France’s ambassador to Israel presented data yesterday showing a 45 percent drop in anti-Semitic incidents in his country during 2010.
Cristophe Bigot attributed the year-over-year drop to a sharp rise in 2009 in the wake of Operation Cast Lead. The data showed that during 2010 there were 466 recorded incidents of anti-Semitism in France, 131 of which involved violence. This compared to 832 anti-Semitic incidents in France in 2009, of which 174 were violent.
According to an annual report on anti-Semitic incidents, published last month by the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, the drop in anti-Semitic incidents during the past year is not unique to France. However the data from France show the sharpest drop in the number of anti-Semitic incidents from any other country in the world.
Bigot credited a determined effort by the French government to quell anti-Semitism in the country. In December 2009, French President Nicolas Sarkozy appointed a special commissioner to combat racism and anti-Semitism. The commissioner coordinates educational work in schools, which includes study of the Holocaust, and is authorized to also monitor police investigations into anti-Semitic incidents.
The French government has also invested 15 million euros in a five year program for protecting institutions of the French Jewish community. The program covers a total of 349 institutions, of which 107 are schools.
The embassy also noted that the French Foreign Ministry recently joined forces with a non-government organization which works against Holocaust denial in the Arab world. The organization, Alladin, recently translated the “Diary of Anne Frank” into Arabic and Farsi, as well as books by Holocaust survivor Primo Levy.
The ambassador says that these steps have borne fruit, and notes that while 2009 was affected by the war in the Gaza Strip, 2010 also witnessed unrest in the region, specifically the Turkish flotilla affair.
“Four-hundred and sixty-six anti-Semitic incidents are still 466 incidents that should not happen, and thus there is still work to be done. Work must be undertaken on a number of directions in the media, in schools and in the police,” Bigot said.
Responding to a question on the overlap between anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of the policies of Israel, Bigot said that there must be no confusion between the two.
“If every criticism becomes anti-Semitism then we will transform a great portion of Israelis into anti-Semites,” he said. “But we do see that anti-Semites use criticism of Israel for their purposes.”
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