006, the fatal shooting of four Jewish hostages at a kosher supermarket during the “week of terror” in the city in Jan. 2015, and the brutal murders of elderly Jewish widows Sarah Halimi and Mireille Knoll in Apr. 2017 and March 2018 respectively.

Expanding on the council’s statement in her interview with Actualité juive, Pécresse highlighted several educational initiatives in the region to combat antisemitism among young people. One of these, she explained, introduced schoolchildren to Muslim and Jewish victims of the same terrorist: Latifa Ibn Ziaten, mother of murdered French soldier Imad Ibn Ziaten, and Samuel Sandler, whose son Jonathan and young grandsons Gabriel and Arieh were similarly murdered. In both cases, the killer was Mohamed Merah, an Islamist terrorist whose murder spree in the French city of Toulouse in March 2012 resulted in the deaths of three soldiers, along with the massacre at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school that took the Sandler family and another young child, Miriam Monsonego.

Pécresse welcomed the recent decision of the French government to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which includes examples of the overlap between hostility to Jews and anti-Zionism ostensibly directed at the State of Israel. “We are seeing more and more that anti-Zionism is a mask for antisemitism,” she said. “We must not be naive or look the other way, and this broad definition of antisemitism is clearly a step in the right direction.”

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