France to pour $107M into fighting anti-Semitism, racism

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — French Prime Minister Manuel Valls pledged to finance a $107 million plan to fight racism and anti-Semitism.

The recent increase in prejudice in France is “insufferable,” he said at a press conference Friday in which he announced the plan.

“Racism, anti-Semitism, hatred of Muslims, of foreigners and homophobia are growing in an insufferable manner in our country,” Valls told reporters in Creteil, just outside Paris, after presenting his plan. Créteil was chosen because of an attack on a young couple in their home there five months ago, Radio France Internationale reported.

The attackers raped the woman and said that they believed the victims had money because they were Jewish.

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In January, after Said and Cherif Kouachi murdered 12 people at the headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, their accomplice Amedy Coulibaly took hostages and killed four people at a kosher supermarket, prompting the government to promise action against anti-Semitism, racism and terror attacks.

Five ministers, including Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, accompanied Valls in Creteil. The government pledged $107 million over three years to putting the 40-point plan into action.

Among its principal measures are the inclusion of hate speech, previously banned in the law on the press, in penal law; the establishment of racism or anti-Semitism as an “aggravating factor” that can lead to tougher sentences for a related crime; permitting class-action suits for discrimination and the creation of a national police unit to combat hate on the Internet.

The allocated funds will be spent on publicizing the aims and taking local action against prejudice.

“French Jews should not be afraid of being Jewish,” said Valls. “French Muslims should not be ashamed of being Muslims.”