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Cablegate: Scenesetter for Special Envoy for Combating

VZCZCXYZ0005
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHFR #1799/01 1271703
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 071703Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6973

UNCLAS PARIS 001799

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREF SCUL SMIG SOCI FR
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR SPECIAL ENVOY FOR COMBATING
ANTI-SEMITISM RICKMAN


1. (U) SUMMARY.: Government and NGO sources report an
overall increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2006, with a
much sharper increase in physical attacks on persons. More
recently, March and April witnessed a spate of anti-Semitic
crimes including cemetery profanations and physical attacks.
Public authorities including at the highest levels have
reacted swiftly to address anti-Semitic crimes, making
strenuous efforts to apprehend guilty parties and to support
victims. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) The U.S Embassy in Paris welcomes DRL/Special Envoy
to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism (SEAS) Gregg Rickman and
Deputy Director Lisa Sherman. This cable provides an
overview of France,s Jewish population and of anti-Semitism
in France.

DEMOGRAPHICS

3. (U) There are about 600,000 Jews living in France, just
under one percent of the total population. France has the
third largest Jewish community in the world, behind that of
Israel and the United States. About 375,000 Jews reside in
the Paris metropolitan region. French Jews are mostly of
North African origin and, according to press reports, at
least 60 percent are not highly observant, celebrating at
most the High Holy Days. The large majority of observant
Jews are Orthodox, with a small number of Conservative and
Reform congregations.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

4. (U) By the early 1900s, improved conditions for Jews in
France helped to prompt a wave of Jewish immigration largely
from Eastern Europe. Jews became leading contributors to
French art and culture during this time. France in the 1930s
elected its first Jewish Prime Minister, Leon Blum. During
the WWII occupation of France by Germany, the
collaborationist Vichy Government established the
Commissariat General aux Questions Juives (the General
Commissariat for Jewish Questions), which worked with the
Gestapo to deport 76,000 French Jews to the concentration
camps. In total, a quarter of France's Jewish population of
300,000 was murdered during the Holocaust. Many survivors
resettled in France after the war.

5. (U) In the decades after WWII, many Jews (often already
French citizens) migrated from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia
to metropolitan France. (Arab nationalism in the former
colonies along with tension deriving from the Arab-Israeli
conflict had triggered a resurgence of anti-Semitism in those
countries.) France was a strong supporter of Israel in the
years following Israeli independence, voting for recognition
of Israel at the UN and providing military and technical
support. After the Six-Day War, France adopted its
"politique Arab," a pro-Arab orientation that has endured
until this day. Over the last two years, France has
attempted to improve its relations with Israel without
alienating its Arab friends.

ANTI-SEMITISM: STATISTICS

6. (U) The National Consultative Commission for Human Rights
(CNCDH), in conjunction with the Ministry of the Interior,
reported in March 2007 that 2006 witnessed a slight increase
in anti-Semitic acts ) 541 in 2006, a six percent increase
from the 508 reported events in 2005. (2004 remains the
worst year in the last decade, with 974 reported anti-Semitic
incidents.) A larger proportion of 2006 anti-Semitic acts
were violent ) 134 over against 99 in 2005 (a 35 percent
increase). In a parallel study, the Service for the
Protection of the Jewish Community announced on February 26,
2007 that 2006 witnessed larger increases in reported
anti-Semitic activity in France, with 213 anti-Semitic acts
(up 40 percent from 134 in 2005) and 158 anti-Semitic threats
or insults (up seven percent from 148 in 2005) for a total of
371 episodes (up 24 percent from 2005). These statistics
indicate a net increase in anti-Semitic episodes for the
months following the murder of Ilan Halimi by young thugs in
February and the Israel-Hezbollah War during the summer. The
Representative Council of Jewish Organizations (CRIF) said in
a subsequent communique that "the essential and most worrying
aspect (of the report)" lies in a "45-per cent increase in
physical attacks" on people. Recorded incidents returned to
lower levels during the final months of 2006, a trend that
continued into early 2007.

