France sounds alarm over rising anti-Semitic acts

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Anti-Semitic acts in France rose by 69 percent in the first nine months of 2018, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Friday, the 80th anniversary of the infamous "Kristallnacht" of Nazi attacks against Jews.

"Every aggression perpetrated against one of our citizens because they are Jewish echoes like the breaking of new crystal," the French prime minister wrote on Facebook, referring to the start of the Nazi drive to wipe out Jews on Nov. 9, 1938, also known as the Night of Broken Glass. "Why recall, in 2018, such a painful memory? Because we are very far from being finished with anti-Semitism," he said, calling the number of acts "relentless."

After a record year in 2015, anti-Semitic acts fell by 58 percent in 2016 and went down a further 7 percent last year; however, there has been an increase in violent acts targeting Jews.

The government plans to toughen rules on hate speech online next year, pressuring social media giants to do more to remove racist and anti-Semitic content. Philippe said it would also "experiment with a network of investigators and magistrates specially trained in the fight against acts of hate," which could be extended nationwide.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron angered Jewish groups and some political opponents on Wednesday by saying it was "legitimate" to honor Marshal Philippe Petain alongside France's other seven wartime marshals at commemorations to mark the end of the Great War this week. Petain was feted as a war hero after taking command of the French armies in mid-1917, following his victory at Verdun, a battle that killed more than 300,000 French and Germans. But his reputation was shredded when he established the collaborationist Vichy government of unoccupied France that deported more than 70,000 Jews to Nazi death camps. The body that represents France's 400,000-strong Jewish community, Crif, called the idea of paying tribute to Petain "shocking." Jean-Luc Melenchon, head of the leftist France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party, called Petain "a traitor and an anti-Semite" whose "crimes and his betrayal cannot be erased from history."

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