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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘CRIF’

A Fearsome Test For French Jews

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

France has a rich Jewish history and a vibrant Jewish community of approximately 500,000 souls. At the same time, France is a country where anti-Semitism has deep, seemingly immutable roots. Modern Zionism evolved partly as a reaction to the Dreyfus trial at the end of the 19th century, while in the middle of the 20th approximately 90,000 Jews were murdered during the Nazi Holocaust.

In our own time, France has provided fertile ground for Holocaust deniers, known in local parlance as negationistes. During the last 10 years we have witnessed a horrifying hate crime involving the kidnapping and murder of a young Jew, Ilan Halimi; an Islamist terror attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse that claimed the lives of three children and a rabbi; and a burgeoning anti-Semitic social movement that takes as its symbol an inverted Nazi salute known as the “quenelle.”

Small wonder, then, that French Jewish leaders are continually asked whether their community has a future in the long term. Nonetheless, it is a question French Jewish leaders answer with patience and good grace, as I discovered when I met in New York with a delegation from CRIF, the representative body of French Jewry.

At the head of the delegation is Roger Cukierman, the elder statesman of French Jews who was first elected as CRIF’s president in 2001. Sitting in the offices of the World Jewish Congress, where he also serves as a vice president, Cukierman was candid about the profound problems the community faces, while emphasizing its extraordinary durability.

“There have been Jews in France for the last 2,000 years,” Cukierman said, listing the names of Rashi, the great 11th-century rabbi; Michel de Montaigne, the 16th-century Renaissance author; and Marcel Proust, the 20th-century novelist. Even as he acknowledged the many instances of anti-Semitic persecution through the ages, Cukierman noted simply and proudly, “We are still here. And we are not the only country where anti-Semitism is developing. It may develop in America also.”

Still, there is a genuine urgency about the situation in France. A recent survey of global anti-Semitism issued by Tel Aviv University reported 110 violent attacks on French Jews in 2013 – the highest single number for any country. More alarming is the fact that though Jews make up just one percent of the French population, they are the target of 40 percent of racist assaults in the country. It isn’t surprising, then, that David Tibi, a Jewish leader in Paris, recently declared, “We no longer have a place in France.”

Cukierman is insistent that Jews do have a place in France, adding that anti-Semitism emanates from three distinct sources, rather than being a general phenomenon. First, there is the far right, traditionally the home of Holocaust deniers and Vichy-era apologists. Second, there is the far left, whose aggressive promotion of the BDS campaign against Israel “affects the comfort of living in France for Jews,” Cukierman said. Third, there are the banlieues, run-down suburbs that are home to disaffected Muslim youths who are frequently the executors of violent anti-Semitic acts.

Any mention of the banlieuesinevitably leads to a discussion of Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, the notorious comedian whose attempts at humor are often little more than crude Jew-baiting antics. It was Dieudonne who popularized the quenelle, the anti-Semitic gesture that became internationally known when it was performed by the French soccer star Nicholas Anelka, a friend of Dieudonne’s, during a match in England.

Among the numerous challenges in responding to Dieudonne is his appeal to young people in France, many of whom are attracted by his anti-establishment stance, his hatred of Israel, and his mockery of the Holocaust.

Star French Athlete Probed for Antisemitic Gesture

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

A star athlete from France is facing disciplinary action for showing support for an antisemitic comedian whose shows may soon be banned by the French government.

Britain’s Football Association said Saturday it was considering punishing Nicolas Anelka, a French national playing for the West Bromwich Albion soccer team, for performing, during a match, the quenelle – a quasi-Nazi salute which representatives of France’s Jewish community have termed antisemitic.

Following an outcry, the 34-year-old athlete said on Twitter: “This gesture was just a special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonne,” a reference to the comedian who invented and is promoting the gesture, which is believed to both mock and circumvent France’s laws against displaying Nazi symbols with intention of causing offense.

But a spokesman for the association told the British tabloid The Daily Mirror that the organization would be launching a probe into the actions of Anelka, who was filmed placing his outstretched left palm on his right shoulder after striking the first of two goals during the match.

The decision came after the French Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron called Anelka’s gesture “a shocking provocation, disgusting.” She added: “There’s no place for anti-Semitism and incitement to hatred on the football field.”

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said in a statement: “We expect that the English Premier League officials as well as the police will give Anelka the appropriate punishment.”

