Threats and vi­o­lence as an­ti­semitism on rise in France


A FRENCH for­mer head­teacher has ad­mit­ted ad­vis­ing a Jewish pupil to at­tend a pri­vate school for his own safety in a shock­ing ex­am­ple of the ris­ing tide of an­ti­semitism in France.

The rev­e­la­tion emerged in a book co-au­thored by the re­tired teacher Bernard Ravet and Em­manuel Davin­denkoff, a Le Monde jour­nal­ist.

In an in­ter­view for L’Ex­press news­pa­per, Mr Ravet re­called how he asked his coun­ter­part at a pri­vate Jewish school called Yavneh in Mar­seille to ac­cept an Is­raeli boy who had hoped to en­rol at his school, Ver­saille. He told the news­pa­per he “knew the boy would get beaten to a pulp” as soon as the other stu­dents dis­cov­ered his back­ground.

“Hid­ing my em­bar­rass­ment, I asked the mother whether she had con­sid­ered en­rolling her boy at Yavneh,” he said. When the mother replied that the Jewish school was full, Mr Ravet in­ter­vened and man­aged to get the boy ac­cepted, he told L’Ex­press.

Mr Ravet said a jour­nal­ist had pre­vi­ously in­ter­viewed chil­dren at his school and asked if there were any Jewish pupils there. Mr Ravet said he had “a chill down my back” when he heard one re­ply: “If there are, then they have to hide it.”

Only a third of Jewish pupils now at­tend pub­lic schools in France — com­pared with three decades ago when the ma­jor­ity did. The rest at­tend ei­ther Jewish or pri­vate schools, ac­cord­ing to Fran­cis Kal­i­fat, the pres­i­dent of the CRIF Jewish um­brella group in France.

In an in­ter­view with JTA last year, Mr Kal­i­fat said: “In the Paris re­gion, there are vir­tu­ally no more Jewish pupils at­tend­ing pub­lic schools.” He blamed the trend on “a bad at­mos­phere of ha­rass­ment, in­sults and as­saults” against Jewish pupils, as well as the growth of the Jewish ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

In the same week as the rev­e­la­tions emerged, a fam­ily was beaten and robbed in their home near Paris be­cause they were Jewish, French author­i­ties said.

At­tack­ers en­tered the home of Roger Pinto, the 78-year-old head of Siona, an as­so­ci­a­tion “defending the Jewish peo­ple and the state of Is­rael”, his wife and his son, ac­cord­ing to Mr Pinto’s lawyer, Marc Ben­si­mon. They cut off the elec­tric­ity be­fore hold­ing three mem­bers of the Jewish fam­ily hostage and threat­en­ing to kill them. Mr Pinto was kicked sev­eral times in the head, Mr Ben­si­mon said, and the as­sailants made off with jew­ellery, cash and credit cards.

One of the vic­tims man­aged to es­cape and alert the police, ac­cord­ing to an­ti­semitism watch­dog BNVCA, as author­i­ties and anti-hate groups con­firmed the fam­ily were tar­geted be­cause of their re­li­gion.

Ac­cord­ing to a BNVCA state­ment, the at­tack­ers told the vic­tims: “You are Jews, you have money. We take money from Jews to give to the poor.”

Draw­ing a link be­tween the Paris at­tack and the Mar­seille school story, the Euro­pean Jewish Congress (EJC) called for stronger mea­sures to be taken by French author­i­ties on “so­ci­etal an­ti­semitism and its pas­sive ac­cep­tance”.

Moshe Kan­tor, Pres­i­dent of the EJC, said: “Parts of French so­ci­ety are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly an­ti­semitic on the one hand, and this hate to­wards Jews is be­ing ac­cepted and tol­er­ated by other parts.”

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