Continuing threats from French-born jihadists returning from Syria was the main issue raised today by leaders of an international delegation of Jewish leaders from the Simon Wiesenthal Center during a meeting today with French President François Hollande.
The 20-member delegation is in Paris to inaugurate the Wiesenthal Center’s new historic exhibition on the 3,500 Relationship Between the Jewish People and the Holy Land opening this evening at UNESCO World headquarters.
President Hollande confirmed that some 1,000 French citizens were or are in Syria, and that 31 were reported to have died there. Some of those who returned from Syria were scared by what they had experienced, but others have spread out among the French population, many of them armed.
The French President then outlined steps taken to protect the Jewish community, especially Jewish schools, and said that French authorities are also in contact with police and Intelligence services to better fight anti-Semitism.
“We would like to set an example to the world in fighting anti-Semitism,” but admitted the current situation reflected a “new, heavy context.”
As for the murderous attack by a French-born terrorist in Belgium, President Hollande said it was too early to conclude the terrorist had acted as a “lone wolf,” in what the president labeled a “barbaric act” that targeted the Brussels Jewish Musuem.
In his remarks, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder of the leading Jewish Human Rights NGO, said:
We meet at a pivotal time in history, when the Jewish community and France’s democratic values are under unprecedented attack by the forces of extremism both from the Far-Right and from extreme Islamist purveyors of religious intolerance violence and murder.”
We appreciated that in the immediate aftermath of the murders of a Rabbi and young children on the grounds of a Yeshiva in Toulouse, you and then President Sarkozy suspended your campaigns to come to Toulouse and denounce the savagery. But unfortunately, today, Mohammed Merah along with the French-born murderer of innocents at the Brussels Jewish Museum, are revered by many young Muslims, here in France and around the world.
–Why is this so?
Certainly, the Internet plays a role, but we believe the main reason is that religious leadership of the Muslim communities remains part of the problem, not part of the solution…
Mr. President, in our time these French-born terrorists, like other terrorists, were not born with hate in their hearts…In the presence of French, American, Canadian and British Jewish leaders gathered here today, I declare with certainty that if G-d forbid, a terrorist attack was carried out by a Jew against innocent civilians, there would be wall-to-wall public condemnation by every Jewish leader in the world.
No less should be expected from the leaders of the largest Muslim population in Europe.
Among the leaders of the delegation were senior Wiesenthal Center officials, Rabbis Abraham Cooper and Meyer May from Los Angeles, Dr. Shimon Samuels ( Paris) and Avi Benlolo (Toronto). Also in attendance was French Jewish leader, Baron Eric de Rothschild and Canadian MP and former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler.