Citing 'Radical Islamists,' Over 250 Top French Figures Sign Letter Condemning anti-Semitism

Former president Sarkozy, five imams and actor Gerard Depardieu among signatories of open letter drafted by former Charlie Hebdo editor

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Nicolas Sarkozy participates in a march against anti-Semitism after the brutal killing of Ilan Halimi, a Parisian Jew, in Paris, France, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006
Nicolas Sarkozy participates in a march against anti-Semitism after the brutal killing of Ilan Halimi, a Parisian Jew, in Paris, France, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006Credit: AP

A statement condemning anti-Semitism signed by more than 250 leading French figures including former President Nicolas Sarkozy, elected officials from various parties, writers and film stars, linked recent anti-Semitic incidents in France to radical Islam. The statement was published over the weekend by the Le Parisien daily and the Aujourd’hui en France Dimanche weekly and is the first of such prominence to explicitly draw the connection to the local Muslim minority.

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Drafted by Philippe Val, a former editor at Charlie Hebdo from before the terrorist attack of January 2015, the statement begins: “Anti-Semitism is not the business of the Jews. It’s the business of all of us. The French, who have demonstrated their democratic maturity after each Islamist attack, are living through a tragic paradox. Their country has become the arena for murderous anti-Semitism.”

The statement goes on to say that in recent times, 11 Jews have been killed in France by “radical Islamists” because they were Jewish. French Jews, the statement says, are 25 times more likely to be victims of an attack than their Muslim compatriots. “Ten percent of the Jewish citizens of the [Paris region], meaning about 50,000 people, have recently had to change their residence because they were no longer safe in certain neighborhoods and because their children could no longer attend government schools. This involves quiet ethnic cleansing.”

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Among the signatories is former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, actor Gerard Depardieu, former Prime Ministers Manuel Valls and Bernard Cazeneuve, former Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, five imams and singers Charles Aznavour and Francoise Hardy.

The statement particularly cites last year's murder of 65-year-old Sarah Halimi and the recent killing of 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, which prompted a march against anti-Semitism in Paris. Decrying lack of action in the face of this new anti-Semitism, the statement says that “Islamist radicalization and the anti-Semitism that serves as a vehicle for it are considered by a portion of the French elites as exclusively an expression of a social revolt."

According to the signatories, "The old anti-Semitism of the extreme right is being supplemented by the anti-Semitism of a part of the radical left that has found an alibi in anti-Zionism to transform the executioners of the Jews into the victims of society." The statement adds that a political calculus might also be behind these attitudes towards anti-Semitism: "because the electoral base composed of Muslims is 10 times greater than the Jewish vote,” the statement claims.

The document further notes that, following Mireille Knoll’s murder, there have been imams and other members of the Islamic clergy who called Islamic anti-Semitism "the greatest threat to Islam in the 21st century and in a world of peace and freedom in which they have chosen to live." These representatives are, for the most part, under police protection.

The statement also calls for the verses of the Koran that incite against Jews, Christians and non-believers to be declared "obsolete" in a way similar to how the Catholic church expunged anti-Semitic dogma in the 1960s. The document then concludes with a call for the fight against anti-Semitism to become a “national cause before it’s too late. Before France is no longer France."

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