RECENT NOTEWORTY ANTI-SEMITIC ATTACKS

7. (U) March and April 2007 witnessed a spate of
well-publicized anti-Semitic incidents:
--On March 1 in a radio interview former Prime Minister
Raymond Barre appeared to justify the collaboration of
Vichy-era French government officials with the Nazi

occupiers' deportation of French Jews and defended right-wing
extremist Bruno Gollnisch's right to voice opinions that
falsify the magnitude of Nazi killing of Jews. French
anti-racism NGO, SOS Racism, demanded that legal action be
taken against Barre.
-- On March 20, the Global News Service for the Jewish People
(JTA) reported that more than 7,000 French Jews signed a
petition asking for political asylum in the United States
because of anti-Semitism in France. News of the petition was
met with outrage by most Jewish community spokespersons.
"This petition is bizarre, stupid and out of place," said
CRIF Director Hiam Musicant, in an interview with Israel's
Ma'ariv newspaper. "I don,t feel threatened in France, and
the authorities are doing everything they can to protect the
Jewish community. French Jews don,t need this kind of
petition."
--In late March a Nice-area daily published an article
detailing the continued existence of Vichy-era legal
prohibitions on renting or selling property to Jews.
According to Martine Ouaknine, former Nice-Cote d'Azur CRIF
regional president, it was regrettable that the
discriminatory co-ownership settlements were still found in
older contractual agreements because of the painful memories
they evoked; however, she explained that the measures
themselves became null and void immediately after the war and
have not been applied to discriminate against Jewish property
owners since that time.
--Also in late March, vandals desecrated fifty-one Jewish
Tombs in a Lille cemetery, prompting widespread condemnation
and a large-scale police investigation into what one
government prosecutor called "the largest event of this sort
ever to happen in the region." The vandalism elicited a
solidarity march in the cemetery attended by a thousand
people.
--On April 19, Lille Rabbi Elie Dahan, who presided over a
well-attended commemoration ceremony at the cemetery
following the Jewish tombs' desecration and who had been an
active spokesman for the Jewish community during the
subsequent police investigation, was verbally and physically
assaulted in Paris.
--On April 21, vandals damaged 180 graves, a quarter of which
were Jewish, in the main Le Havre cemetery of Saint-Marie.
-- On April 30, state prosecutors opened an official
investigation for armed robbery and violence by a group for
racist motives after an April 26 attack against a 22-year old
Jewish student in a Marseille metro station parking area.
According to the victim, two men physically assaulted her,
including slashing her tee-shirt with a knife and inscribing
a swastika on her torso before fleeing with her purse and
cell phone. The attack has since received surprisingly
little national media attention in comparison with coverage
of other anti-Semitic crimes.

JEWISH EMIGRATION

8. (U) According to the Director of the Jewish Agency for
Israel (JA), Jewish emigration from France to Israel (the
only emigration for which statistics are readily available),
declined in 2006, down to 2,900 from 3,500 in 2005 but up
somewhat from preceding years (2,483 in 2004 and 2,080 in
2003). This year, for the same period, the JA notes a 10
percent increase in requests. According to press reports,
about 76,000 Jews emigrated from France to Israel between
1948 and mid-2005. According to the JA Director, Jewish
emigrants from France to other countries are far less
numerous, numbering "in the dozens" only. The JA has no
record of how many French Jews may return to France. While
we have no way of measuring emigration of French Jews to the
U.S. and Canada, there has been over the years a small but
steady flow of French Jews to such magnet cities as Los
Angeles, Miami and Montreal. Note: The JA's information
contradicts March 11, 2007 Miami Herald reporting that French
Jews are leaving in the thousands and relocating in South
Florida and other U.S. cities.

