Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Teves 5763 - December 18, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Hopeful Legislation Amid Rising Antisemitism in Official France
By A. Yaffe, Paris

In a unanimous vote apparently indicating that France's elected representatives foresee a deterioration in the situation of their country's Jewish population, the French national assembly approved an amendment that enables harsher penalties to be imposed for antisemitic and racial attacks. Sentences of three years or more imprisonment can now be given for burning synagogues or physical assault on Jews. The amendment also provides for a twenty-year sentence where physical assault during an antisemitic attack unintentionally killed the victim.

Jewish representative Pierre Lalouche of President Chirac's right wing party and a group of other right wing members said that they had initiated the tightening of existing penalties because hitherto, French law made no distinction in the severity of the punitive measures it imposed on antisemites torching a synagogue and hooligans vandalizing a parking lot.

Whether or not the French courts will avail themselves of the new legislation remains unclear. In recent years judges have been failing to impose even the penalties that previously existed.

In almost every case of assault on Jews leaving synagogues that has taken place in France in the past two years, judges have invoked judicial discretion in order to repudiate any link between the violence perpetrated by Arab youths against Jews and antisemitism. One judge argued that these kinds of attacks on Jews are not antisemitism but are understandable in the context of Israeli aggression against Palestinians. Another ruled that three attackers of a synagogue had merely sought to rob for personal gain, rather than to destroy with religious motivation. Other observers had different opinions.

The assembly's move is encouraging in view of the ugly atmosphere currently prevailing over here. Over the past week, Arab shops in the suburbs of Paris have been displaying antisemitic signs such as, "This store is forbidden to Jews."

During the debate that preceded the vote, Interior Minister Nicole Sarcozi unveiled a new initiative to bring Moslems in France together in an umbrella organization, with the aim of gaining a foothold in the mosques and expelling the fanatical Saudi Arabian preachers who fan hatred of Jews and of the West. It is generally considered however, that it is too late for such measures. Extremists already control the masses, while the North African states bring their own influence to bear on the Moslem communities.

The Imams who took part in discussions with the French government later denied having done so. They declared that the French State has no authority to found a new Moslem religion. Islamic experts claimed that Sarcozi was trying to organize a type of French Islam, in the same way that Napoleon brought Jewish leaders together and compelled them to arrange a French-style Judaism in the Consistoire.

Almost none of the Arabs that have been caught and charged with setting fire to synagogues and beating up Jews have been imprisoned. Only in Montpelier were three Arabs sentenced to three months in jail for attempting to set fire to a synagogue. Jews say that the problem is not with the law but with the tolerance of terror and anti-Israel incitement and the French establishment and government's fear of the Arabs.

No law as of yet forbids the publication of antisemitic material. Last week, four hundred Jews demonstrated outside the publishing house Palmerion, demanding that it stop selling a children's book entitled Dreaming Of Palestine which glorifies suicide attacks against Israel and calls for murdering Jews everywhere.

The publishers invoked freedom of expression to explain their refusal to comply with this request. The management argued that if a ban was imposed on all controversial books, many other volumes to which this or that sector took exception would have to be withdrawn. Were antisemitic publications to be forbidden, several books written by well-known French authors like Ferdinand Selin would also have to be banned. They claimed that a fifteen-year-old Arab girl wrote the book and that the media espoused her view of the terrorists. It is known however, that a Palestinian "intellectual" authored the book.

Pro-Palestinian French intellectuals are currently signing a petition protesting what they call their "persecution by supporters of Sharon." The petition's organizer, Daniel Mermet, who broadcasts a radio show that has accused Jews of exploiting the Holocaust in order to justify crimes against the Palestinians, was acquitted by a court of the charge of engaging in antisemitic incitement after he argued that Sharon's supporters deplored any criticism of the Israeli Prime Minister. Mermet spreads antisemitic venom every day on his show, which is broadcast on the official French radio station.


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