Attacks on Jews have dropped by half, French human rights agency reports

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — French authorities recorded a 58 percent drop last year in anti-Semitic incidents in a report that identified only far-right perpetrators and questioned the existence of a new anti-Semitism by Muslims over Israel’s actions.

The annual report by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights published Thursday on its website counted 335 anti-Semitic incidents in 2016 compared to 808 the previous year — the sharpest drop on record since 2001, when the SPCJ security group of the Jewish community documented a 71 percent decrease to 219 cases. Data by SPCJ, which has not published its annual report, usually correspond with those published by the commission.

The commission also reported a 57 percent drop in anti-Muslim attacks to a total of 182 incidents in 2016.

According to the report, the decrease in attacks of Jews “is primarily due to security measures applied by the authorities as part of the Vigipirate plan.” The plan, which involves the deployment of thousands of troops around Jewish institutions and heavily Jewish neighborhoods across the country, was initiated in 2015 following the slaying of four Jews at kosher store near Paris by an Islamist.

The report questioned the “new anti-Semitism thesis” proffered by the National Bureau of Vigilance Against anti-Semitism, a nongovernmental watchdog group run by former policemen — that most anti-Semitic attacks in France since 2000 have been committed by people with an immigrant background from Muslim countries who target Jews over Israel’s actions.

Scholars of anti-Semitism have termed the phenomenon “new anti-Semitism,” describing a situation in which the ancient hatred of Jews is justified as a political act of opposition to Israel’s policies or existence.

Mohammed Merah, a jihadist who murdered four Jews in Toulouse in 2012, has said he was acting to avenge the deaths of children in Gaza, as did Amedy Coulibaly, the kosher shop killer.

The report, however, did not mention religiously motivated attacks on Jews by Muslims.

“A significant part of the anti-Semitic acts (actions and threats) pertain to neo-Nazi ideology, whereas in most other cases the perpetrators’ motivations are difficult to ascertain,” it said.

“Anti-Semitic biases persist, linking Jews to money, power and condemning them for their attachment to their community and to Israel.” These “traditional prejudices introduce nuance to the theory of ‘a new anti-Semitism’ of its own, polarized by the question of Israel and Zionism,” the authors wrote.

If such a phenomenon exists, they added, “based on criticism of Israel and its role in the conflict, then it pertains to a minority” of the cases in the report, the document reads.

Despite fluctuations, the volume of anti-Semitic attacks in France, which in the 1990s comprised several dozens of incidents annually, has increased significantly in France since 2000, when Palestinians launched their second intifada, or uprising, against Israel. It has remained in the hundreds ever since.

The report also included surveys on the level of acceptance in society of Jews, Muslims and Roma. Jews emerged as the most accepted minority in the survey, with 81 percent of hundreds of respondents relating to them in positive terms.

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