French Universities Minister Announces New Educational Sanctions Against Antisemites on Campuses
France’s minister for universities has unveiled plans to hold college students guilty of antisemitic or racist offenses “accountable” for their actions with sensitivity training and community work.
Frédérique Vidal, the French minister of higher education, announced on Thursday that offenders would now face a range of “educational” sanctions.
“Students guilty of racism or antisemitism must now participate in ‘solidarity, culture or training activities, whether to visit a place of remembrance, or to devote time to an association fighting against discrimination,'” Le Figaro newspaper reported.
The paper highlighted a poll conducted in March by the French Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) that revealed nine out of 10 Jewish students “had been victims of antisemitic acts, a sign that this violence was becoming commonplace.”
Alongside rising antisemitism on French campuses, there is also a climate of racism. In one incident last April that received national attention, black students were the target of racist jokes and videos exchanged by sociology majors on a private messaging service.
Addressing “the proliferation of racist and antisemitic messages in the university, especially on social networks,” Vidal announced the creation of a “National Day Against Racism in Higher Education,” to take place each March 21.
Meanwhile, the French Parliament will be debating a bill on the definition of antisemitism “in the next few days,” the legislation’s sponsor said on Thursday.
Sylvain Maillard — a member of parliament for President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party ‘En Marche!’ — told Jewish weekly Actualité Juive that his bill would emphasize the nature of anti-Zionism as a form of antisemitism.
“Just as we do not criticize the existence of the Iranian state or any other country, we cannot criticize the very existence of the State of Israel,” Maillard said. “Doing so is the kind of anti-Zionism that is antisemitic.”
Asked what impact his bill would have — given the provision that its definition of antisemitism is “non-binding — Maillard said that it would represent “a strong and solemn affirmation by the National Assembly.”
It was “therefore conceivable that this text could be a reference cited by a lawyer, a source of inspiration to guide a legal decision, or even a basis for school textbooks on the definition of antisemitism,” Maillard added.