Paris Suburb Where 2014 Antisemitic Riot Occurred Launches New Tolerance Initiative Cautiously Welcomed by Local Jews
The mayor of a deprived suburb near Paris that was the location of an antisemitic riot in 2014 launched a new campaign to combat racism and antisemitism on Friday, while at the same time shining a more positive light on the area’s reputation.
According to Patrick Haddad, the mayor of Sarcelles — home to a mainly Muslim population of 60,000 — the aim of the campaign is to promote tolerance, while underlining that “racist and antisemitic acts are not the rule [in Sarcelles], but the exception.”
In July 2014, a demonstration against Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza degenerated into an antisemitic riot in the neighborhood, during which a crowd of approximately 500 people attacked Jewish-owned stores and ransacked a kosher grocery.
Once home to a large Jewish community of mainly North African origin, the Jewish population of Sarcelles has declined significantly in recent years in tandem with the rise of violent antisemitism in France.
Under Haddad’s plan, a group of partner organizations that include the French Jewish student organization UEJF will participate in an education program for both private and public schools.
“On [online] social networks, there is misinformation,” Haddad told the news outlet Le Parisien on Friday. “With national education, we want to work on civic values, secularism, tolerance, knowledge of the other. ”
Among the initiatives already undertaken was a cultural festival which featured “schoolchildren who wrote beautiful poems against racism and antisemitism,” Haddad said.
Jewish residents of Sarcelles interviewed by Le Parisien on the streets of their neighborhood gave a cautious welcome to Haddad’s initiative.
“It depends on what will be proposed, will it really be concrete or just promises on paper,” one man named Georges said.
A mother and daughter named as Sarah and Valerie noted the “rise in antisemitic acts in recent years. People are wary of each other, so we have to change these relationships.”
A Muslim resident named Djamila warmly welcomed the plan meanwhile, voicing the view that “it’s always good to hold events where people can learn from each other.”