Cablegate: Interior Minister Villepin Discusses Anti-Semitism

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

141424Z Dec 04


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E.O. 12958: N/A

Sensitive but unclassified. Protect accordingly.

1. (U) Summary: Throughout his meeting with United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum officials on November 19, Interior
Minister Villepin underlined the GOF determination to fight
anti-Semitism in every way possible. Villepin decried the
rise in the number of anti-Semitic acts in France, commented
on the recently released Rufin report on anti-Semitism,
reviewed judicial action against perpetrators of anti-Semitic
acts, and outlined measures he will propose to further combat
anti-Semitism. The Interior Minister also highlighted the
growing concern about the rise in anti-Semitism across
Europe. End Summary.

2. (U) On November 19, French Interior Minister Dominique de
Villepin met with visiting U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
director Sara Bloomfield and museum officials Paul Shapiro
and Radu Ioanid. Villepin began the meeting by noting that
there had been 166 violent anti-Semitic acts committed during
the first ten months of the year. While 10 or 11 of those
could be attributed to elements of the extreme right, and
approximately 50 more were committed by individuals of
Maghreb or Arab origin, the perpetrators and motives are
unclear for more than 100 of these incidents. Villepin
posited that many of these incidents are likely the work of
individuals copying crimes who may be confused about their
own motive for attacking Jews and Jewish sites. Villepin
noted that, while there had been almost identical numbers of
Jewish and Muslim cemeteries desecrated in recent months,
there had been many more Christian churches attacked.
However, many Church authorities do not report or draw
attention to such attacks to avoid copycats.

3. (U) In response to a question on the effect of foreign
events on the rise in anti-Semitic acts in France, Villepin
acknowledged that the rate of incidents increased
dramatically after the beginning of the second Intifada in
September/October 2000. However, Villepin stated, the plight
of the Palestinians is not the main cause of anti-Semitism in
France; most North African and Arab youths in France have
little understanding of the situation in the region. Rather,
he continued, anti-Semitism is a result of feelings of
rejection and the lack of identity of some groups on the
fringes of society. Villepin's analysis tracks with the
conclusions of the recently released report on anti-Semitism
in France by noted humanitarian Jean-Cristophe Rufin that
Villepin had requested in June. Villepin also cited the
Rufin report in making the link between the extreme left and
anti-Semitism, noting that strong anti-Zionist sentiment can
veer into anti-Semitism.

4. (U) Villepin insisted that the GOF is committed to
combating anti-Semitism in every way possible. The GOF
reacts quickly, strongly, and publicly after anti-Semitic
incidents. Additionally, the GOF has launched education
initiatives, brought together religious groups for
inter-faith dialogue, and created an inter-ministerial
committee that serves as a model for other EU countries. On
the judicial front, Villepin stated that punishments for
anti-Semitic acts have been increased, although these
toughened punishments must be applied to be effective.
Villepin also added that judges are increasingly giving
harsher sentences. Currently, the Interior Ministry is
working closely with the Justice Ministry on a special
program to combat cyber-crime, and the GOF plans to monitor
the internet for hate sites.

5. (U) Villepin then turned to the problem of foreign
funding of French Muslim organizations. He noted that
donating money is an important part of Islam, and, in many
parts of the world, it is the fundamentalist groups that
provide social services to the needy. Villepin stressed the
need to find a different and open financing structure to make
sure social work in France is not coming from radical groups,
citing efforts to create a system for receiving and
collecting money from foreign governments and citizens that
would help negate direct funding and, therefore, influence
from abroad. Such a foundation would also allow the money to
be directed to organizations known to be free of radical
ties. Villepin also pointed out that French intelligence
closely monitors the speeches of imams to ensure that they
are not spreading violent sermons, and he spoke of the need
to educate imams in the French language, institutions, and
culture. (Note. This meeting took place as Villepin was
unveiling the GOF's plan to facilitate the funding of mosques
through the establishment of a foundation, details of which

will be reported septel. End note.)

--------------------------------------------- -------
6. (SBU) Perhaps most insightful were Villepin's closing
comments concerning the law banning religious symbols in
schools, which he said has been "unfairly" referred to in the
media as the "veil law." He noted that he had met with three
Muslim groups before the beginning of the school year,
telling them he would not tolerate opposition to the law and
warning that he would vigorously combat any group that
encouraged girls to wear headscarves or offered lawyers to
fight the law. "You must understand that first and foremost
these groups want to be legitimate. That is why we must say
'no.' If you give them this much (indicating the first
knuckle on his index finger), they will demand this much
(indicating second knuckle). That is why you must be
forceful and say 'no.' Keep them here (pointing to end of
finger). We must stick strictly to the rules of the
Republic. If we don't go by the book, we will be swallowed
up. If we are not strict about what they can and can't do,
they will impose their own rules."


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