Tags: MidPoint | France | Jews | Muslims | under siege

Human Rights Advocate: French Jews Under Siege Before Paris Attacks

By    |   Thursday, 15 January 2015 06:17 PM

The attacks across Paris last week that left 17 people dead, including four at a suburban Jewish grocery, are just the latest and bloodiest instances of violence in France that is tinged with anti-Semitism, and is often carried out by members of the country's Muslim minority, a former human rights ambassador to the French government told Newsmax TV on Thursday.

"The reality is that the Jews have been, in France, in a very difficult situation for the past 15 years, when anti-Semitic acts happened first to increase, and it's true that every year ever since it's sort of [gone] from bad to worse," Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, Paris director of the American Jewish Committee, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.

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Besides the siege that began last Wednesday at a French newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, and spilled over to the Kosher supermarket on Friday, anti-Semitic violence there has taken many forms, said Rodan-Benzaquen.

"We had also the 2012 attacks against the Jewish school in the southern city of Toulouse," she said, "or even sort of everyday anti-Semitic acts that are committed against the Jewish community: hitting people, insults, threats, which also, unfortunately, mainly come from the Muslim community."

The bloodshed in Paris served as a "wake-up" call for the French people, not just to the threat of Islamist terrorism generally but to the plight of France's estimated 475,000 Jews, said Rodan-Benzaquen.

While the country's political class had been criticizing anti-Semitism in France for years, "the rest of the general public seemed asleep and not really sort of aware of what was exactly going on," she said.

That changed last week "probably because this attack was not only against the Jewish community, but against this newspaper, against freedom of expression," she said.

"The question now remains, was it [for] only a day, where on Sunday more than 3.7 million people went on the streets," said Rodan-Benzequen, referring to the massive peace march joined by heads of state and world leaders.

"Or will it be a midterm and long term wake-up call, which would allow to translate it to concrete policy action?" she said.

Rodan-Benzequen parted company with other Jewish advocates in Europe on whether to start carrying guns for self-protection.

She said that arming civilians "would create total chaos," and that protecting the citizenry is the responsibility of French police and security forces, who she credited with properly stepping up manpower and patrols in the wake of last week's violence.

She added that French Jews themselves work with a civic organization, the Jewish Community Protection Service, that instructs people on how to guard against violence and secure spaces such as schools and synagogues if they come under attack.

But France, she said, lags behind the United States and the United Kingdom in methodically working with Muslim community leaders to identify potential radicals a gap she attributed in part to French political culture.

"The thing is, in France we only see French people as a whole," she said. "We don't recognize 'communities,' meaning that the government cannot intervene and cannot speak to communities."

It will have to, she said, before France can develop a workable "counter-radicalization" program that reaches out to people adrift in segregated low-income Muslim suburbs or in French prisons where inmates become targets for jihadist recruiters.

While France is home to an estimated 6 million Muslims, Rodan-Benzaquen disputed the claim that any occupy no-go zones which police have abandoned to the control of local imams.

The police patrol France's majority-Muslim enclaves, she said, but she agreed that in other respects educational, civic, cultural and socioeconomic "these kinds of places have indeed sort of been left to themselves."

"It's not only for the past two years of this government, or the previous government, it's really for the past 20 years," she said, that the project of integrating [Muslim]
communities, even those populated with French-born Muslims "has failed."

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The attacks across Paris last week that left 17 people dead are just the latest violence in France that is tinged with anti-Semitism, and is often carried out by members of the country's Muslim minority, a former human rights ambassador to the French government said.
France, Jews, Muslims, under siege
Thursday, 15 January 2015 06:17 PM
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