France fights anti-Semitism with Anne Frank diary in Persian
Number of violent incidents against Jews nearly doubled in 2009 in European country following Israeli operation in Gaza. French ambassador to Israel believes one sector cannot be blamed for phenomenon, says his government working to protect Jews
Bigot noted Thursday that as part of the effort, books about the Holocaust are being translated into Arab and Persian and distributed in the Muslim world.
The ambassador stressed that the sharp rise in anti-Semitism stemmed from the large number of incidents which took place in January of 2009 following the Israeli operation in Gaza. He refused to link the two events, but noted that 354 cases of threats and assaults against Jews took place during that month – nearly half of all incidents in 2009.
The French diplomat said President Nicolas Sarkozy was fighting anti-Semitism firmly. "This matter is one of Sarkozy's top priorities since his term as interior minister, and of course now as president," he said. "If a Jew is hurt in France, the entire French republic is hurt."
According to Bigot, the government's efforts to uproot anti-Semitism include commemorating the Holocaust and appointing special law enforcement teams to battle the phenomenon.
The French Foreign Minister has joined forces with an association working to prevent Holocaust denial in Arab countries by translating books into Arabic and Persian. The country funds the translation of famous pieces, such as Primo Levi's books and the Anne Frank diary.
"We must not forget that anti-Semitism is a global phenomenon," the ambassador said.
Jewish cemetery desecrated in France on International Holocaust Day (Archive photo: MK Shlomo Molla)
Bigot rejected the possibility that the rise in anti-Semitism was related to the Muslim community in France, saying that "it's hard to determine who is behind this. Unfortunately, there are a number of sectors in society – both in the extreme Right and in the extreme Left – that view anti-Semitism as a way to express their frustration."
Cast Lead effect
Figures compiled by the French Interior Ministry show a sharp rise in the number of threats against Jews in 2009, with 360 anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed across the country, 69 threatening leaflets and letters published against Jews, and 229 cases of verbal violence against Jews.
In total, there were 658 incidents of expressions of anti-Semitism which did not involve physical violence. In 2008 there were 324 incidents, while 2007 recorded 115 such incidents.
Last year also saw a rise in the number of cases of anti-Semitic physical violence, although this increase was smaller. The year 2009 saw 89 cases of assault, but no murders. In addition, there were 15 cases of arson due to anti-Semitism and 78 cases of damaged property – a total of 174 cases. In 2008 there were 150 such cases, and in 2007 – 146.
A summation of the figures reveals a worrisome picture, with 832 anti-Semitic incidents which took place over the past year, according to the French Interior Ministry. In 2008 there were 474 incidents, and 261 were recorded in 2007.