After Heated Debate, French City of Strasbourg Adopts ‘Action Plan’ to Combat Antisemitism
Councillors in the French city of Strasbourg have agreed on an “action plan” to combat antisemitism, following a heated debate that lasted into the early hours of Tuesday morning. However, the agreed text leaves out any references to anti-Zionism as a form of antisemitism — the source of the original controversy in March, when an attempt by council members to obtain the city’s endorsement of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism failed.
The latest resolution — proposed by the city’s Green Party Mayor, Jeanne Barseghian, and supported by 46 of the 65 councillors — affirmed that Strasbourg was “fully committed to the fight against antisemitism and all forms of discrimination.”
While the text adopted the definition of antisemitism proposed by the IHRA — in essence, a negative perception of Jews expressed through rhetorical and physical hostility — it notably ignored the several examples that accompany the definition, some of which outline how attacks on Zionism or the State of Israel can incorporate antisemitic tropes.
However, the resolution did “strongly condemn all antisemitic prejudice, discrimination and violence based on a real or perceived connection to Israel, including those that have taken the form of new expression through the denial of the very existence of the State of Israel.”
Strasbourg has not been spared the alarming rise in antisemitism recorded elsewhere in France. Among the incidents during the last year was an assault in Aug. 2020 on a young Jewish graffiti artist who was working on a project commissioned by the city council. After his assailant spotted him wearing a T-shirt carrying the names of various world cities, including Tel Aviv in Israel, the artist was jostled and showered with antisemitic abuse. The assailant then grabbed one of his paint canisters and sprayed offensive slogans on the ground, including “forbidden to Jews” and “bitch.”
At a court hearing in Nov. 2020, the assailant — identified only as a 38-year-old man — was cleared of the crime of committing extortion aggravated by religious hatred and released.
Meanwhile, in January of this year, two drivers working for food delivery service Deliveroo in Strasbourg refused to serve Jewish customers.
The ninth largest city in France, Strasbourg is an important political and diplomatic center. One of the four capitals of the European Union, the city is home to the European Parliament and the EU Ombudsman’s Office, as well as the headquarters of the Council of Europe, a human rights organization composed of 47 member states.