French Jews no longer feel safe, hide religion, emigrate to Israel
by Joseph Farah, WorldNetDaily
Ten days ago, just before Sabbath service, an anonymous note was delivered to the headquarters of the French Liberal Jewish Movement:  "We want the skin of Rabbi Gabriel Farhi and will avenge the blood of our Palestinian brothers," it said.

Later that day, the synagogue doorbell rang.  Farhi, 34, opened the door.  An attacker in a motorcycle helmet shouted "Allah is great!" in Arabic, plunged a knife into his stomach and fled.

Farhi was released from the hospital the same day.   But then, last Monday, his car was torched in his apartment parking lot.

"I want to believe that this was an isolated act," Farhi said, "and not the prelude to other attacks and a new wave of anti-

Some in France, throughout Europe and in the United States and Canada are asking the same question.

France is home to some 600,000 Jews - the biggest Jewish community in Europe.  Many of them are wondering, too, whether France, an inhospitable place for Jews during World War II after the German invasion, is once again no longer a safe haven.

Jewish teens wearing yarmulkes have been attacked on the street.  Extraordinary safety precautions take place before synagogue services in some cities, including Paris.  And many Jews are already voiting with their feet and leaving France for Israel.

Some 2,326 have left in the last year, 50 percent more than a year before.  French Jews left at the highest rate since 1972.

French politicians, often in denial about the possibility of anti-Semitism re-emerging in their country, have begun to admit the
once unthinkable.

Nicolas Sarkozy, France's tough new law-and-order interior minister, attended an ecumenical service to mark the attack on Farhi.  He guaranteed new measures to prevent future attacks.

"It's clear that the government is listening better now,"  Farhi told the Associated Press.  "I'm willing for concrete measures."

Just last spring, President Jacques Chirac insisted there was no anti-Semitism in France, even as Jewish groups said the number
of anti-Jewish attacks was at its highest since World War II.  Now he, too, has changed his tune.

"There is no room in our country for anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia or for manifestations of religious intolerance."

Chirac wrote in a letter to the rabbi cited by Le Monde newspaper.

Sarkozy has ordered police to classify crimes against Jewish sites as "anti-Semitic," rather than as generic vandalism, The Wiesenthal Center's Samuels said.  That would allow French authorities to keep better track of incidents.

French authorities increase security at Jewish sites last year, following a wave of attacks at synagogues, schools, and cemetaries.  In the most serious case, a synagogue in southern Marseille was burned down.

Most of the attacks since the start of the Palestinian uprising in 2000 are presumed to have been carried out by Muslims of
North African origin, according to an Associated Press report.  While the Jewish community in France is the continent's largest, it is the dwarfed by the Muslim population of 5 million -- second only to Roman Catholicism.

Not all the French Jews believe the government has really turned a corner on recognizing the growing problem.

"In Israel, at least we know the government is on our side," Stephanie Ohana, a 34-year-old Parisian Jew, told the AP. "It's paradoxical, isn't it?  But we have the feeling we'd be safer in Israel."

One 20-year-old emigre identified only as Julie was quoted by Le Monde newspaper last week saying she had decided to
emigrate after being attacked with two friends who were wearing kippas.  "Up to now, we were proud to be French.  Not any more.  Now we are proud to be Jewish," she said.

Relations are tense between France's Jewish and Muslim communities, and many fear a war in Iraq will trigger renewed violence.

"The intifada is brewing in France," said Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Paris.  Intifada is the Arabic word for the anti-Israel uprising that has continued since the fall of 2000.  "The question of an American engagement in Iraq hangs over us like a sword of Damocles,"  he told the AP.

French Jews have suffered numerous acts of vandalism and abuse in recent months, prompting complaints from Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister, and from American Jews.  A week ago the transmitter of Radio Juive de Marseille, a Jewish radio station
in the south of France, was sabotaged.

The Israeli government links the immigration surge primarily to the rise in attacks, said the Arik Puder, spokesman for Israel's immigration ministry.

Last month, tensions worsened when the governing body of an elite univeristy, the Pierre and Marie Curie campus of the University of Paris, asked the European Union to suspend ties with Israel.  It argued that supporting educational exchange programs was implicitly supporting Israeli policy.

The move provoked strong citicism.  Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe called it a "shocking act and a tragic error."  At a protest Monday, writers, philosophers and politicians joined Jewish leaders and hundreds of others to condemn the decision.

Speakers recalled France's Vichy regime in World War II, which collaborated with the Germans in deporting 75,000 Jews to concentration camps.

The university has since backed down from the campaign.

Meanwhile, some Jews are hiding their identity in public.

"My son goes to a Jewish school," said Francis Lentschner, vice president of the liberal Jewish movement, the French equivalent
of the Reform movement in the United States.  "He can wear his yarmulke in school.  But I prefer him not to wear one outside."

Ohana wears a Hebrew letter on a gold chain around her neck.  Lately, she said, she keeps it tucked inside her collar.

"It hurts.  It really does," she said, "We're starting to hide that we're Jewish."

Meanwhile, a new book released in Europe, "Verdict on Vichy," by Michael Curtis Weidenfeld and Nicolson Pounds, finds the French puppet government during World War II actively discriminated against Jews, dispossessed many of property and
deported them to concentration camps.  It was a matter of complicity, the authors argue, not just collaboration.

In December, Simcha Epstein, director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said a permanent base of hostility towards Jews now exists in France, creating a foundation for more intense waves of anti-Semitism in the future.

Speaking at a symposium on "Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in Western Europe since 2000," Epstein said the current wave
of anti-Semitism in France is the fourth since 1945, and that each wave was of increasing intensity.  The previous occurrences
were in 1959-1960, the late '70s to the early '80s, and the late '80s to the early '90s.

"We have stats for all these waves, and we can compare this last one with the other ones," he siad.  "The waves are of growing intensity.  There were more anti-Jewish incidents, including burning of synagogues, in the 1970s than in '59-60, more incidents at the end of '80s beginning of '90s, and the latest wave is stronger than all the rest of the waves."

Epstein said the difference between this wave and other waves is the perpetrators - with around 80 percent of the current perpetrators being of Arab/Islamic origin.

The social and population base of hostility to Jews can be counted among three groups, he said.  In the last presidential election, the extreme right received 20 percent of the vote, of which 52 percent have anti-Jewish feelings, which translates to 10 percent
of the population.

* Add 10 percent of the extreme left, and 10 percent of Muslims, Arabs and Third World population, and you have 30 percent of the population representing a permenent zone of hatred, of hostility, which will remain even if the wave will go down, in
particular in the younger generation."

Joseph Farah is editor and chief executive officer of
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