Skip to main content

Fight against anti-Semitism/United Nations General Assembly/special meeting on the rise in anti-Semitic violence worldwide

Published on January 27, 2015
Speech by M. Harlem Désir, Minister of State for European Affairs

New York, January 22, 2015

Mr President,



Cher Bernard Henri-Levy,


In a few days, we will mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and in a few months the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazism. We will recall the shock and revulsion elicited by the discovery of the extermination camps by Allied troops, who were stunned by the horror.

Seventy years after the Holocaust, we would like to be able to say that anti-Semitism has been eradicated, that it has been banished from our societies for good. And yet it’s still there, with its panoply of prejudices, hatred and violence. Sometimes it’s a resurgent form of the old anti-Semitism, which goes back centuries, but now it also assumes new forms, spreading freely on the Internet and social networks, sometimes under cover of anonymity and sometimes not, sometimes taking as a pretext the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or drawing support from abusive forms of Islamic fanaticism, old or new. It always advocates the hatred of Jews, all Jews, particularly among young people who have no points of reference and are unfamiliar with history.


It always goes hand in hand with violence and death. And it has struck once again in France.

After murdering the journalists and illustrators of Charlie Hebdo on 7 January in Paris because they were free, after murdering police officers on 7 and 8 January because they were protecting them and protecting our freedom, on the third day of the assault, 9 January, a terrorist attacked a kosher shop because he wanted to kill Jews. Their names were Philippe Braham, Yohan Cohen, Yoav Hattab and François-Michel Saada. They were killed because they were Jewish.

We will not forget them. That is why we are mentioning their names along with those of the other victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris on 7 and 8 January: Frédéric Boisseau; Franck Brinsolaro; Jean Cabut, known as Cabu; Elsa Cayat; Stéphane Charbonnier, known as Charb; Philippe Honoré; Clarissa Jean-Philippe; Bernard Maris; Ahmed Merabet; Mustapha Ourrad; Michel Renaud; Bernard Verlhac, known as Tignous; and Georges Wolinski. These crimes came in the wake of others: the despicable murder of Ilam Halimi in 2006, the attack on the Ozar Hattorah school in Toulouse on 19 March 2012 – we still remember the faces and names of Jonathan, Gabriel and Aryeh Sandler, and Myriam Monsenego – and the attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels on 24 May 2014.


It is our responsibility, in the face of this resurgent evil, to denounce it, to call it with the utmost clarity by its name, but most important, to act with the utmost firmness wherever anti-Semitism rears its head in the world.

Whenever someone attacks Jews because of what they are, he is attacking all of us, the community of nations and the very principles for which the United Nations stands. As Franz Kafka said, “Whosoever strikes a Jew knocks all of humanity to the ground. ”

And I say here at the United Nations that whoever attacks Jews in France because they are Jewish attacks France, its values, the Republic, its integrity. As Prime Minister Manuel Valls told the National Assembly, “Without the Jews of France, France would no longer be France.” I say the same today of Europe, in the presence of my counterpart and friend, Michael Roth, minister of the Federal Republic of Germany: Without the Jews of Europe, Europe would no longer be Europe.

Our responsibility today is for each country and the entire international community to mobilize their efforts.

On 11 January, leaders from around the world answered President Hollande’s call, rallying in the streets of Paris with the people of France to stand united against hatred and barbarity, to combat fanaticism and jihadism, to defend freedom and brotherhood, and to reject any conflation with Islam. We are not at war with any religion; we are at war with terrorism. And today I want to thank each of your nations for the solidarity they have expressed.


To fight anti-Semitism is to fight hatred, ignorance and impunity, using the strength of the law and the penalties it provides whenever necessary. France has decided to strengthen its legal arsenal and sanctions to punish the perpetrators of anti-Semitic speech and acts.
We have honed our statistical tools on anti-Semitic attacks and stepped up our vigilance regarding what’s being said on the Internet.
But we must do more. Three initiatives will therefore be adopted in the short term: the aggravating circumstances of racism and anti-Semitism will be extended to all crimes and misdemeanors punishable by the Criminal Code; racist or anti-Semitic insults or slander will not be covered by press law, as they are not an opinion but rather an incitement to hatred and violence; racist and anti-Semitic messages or websites may be blocked. Furthermore, 10,000 soldiers have been mobilized to protect sensitive locations, particularly Jewish schools, synagogues and mosques. But our response must not be limited to law enforcement. We are also facing an enormous educational challenge with regard to our young people.

That is why a national action plan on racism and anti-Semitism that creates educational and awareness programmes for all students was launched to prevent the formation of stereotypes and prejudices and to establish the values of tolerance and respect for the Other. A major effort on Holocaust remembrance is under way to combat revisionism, and new remembrance sites were inaugurated by the President and Prime Minister in 2012: the Shoah Memorial in Drancy and the Camp des Milles in Aix-en-Provence.

The President has decided to make the fight against racism and anti-Semitism a major national priority.


I would like to conclude by welcoming the presence by my side today of my German counterpart and friend, Michael Roth. On this day, 22 January, which is also Franco-German Friendship Day, our joint presence sends a strong message: that Europe, once the grim theatre of death of Auschwitz, Treblinka and Majdanek, will stand on the front lines and wage a merciless battle against anti-Semitism. Our two countries stand before you today, determined and united to defend the values of tolerance, peace and democracy that lie at the heart of the European project and are the very cornerstone of the United Nations.


Ladies and gentlemen, on 9 January, at the kosher shop at Porte de Vincennes, a man risked his life to help police save the hostages. This man was from Mali. Questioned by journalists, who were surprised that a Muslim was working at a kosher shop, Lassana Bathily evoked a common humanity to explain what he had done. I quote: “We are brothers, it’s not a question of Jews, Christian or Muslims, we are all in the same boat. We all have to help one another to get out of this crisis.” He is now our compatriot, an example to all of the courage of the righteous, and an example of brotherhood in this fight, which is the battle to promote the universal values of the United Nations.

Thank you./.