As anti-Semitism in France continues to spiral, Jews and the general population in France agree on the magnitude of the problem, according to a new American Jewish Committee (AJC) Paris survey of perceptions of and experiences with anti-Semitism in France.
But alignment on the anti-Semitism threat to French society, and the government’s weak responsiveness, does not mitigate the fears of Jews about their safety and future in France.
Nearly three-quarters, 73%, of the French public, and 72% of Jews, consider anti-Semitism a problem that affects all of French society. 47% of the general public and 67% of the Jewish respondents say the level of anti-Semitism in France is high, while 27% and 22%, respectively, say it is low.
While 53% of the general public say anti-Semitism has been increasing, and 18% decreasing, in recent years, 77% of Jews say it has increased and 12% decreased.
“anti-Semitism has become a concern for French society as a whole,” said Anne-Sophie Sebban-Bécache, Director of AJC Paris. “It is not considered anymore as only the concern of Jews. We are not as alone as we could have felt in the past to fight this scourge.”
The extent of anti-Semitic attacks on France’s Jewish community, the largest in Europe, is stunning.
The AJC Paris survey found that 70 percent of French Jews say they have been victims of at least one antisemitic incident in their lifetime, 64% have suffered anti-Semitic verbal abuse at least once, and 23% have been targets of physical violence on at least one occasion, with 10 percent saying they were attacked several times.
The continued spiraling of anti-Semitism in France has led significant percentages of the Jewish population to take protective actions. More than one-third, 37%, refrain from using visible Jewish symbols, 25% avoid revealing their Jewish identity in the workplace, and 52% have considered leaving France.
Overall, 44% of the Jewish sample say the situation for French Jews is worse than a year ago, only 11% say it is better and 42% no better or worse.
The youngest Jews, ages 18-24, are on the “front line” more than older cohorts in confronting anti-Semitism. 84% of them have suffered at last one anti-Semitic act, compared with 70% of all respondents; 79 percent had suffered verbal abuse, compared with 64% of all respondents; and 39% faced an act of physical aggression, compared with 23% of the full Jewish sample.
Visibly religious French Jews feel the most vulnerable, with 74% of them saying they had been a victim of at least one act of verbal abuse, compared with 64% of the full Jewish sample.
The main locations where anti-Semitic incidents occur the most are in the street and school. 55% said they had been insulted or threatened on the street, and 59% said they had suffered physical abuse in the school.
54% were victims of verbal abuse, and 26% had been victims of anti-Semitic violence in schools.
But equally disturbing is the finding that 46% said they had suffered anti-Semitic verbal abuse in the workplace.
Regarding the responsiveness of elected officials, Jews and the general public agree. Only 47% of Jews and 48% of the general public have confidence in the President of France tackling anti-Semitism, 46% of Jews and 41% of the public in the French government, and 58% of Jews and 56% of the public in local elected officials.
French Jews have no respite from anti-Semitism. “This has to stop,” Sebban-Bécache declared. “The fight against anti-Semitism must be a national priority which has the adequate means to cover all of France.”
The AJC Paris study was conducted by IFOP, a leading polling firm, in partnership with Fondapol, a major French think tank. They polled 505 French Jews and 1027 French people between October 14 and November 19, 2019.