French President Hollande addresses the Israeli parliament on November 18, 2013. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
French President Hollande

“Jews are at home in France, it’s the anti-Semites who have no place in the Republic.” – President Hollande

On Monday evening, addressing the annual dinner of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France (CRIF), an umbrella organization of French Jewry, French President Francois Hollande said that there was no place in his country for anti-Semites.

“Jews are at home in France, it’s the anti-Semites who have no place in the Republic,” Hollande said.

France has seen a spike in anti-Semitic violence, culminating with the killing of four men at a kosher supermarket in Paris in January. In 2014, 851 anti-Semitic incidents were registered as compared to 423 the previous year, over one-quarter of which involved physical violence. Hundreds of Jewish graves have also been vandalized in recent weeks in the north and east of the country.

Hollande indicated that his government would unveil a new plan next month to target anti-Semitism and racism. The plan would stiffen the penalties for hate crimes and include hate speech under criminal law rather than press law. The president also promised that the 10,000 police and soldiers protecting the institutions of religious minorities would remain mobilized as long as necessary.

France has the largest Jewish population of any country in Europe at about 500,000. However, 7,000 made the decision to emigrate to Israel last year, prompted primarily by anti-Semitism. Interest in aliyah has been rising across Europe, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has encouraged European Jews to consider Israel their home, to the ire of several European leaders.

The CRIF dinner was boycotted by the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) following a statement by CRIF President Roger Cukierman noting the role of radical Islam in anti-Semitic acts.

“All violence, and we must say this, all violent acts today are committed by young Muslims. Of course that’s a small minority of the Muslim community and the Muslims are the first victims,” Cukierman told Europe 1 television. He also backed Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ use of the term “Islamo-fascism.”

By Lauren Calin, United with Israel