CRIF's President Roger Cukierman stressed the constant quality of his exchanges with the top level political authorities and the leaders of the civil society. CRIF will take an active part in the upcoming meeting of the OSCE in Cordoba (Spain) on anti-Semitism, added Roger Cukierman.
The General Assembly elected a third of the CRIF's Steering Committee. Jean-Pierre Allali, Yonathan Arfi, Nathalie Cohen-Beizerman, Edwige Elkaïm, Andrée Farhi, David Fuchs, Bernard Gahnassia, Mireille Hadas-Lebel, Gérard Israël and Emmanuel Weintraub were elected or re-elected.
In his annual policy report, Haim Musicant said:
"Official statistics released by the Ministry of the Interior show a major increase in anti-Semitic acts and threats in 2004: 950 versus 588 in 2003.
At this time, opinion polls published in France and Israel on how people in both countries perceived each other have revealed that 68% of the French regard Israelis as aggressive while 62% believed that Israel did not genuinely seek peace. 85% of respondents in Israel believed France was pro Palestinian.
It is worth recalling the context we were in just under a year ago. Firstly because memories fade quickly and because people do not want to remember negative things but also because we must oppose those who sometimes accuse us of going too far and exaggerating, those same people who revisit current events and recent history as if nothing happened, as if we had lived through a nightmare.
The present review must take into account the two major concerns and one anniversary.
The major issues are anti-Semitism and the Israeli-Arab conflict which cannot be summed up as an Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is too restrictive, and an anniversary, the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the camps and the end of the Second World War.
The situation regarding anti-Semitism has unquestionably improved, at least on the surface. The spectacle of the burning of Jewish schools and the defiling of synagogues has subsided. The figures published by the Ministry of the Interior reveal a decrease in anti-Semitism: 279 anti-Semitic acts and threats were recorded in the first quarter of 2004 versus 173 over the same period in 2005. (...) Many Jewish cemeteries and monuments were desecrated in 2004, a total of 13, mostly in Alsace. The figures published in March 2005, as contained in the Report compiled by the Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l'Homme (National Advisory Council on Human Rights) and handed to the Prime Minister, give cause for concern.
Our research points to a shift from anti-Semitism linked to a given economic context to structural anti-Semitism and we have noted that the rise in attacks is not longer related to the situation in the Middle East, to cycles of terrorism followed by reprisal action. These are now unrelated and anti-Semites no longer import the conflict from the Middle East.
Since 2002, the French government has clearly manifested its political will to combat anti-Semitism. We support and embrace this initiative and welcome the fact that politicians and much of civil society have rallied in this same direction.
However, at the same time, in the last five years people in offices, in the metro and in cafes have openly made anti-Semitic remarks. No figures can record these remarks. They are made unreservedly by intellectuals and artists.
I may be the only person in this audience who recently attended a performance of Dieudonné (a famous French stand-up comedian, see our previous newsletters). A few of us were in an auditorium of 5,000 people who clearly lived in the suburbs but there were also people there who could be your next door neighbors. For over two hours in front of an enthusiastic crowd shouting "Bravo" or "Palestine! Palestine !" Dieudonné waged undisguised attacks against the Jews as a people, a religion, as individuals, against the CRIF, against Jewish writers and singers and many others. This occurred in France, a few miles from the Bastille.
Openly anti-Semitic remarks are especially prevalent in state-run schools and are particularly disquieting. French schools and colleges have long been the stage for racism and anti-Semitism, despite the efforts of the Education Minister.
The second major issue we are involved in is of course Israel. We have not forgotten that because of Yasser Arafat 1,058 Israelis and 3,695 Palestinians have died since September 2000. (…)
Relations between France and Israel have unquestionably improved and we immodestly believe that we have played a small part in this. (French Prime Minister) Jean-Pierre Raffarin announced at the CRIF diner that he would visit Israel: his trip there on March 15th and 16th 2005 was very successful. Visits by ministerial officials from both countries have resumed: Nicolas Sarkozy was in Israel on 15 December 2004 and (Socialist leader) François Hollande is expected to visit soon. Israel's Ambassador Nissim Zvili ends his term of office in October and has announced that Ariel Sharon plans to come to Paris before this date. The situation is better but we have not erased the deep-rooted prejudices and stereotypes in a single year, nor have we brushed aside, with a wave of a magic wand, the anti-Semitism which some people wear as an anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli camouflage. (…)
We have a responsibility to keep our eyes open, to remain lucid at watchful at all time. We must stick to our strategy more than ever before. Roger Cukierman made this point on Sunday 16 May 2004, at the Paris rally against anti-Semitism: «We are the children of the Republic; we are all citizens who enjoy equal rights and duties. The anti-Semitism which rises out of the sewers of history threatens the underlying values of French society. To attach Jews is to attack France». (…)
Our number one priority is to combat anti-Semitism in all its forms, whatever its origin.