THE CHANGING FACE OF ANTI-SEMITISM: JEWISH RESPONSES

9. (SBU) As the reporting bears out, anti-Semitism exists in
France, but other considerations make assessing its true
dimensions difficult. French Jews are part of a society with
an open and extensive media environment in which every
reported act of anti-Semitism receives ample media treatment.
A traditional anti-Semitism of the kind explicitly
represented by Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front Party and
implicitly by Raymond Barre's comments has receded but not
disappeared. A new anti-Israeli form of anti-Semitism, to
which some immigrants of Muslim (black and Arab) background
are particularly susceptible, appears to be the generator of
most anti-Semitic incidents. That said, there is much debate
about the extent to which French Jews, in their daily lives,
experience anti-Semitism. Much appears to depend on the life
situation of each individual, his/her assimilation into the
larger French community, and, most important, socio-economic

factors. For poorer Jews, especially in some low-income,
mixed Muslim-Jewish suburbs (usually outnumbered
significantly by Muslim residents), there is a generalized
sense of vulnerability, to which a perception of
anti-Semitism is a contributing factor. Unsurprisingly, the
fact that there is a readily available alternative * Israel
* means that a certain percentage will decide to join family
and start a new life, or send some family members, or at
least buy property. Others have the same option * or seek
the same option * in the U.S.

10. (SBU) Anti-Semitism is for some a * or even the *
factor contributing to a decision to emigrate. For others,
it is one consideration among many, including the classic
motivation for emigration, particularly to the U.S. * to
improve one's lot and to offer a better future to the next
generation * a rationale that also applies to the 350,000
French men and women who have left for the U.K. French Jews,
particularly those from North Africa who have preserved a
strong Jewish identity and have themselves been in France
only for two generations, may also be psychologically better
able to make the leap of imagining themselves leaving the
country and becoming Israelis or Americans. In short, the
national crisis of self-confidence and malaise that France
has experienced in recent years, along with a sluggish
economy and high unemployment, could also explain at least
part of ongoing emigration of Jews from France.

GOVERNMENT ACTION AGAINST ANTI-SEMITISM

11. (U) Senior government officials up to and including
President Chirac have strongly denounced anti-Semitism. The
annual CRIF dinner guest list reads like a political "Who,s
Who" of France. Last year, the 800 attendees included
Nicolas Sarkozy, Dominique de Villepin, Michele Alliot-Marie,
Philippe Douste-Blazy, Francois Hollande and Dominique
Strauss-Kahn. Throughout his term as Interior Minister,
president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy took an active public role in
denouncing and combating anti-Semitism wherever he
encountered it, including personally overseeing the
dismantlement last year of the web site operated by the
anti-Semitic group, "Tribe K."

12. (U) Following Ilan Halimi,s murder in February 2006,
Prime Minister de Villepin highlighted recent and planned
government efforts to combat anti-Semitism in an address to
CRIF representatives. These efforts included:
--Expedited processing ("comparution immediate") for those
committing anti-Semitic crimes.
--Guaranteed prosecution and more severe punishments for
perpetrators of anti-Semitic crimes, both involving physical
aggression and involving damage to property.
--Provisions introduced in January 2006 empowering the French
Broadcasting Authority (CSA) to refuse to license a channel
carrying anti-Semitic messages (as in the case of al-Manar).
--Better communication between government authorities and
religious communities, including improved cooperation between
the police and volunteers from the Jewish Community
Protection Service.
--Expanded training of the judiciary at the Legal Service
Training College to include better preparation on
anti-Semitism issues.
--A planned Ministry of Education anti-Semitism reference
package for teachers and school heads.
--An updated Ministry of Justice cyber-crime guide that will
include specific instructions for combating anti-Semitic
propaganda.
--The development of video surveillance in areas around the
most sensitive buildings, particularly schools and places of
worship.
--Plans to establish an Internet contact point for reporting
anti-Semitic or racist messages on the Internet.

13. (U) The upshot is that the reality of anti-Semitism in
France is complex and elusive. The variety of perspectives
you will hear during your visit will provide you with the raw
material to refine your own assessments. We look forward to
your visit and the opportunity it provides us to learn more
about anti-Semitism in France.
Please visit Paris' Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm

STAPLETON

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