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Fight against racism and anti-Semitism

Published on February 20, 2015
Reply by M. Manuel Valls, Prime Minister, to a question in the National Assembly (excerpts)

Paris, February 17, 2015


In Copenhagen on Saturday there was an attempt to strike at the same symbols as those struck at in Paris a few weeks ago: freedom of expression, freedom to create, the police – whose mission is to protect – and Jews, because they are Jews. The same symbols.

Denmark, like other European Union countries, has been working very closely with France for the past two and a half years, as the Interior Minister knows, because, like us, like other countries – and not only in Europe – it’s confronted with these jihadist networks and with a sector of young people who no longer know what their role is but who carry out the worst. Yes, we must fight with the utmost determination against terrorism, jihadism and radical Islamism, which have decided to wage war on us.

This war, as you’ve told us in strong terms, Minister, doesn’t concern Europe alone. I want to express here – like all of you, I imagine – my horror, my outrage in the face of the crimes perpetrated by Daesh [ISIL] against Coptic Christians in Libya, to whom we in this Assembly must also pay tribute.

Anti-Semitism, hatred of Jews, hatred of Israel and anti-Zionism are often drivers of that terrorism, but also of anti-Semitism in our country, be it old or new: the old anti-Semitism of the extreme Right or that which unfortunately can be found again in our deprived areas.

We all face a huge task – in schools, in society – to, as the Interior Minister pointed out, galvanize society. This morning the President, too, found the appropriate words to describe the desecration of the Jewish cemetery of Sarre-Union, the desecration of that centuries-old place of Jewish heritage. The Jewish community has deep roots in Alsace. It was there, in Mulhouse, that Captain Alfred Dreyfus was born, and his defence was no doubt one of the founding acts of the Republic.

We must tolerate nothing. We’ve tolerated too many deeds and words. No words are excusable. I said this yesterday: I have no personal axe to grind, but I ask our compatriots, through you, members of parliament, whose vigilance I’m aware of, to tolerate no more words, be they those of a kid who has just desecrated a Jewish cemetery or those of a former political leader. Do people fully realize the potential effect in our society, on weak minds, of the words of a former minister, a former president of the Constitutional Council, himself a resistance fighter, ultimately repeating that old anti-Semitic refrain according to which the Jews are responsible?

I say here, strongly and resolutely, to our Jewish compatriots that we are here to protect them, that they must be aware we support them, that they are a invaluable part of France. I also say to all our compatriots that we’re absolutely determined to combat anti-Semitism, that evil which gnaws away at our society and which demands the greatest determination. That determination, as the Minister has pointed out, firstly requires us to rally around the values of the Republic – beginning with laïcité [secularism] (1) –, to rally around what we are, our French identity, our pride in being French. This is perhaps the best way of combating that hatred and that anti-Semitism./.

(1) laïcité goes beyond the concept of secularism, embracing the strict neutrality of the state.