In recent years, the anti-Semites have been used new media to disseminate hatred: television and the Internet.
The CRIF was behind the ban on the Al Manar TV channel in France. (…)
Following the decision of the CSA to ban Al-Manar broadcasts in France, Roger Cukierman, submitted a project to Mrs Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the Information Society and the Media, to set up an audiovisual regulatory body across the European Union. This body would protect EU member states from terrorist, racist or anti-Semitic propaganda. Mrs Reding informed Roger Cukierman that this proposal would be reviewed at the next meeting of member state representatives under the EU’s «Television Without Borders» directive. The CRIF also informed the CSA of anti-Semitic violations on Radio Méditerrannée.
The CRIF has alerted the public authorities of the spread of Islamist, neo-Nazi and extremist site on the Internet. CRIF's Marc Knobel has attended meetings on the subject at the Justice Ministry. He also maintains contacts with the Ministry of the Interior on this topic and has participated in a study conducted by the Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l'Homme (National Advisory Council on Human Rights). The CRIF particularly welcomes the fact that the Minister of the Interior Dominique de Villepin announced in April 2005 a series of measures to combat cyber crime. The minister has decided to double the number of police officers and gendarmes, to be increased from "300 to 600 between now and 2008" with clear instructions to monitor "illegal material transmitted via the Internet", in particularly material related to terrorism, racism and anti-Semitism.
The Internet and television have today made anti-Semitism borderless. The CRIF therefore regularly participates in the work of the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This organization includes 55 countries, plus Israel and five Islamic countries. Since the General Assembly meeting in May 2004, the CRIF has attended several OSCE seminars on anti-Semitism in Paris, Brussels and Warsaw.
On 16 and 17 June Paris hosted a conference devoted to «the link between racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic propaganda on the Internet and crimes fuelled by hatred».
As a member of the French delegation, CRIF's President Roger Cukierman gave a talk on racist and anti-Semitic propaganda on the web. The CRIF and the CEJI also organized a workshop on anti-Semitism spread by a number of Arab TV stations, such as the broadcasting of anti-Semitic images by Al Manar.
Another seminar on anti-Semitism was held on 13 and 14 September 2004 in Brussels.
CRIF president Roger Cukierman and I were part of the official delegation that represented France at this seminar. In a workshop held in tandem with the Ministries of the Interior and Justice, I described joint projects between the public authorities and the CRIF in combating anti-Semitism.
At a plenary meeting in Warsaw in October, I delivered a speech on how the CRIF is cooperating with the public authorities to combat anti-Semitism. The CRIF also played an integral part in a workshop on educating people about the Holocaust in multi-cultural contexts. This workshop was co-organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the American Department of State. CRIF's Elisabeth Cohen-Tannoudji, Project Manager, reviewed the difficulties that may arise in this area and the correlation between teaching tolerance and the events of the Holocaust. Elisabeth Cohen-Tannoudji was interviewed on anti-Semitism in France by the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), which has recommended a general policy to combat anti-Semitism in June.
The CRIF has contributed to government reports on anti-Semitism: one by Jean-Christophe Ruffin requested by Minister of Interior Dominique de Villepin and another by Jean-Philippe Moinet, requested by Minister of Social Cohesion Jean-Louis Borloo. The conclusions of these reports should not be forgotten at the back of a drawer.
The CRIF has established working relations with the Ministry of National Education to co-ordinate campaigns against anti-Semitism in schools. (…)
The CRIF has also given its views on the contents of school books that it regards as unacceptable as well as on a manual on religion for teachers. These publications have been withdrawn from circulation. Recently, Publisher Gallimard assured us that it would delete contentious passages from Philippe Wilkinson’s book «Histoire du monde» (History of the World) aimed at young people.