The discussion about Anelka comes one day after France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, declared that his ministry would look into banning all public performances by Dieudonne, the inventor of the quenelle.

“Despite his conviction for defamation, causing offense and inciting racial hatred and discrimination, Dieudonne M’bala M’bala doesn’t seem to recognize any limits any more,” Minister Manuel Valls said in a statement Friday announcing the legal review aimed at banning his public appearances.

On Saturday, some 200 of Dieudonne’s supporters protested against Valls’ plans, according to the news site JSSnews.com.

Dieudonne, who also invented the word “Shoananas” – a code for suggesting the Holocaust is a myth without breaking France’s laws against denying the genocide, is scheduled to perform in Bordeaux on Jan. 26.

Dieudonne has been convicted several times for inciting racial hatred against Jews in films, shows and articles.

Le Pen Sr.: B’nai B’rith Brokered ‘Pact’ against Me

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen said that B’nai B’rith had signed a “pact” with other politicians to keep him out of the government.

“The leaders of the soft right signed a pact in which they vowed never to unite with Front National,” Le Pen, who founded the National Front party 40 years ago, said this week in an interview for the weekly Minute.

“It is said that it was B’nai B’rith, a sort of Jewish Freemasonry group, that imposed this clause,” Le Pen related.

Le Pen, who is the honorary president of the National Front, now headed by his daughter, Marine Le Pen, added that former French President Jacques Chirac of the center-right UMP party signed the pact.

“Furthermore, I think that certain representatives of the RPR took pride in that pact, which was notably signed by the abominable Chirac,” said Le Pen, 84.

Founded in 1976, RPR dissolved into UMP in 2002.

On its website, B’nai B’rith International says it is the Global Voice of the Jewish Community, the most widely known Jewish humanitarian, human rights, and advocacy organization. B’nai B’rith works for Jewish unity, security, and continuity and fights anti-Semitism and intolerance around the world since 1843.

The president of B’nai B’rith France denied the existence of any pact involving B’nai B’rith and Front National.

Dr. Richard Prasquier, president of CRIF, the umbrella group representing French Jewish communities, called Le Pen’s theory the result of “senility or obsessive anti-Semitism, and probably of both.”

In a statement posted on the CRIF website, Prasquier added that “The tendency to see conspiracies is a characteristic of anti-Semites and unfortunately this is the case with Mr. Le Pen.”

He also called on Marine Le Pen to remove her father as honorary president of the party, currently the third largest in France.

4 Injured in Kosher Market Explosion at Paris Suburb

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

A Jewish supermarket in a racially mixed suburb in north Paris was bombed on Wednesday and four people were injured, Police said.

The Sipa news agency reported that a small explosion was set off by two black-hooded persons who entered the Sarcelles’ branch of the Naouri kosher supermarket chain around midday and put a package inside, citing an unnamed police official and a Jewish organization.

The two fled after throwing a rock through the shop’s window just before the explosion, police said.

“There was an attack inside a kosher supermarket in Sarcelles at lunchtime by two persons dressed in black who lobbed a device,” said Richard Prasquier, head of France’s main Jewish council CRIF.

According to AFP, so far there has been no confirmation that the attack was connected to the anti-Muslim film “Innocence of Muslims” which has been driving mobs of Muslim rioters against Western targets in Arab countries.

On Wednesday, a satirical French weekly published naked cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

According to Moshe Cohen-Sabban, a local Jewish community leader, it was “a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the shop.”

“Many people were going there to stock up for Yom Kippur which falls next Wednesday,” he said, referring, of course, to the meal before the day of fasting.

Cohen-Sabban said there was no exceptional religious tension in Sarcelles, which is a working-class area with a population of about 60 000 including many Muslims and Jews.

French Rabbi Receives Threat to ‘Punish’ Jews for Complaining

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

The chief rabbi of Lyon, Richard Wertenschlag, has received a letter threatening to “punish a Jew for every complaint the Jews make on TV.”

The threat came in a two-page letter delivered to Wertenschlag on Aug. 10. It contained two photos of a concentration camp, according to Dr. Richard Prasquier, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, CRIF.

Wertenschlag, who reported the letter to the authorities, opened the letter on Aug. 12, according to CRIF.

The authors of the “small, dense handwritten text” signed with the words “the righteous network.”

They added, “Every time you go on television to complain, a Jew – man, woman, child or family – will be punished.” Further down, the authors wrote: “See you soon at a synagogue, which has already been chosen.”

