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Fight against anti-Semitism

Published on December 9, 2014
Article by M. Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior, published in the daily newspaper Le Figaro (excerpts)
Paris, December 9, 2014

Anti-Semitism, an attack on the Republic

“Great crimes are always preceded by lesser ones…” On 21 June 1933, Gaston Monnerville, then a deputy in [French] Guiana, quoted this verse from Phèdre to denounce the acts of anti-Semitic violence committed in Germany by the Nazis, who had just come to power. They triggered immediate solidarity in him – the solidarity of the “distant or close sons of the Africa that has been so unfortunate over the centuries”, but also, at the deepest level, that of man faced with man. (…)

Given the rise in anti-Semitic acts, which have more than doubled in our country since the beginning of the year, each French person can today declare, as Gaston Monnerville did: “The tragedy afflicting our Jewish brothers does not echo in their hearts alone.”

In the face of the growing dissemination of anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, racist and discriminatory language, which is spreading on the Internet and social networks, each French person can today consider the advice once given to Frantz Fanon by his philosophy teacher: “When you hear ill spoken of the Jews, prick up your ears: they’re talking about you…”. (…)

Anti-Semitism is an attack not only on the Jews of France but also on the Republic. “The safety of France’s Jews is not just a matter for Jews,” the President has recalled, “it is a matter for all French people.”

Likewise, racism is not only an endeavour of hatred and scorn against a group of individuals by reason of their origins, but a negation of the principles set out in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the foundation of our legal system and of our social pact. It must therefore be fought against tirelessly.

This is why, as Interior Minister, I have not resigned myself to people shouting “Death to the Jews” in certain demonstrations, or to synagogues being attacked, or shops attacked because they were owned by Jews. Sadly, subsequent events have proven my fears to be well-founded.

This is why I have given the prefects [high-ranking civil servants who represent the state at departmental or regional level] instructions to notify state prosecutors of all racist and anti-Semitic deeds and words, so that none of them will go unpunished: neither small, toxic phrases nor large, murderous gestures. Thus, cowards’ attacks on women wearing headscarves can no more be tolerated than on Jews wearing kippas.
This is why the security forces are stepping up their surveillance of places of worship, cultural institutions and faith schools, which are potential targets for acts of hatred. The desecration of churches, temples, mosques and synagogues cannot be tolerated.

Hence the initiative taken in Europe of a dialogue with Internet multinationals – Google, Facebook and Twitter – to ensure that social networks are not lawless areas where everyone thinks they are free to incite hatred of others in complete impunity and spread the wildest rumours in order to heap opprobrium on this or that community. This is why I believe in the need to mobilize every government department in order to raise their awareness about fighting racism, anti-Semitism and [other] forms of discrimination: prefectural staff, police and gendarmes, firemen, teachers, youth workers, social workers, hospital staff, judges and prison personnel.

Bringing the Interministerial Delegation to Fight Racism and Anti-Semitism under the Prime Minister’s responsibility is a first step in this direction.
We must make this fight a national cause and devote the necessary resources to it. This is certainly not 1933. Fortunately racist and anti-Semitic prejudices no longer heavily influence more than a minority fringe of the French general public, as shown by all the surveys. The ideologies of hatred and contempt remain, in overt form, only on the fringes of the political arena. The Republic knows its enemies and is able to fight them, just as it makes sure to protect all its children.

Yet there is nevertheless a desire for us to show greater solidarity, for our collective capacity for outrage to be more immediate in confronting the brutal attacks to which everyone, on the grounds of their race, religion, origin and appearance, can still be subjected.

Let us ensure that the crimes which fill us with horror today and which we are able to fight do not foreshadow the “great crimes” of tomorrow, like the tragic revival of a deadly history./.

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