France tar­gets hate talk

Anti-Semitic acts on rise

Toronto Sun - - NEWS -

PARIS — France’s prime min­is­ter sounded the alarm Fri­day over a sharp rise in anti-Semitic acts this year, pledg­ing to in­crease ef­forts to pun­ish per­pe­tra­tors and po­lice hate speech that is flour­ish­ing on­line.

Resur­gent anti-Semitism is of na­tional con­cern in a coun­try with Eu­rope’s largest Jewish pop­u­la­tion, which still strug­gles to wash away the stain of col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Nazis and in re­cent years has seen deadly Is­lamic ex­trem­ist at­tacks tar­get­ing Jewish sites.

Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe an­nounced on his Face­book page a 69% rise in the num­ber of anti-Semitic acts re­ported to po­lice in the first nine months of 2018 com­pared to the same pe­riod last year.

The gov­ern­ment couldn’t give a rea­son for the rise, but Jewish lead­ers lamented the ex­plo­sion of hate speech on­line and be­yond.

“There’s this feel­ing that some­thing has opened up, a gate­way to in­tol­er­ance and hate,” said rabbi and re­searcher Del­phine Horvilleur. “Words kill. It starts with words and very quickly they turn into acts,” she said, not­ing the re­cent deadly at­tack on the Tree of Life syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh.

De­spite years of French gov­ern­ment ef­forts to fight it, “we are very far from hav­ing fin­ished with anti-Semitism,” the prime min­is­ter wrote. He ex­pressed par­tic­u­lar con­cern be­cause over­all, anti-Semitic acts had been on the de­cline in re­cent years.

The gov­ern­ment won’t re­lease spe­cific fig­ures un­til the end of the year. Over all of 2017, the gov­ern­ment re­ported 311 anti-Semitic acts, from threats to swastikas on Jewish gravesites to phys­i­cal at­tacks on peo­ple wear­ing kip­pas. That was down from 335 the year be­fore, but the num­ber of vi­o­lent anti-Semitic acts rose, along with anti-Mus­lim and other vi­o­lent hate crimes.

The In­te­rior Min­istry said part of the re­cent rise could be at­trib­uted to a gov­ern­ment push over the past year to en­cour­age peo­ple to re­port hate crimes.

The prime min­is­ter promised new mea­sures to bet­ter han­dle vic­tims and pun­ish per­pe­tra­tors, to take down po­ten­tially vi­o­lent hate speech on­line more quickly and to help teach­ers who re­port anti-Semitic be­hav­iour.

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