Wertenschlag called the letter “the expression of anti-Semitic rage and unimaginable hate.”

He said he had received an earlier hate letter in April, which was both “anti-Semitic and anti-Arab,” but decided not to go to police at the time.

Last month French police arrested two youths in Lyon for allegedly attacking a 17-year-old Jewish boy.

The boy is a student at Ozar Hatorah, a Jewish school in Toulouse where, on March 19, a Muslim extremist murdered three children and a rabbi.

French Ozar Hatorah Student Attacked Violently

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

A 17 year-old student from the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, where gunman Mohammed Merah murdered three children and an administrator last March, was attacked violently on a train Wednesday night in Lyon, according to the French Interior Ministry.

AFP reported that the victim, who wore “identifiable religious symbols,” was first subjected to verbal insults on the train, according to the official announcement, and “was then attacked in the platform toilets by two individuals who beat him up.”

The attack was interrupted by a passenger and a train controller.

The student immediately registered a complaint with the Lyon authorities and “identities of both perpetrators are now known thanks to the actions of the railroad police,” according to the Interior Ministry’s statement, that also promised to continue “fighting the resurgence of the evil  of anti-Semitism,” which signifies “a slight to the history and values of the French Republic.”.

A source close to the investigation in Lyon told AFP that neither of the accused had been summoned for questioning on Thursday morning, after having been caught by the train’s controller.

After filing the complaint, the Jewish youth went on to his family’s home in Lyon.

With the initial stage of the investigation completed, it appears that the victim was beaten up after the two suspects noticed a religious chain around his neck, according to details released by the Interior Ministry, which added that “such acts of extreme violence are unacceptable.”

CRIF, the umbrella representative group of French Jewry, released a statement saying that the latest attack on a young Jewish student “is another development in the worrying trend of anti-Semitism in our country.”

“The number of incidents is continuing to increase, the violence of the acts likewise, as if the murders committed by Mohamed Merad had released the impulse to act,” CRIF said.

It added that it is especially incendiary to speak of “intercommunal conflicts” when discussing these incidents.

“It is always identifiable Jews who are the victims of these attacks. To combat anti-Semitism in France, you have to call it by its proper name and acknowledge the factors that increase it. And we have to make its eradication a national political cause.”

The CRIF hopes that the perpetrators will be subjected to appropriate punishment.

Gaza Question in Paris University Medical Exam Stirs Controversy, Investigation

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Vincent Berger, president of Diderot University in Paris, is investigating a question “of a polemic nature” which was posed to students of the Bichat Hospital Faculty of Medicine, Agence France Presse reported.

CRIF, , responded with “indignance” in a public statement on Thursday to the “scandalous” question relating to the bombing of civilians in Gaza, which it claimed constituted “incitement against Israel”.

According to the umbrella organization of French Jewry CRIF, as corroborated by a report by the National Bureau of Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, Diderot’s Professor Christophe Oberlin posed to the students of humane medicine the question, referring to the deaths of 22 members of the same family in a “classic bombing” during the Gaza conflict of 2008-2009.

“To what extent does it constitute a perpetual crime (war crime, crime against humanity, genocide crime)?” Oberlin asked, according to reports.

Diderot University President Berger expressed his “consternation” at the professor’s choice to include this question “in the context of a non-compulsory medical exam.”

“It implies a regrettable polemic attitude which contravenes the neutral and secular nature of higher education,” Berger’s statement continued.

Berger recalled that the independent principles of the founding educators, enshrined in the French constitution, don’t allow for the abuse of the fundamental values of public service.

“As it stands, this question constitutes an absolute incitement to hate Israel,” stressed Richard Prasquier, president of CRIF. “It has no place in medical education, much less in a university, and amounts to a violation of the neutrality [demanded of] professor Oberlin.”

“We would like to remind Mr Oberlin that he doesn’t have a right to use the university to espouse a selective agenda,” added Prasquier.

Meanwhile, the Union of Jewish Students in France (UEJF) claimed the professor had “encouraged the students to adopt condemnatory positions” in posing the question to them.

“In the eyes of the UEJF, Professor Oberlin abused his position of authority, in his role as exam moderator, by not allowing students to publicly express their disagreement with this misleading ideological statement,” the organization declared in a statement.
UEJF president Jonathan Hayou demanded the University summon the professor to explain his actions.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/gaza-question-in-paris-university-medical-exam-stirs-controversy-investigation/2012/06/15/

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