Finally, the CRIF has positively contributed to changing practices in education by promoting teaching programs or materials among its partners as well as supporting initiatives launched by its member associations such as the «L'enfant et la Shoah» (Child and Holocaust) teaching kit developed by Yad Layeled.
A working group was formed between the Justice Ministry and the CRIF. Its aim is to monitor legal proceedings brought following anti-Semitic acts and threats with special focus on public prosecutors. (…)
In 2004, we observed encouraging results. The percentage of court actions that led to prosecution was 92% of all complaints filed, far higher than in other court actions. 8% of cases handled by the courts were either closed either owing to the mental condition of the plaintiffs or because the complaints were withdrawn.
The Ecole Nationale de la Magistrature (National Magistrates College) has confirmed to us that CRIF's Marc Knobel will lecture students and magistrates on anti-Semitism as part of the Colleges vocational training program. (…)
The CRIF permanently interfaces with the Interior Minister on listing anti-Semitic acts and on protecting Jewish buildings. (…) Regular meetings are held between CRIF officials and the Ministry of the Interior.
The CRIF has condemned the desecration of Jewish cemeteries as well as the desecration of cemeteries belonging to other religions. The CRIF has also condemned the Holocaust denying views of Jean-Marie Le Pen and Bruno Gollnish on the existence of the gas chambers and the German occupation in France. On Thursday 3rd March 2005, the general delegate of the National Front was suspended from his duties for a period of five years by the University of Lyon III. This sanction occurred after four turbulent months of procedures. This is an important milestone since for the first time in the history of French universities a professor suspected of Holocaust denying remarks was severely sanctioned.
The CRIF has constantly supported the Israeli people and government in their search for peace. It asked the president of the Republic to elucidate the causes of the Yasser Arafat’s death and expressed surprise at the official tributes paid to him on his death.
The CRIF lent its support to the rally organized on 17 April 2005 «Israel Je t'aime» by the ASI, the AUJF and the Jewish Agency. 20,000 participants turned up to express their solidarity with Israel, including Cabinet Minister Nicole Guedj. (…) The Israeli government was represented by Shimon Peres and Shaul Mofaz. Roger Cukierman reasserted the hope that «Israelis and Palestinians can at last experience Peace, genuine peace, even at the cost of sometimes painful compromise». (…)
From 7 to 11 November over 350 people made the traditional solidarity trip to Israel organized by the CRIF, the French Jewish Appeal and the Fonds Social. The CRIF greeted the decision unanimously taken by the City of Paris to name a main road in Paris after the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl. (…)
I stood beside the Prime Minister at a ceremony in homage of the children of Izieu on 24th January 2005. During the ceremony, the Prime Minister mentioned the importance of education in combating racism and anti-Semitism. On 25th January, accompanied by Roger Cukierman and many of you, Jacques Chirac came to inaugurate the Holocaust Memorial in Paris. On this occasion, the President of the Republic underscored the links between Jews and Israel. (…)
The CRIF officially congratulated «The Sons and Daughters of French Jewish Deportees», which organized most of the special events staged between 27 March 2002 and 18 August 2004 marking the sixtieth anniversary of the deportation of French Jews: in particular by organizing a ceremony for each convoy of Jews at the location from where the convoy departed. The names of all deportees in the convoys were read out and the French daily Le Monde featured a description of what happened to the convoys. (…)
Our activities over the last twelve months have centered on anti-Semitism, Israel and Remembrance of the Holocaust. But let us not overlook all our other daily activities, major and minor, high and low profile, and the thankless tasks that no one will talk about.
On 12 February 2005 we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the CRIF dinner, an idea conceived by CRIF's then President Theo Klein. This has become a key event not only for the Jewish community but for the entire nation. Invited guests include the Prime Minister, many members of government, heads of political parties, ambassadors, including those from several Arabic countries, and representatives of civil society. At the end of the evening, Judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, committed to fighting terrorism, was awarded the CRIF prize and we handed out to all participants Alan Dershowitz's book "The Right of Israel".
Each year, the number of guests attending the CRIF dinner increases as the dialogue with civil society grows. Over the last year, we have stepped up our action towards trade union confederations: the CFDT, CFTC, CGT and FO. We have also laid bridgeheads with trade unions in education, the legal system and with the police forces.
We dare to hope that all these contracts will help civil society to gain greater understanding of the situation and to assume greater responsibility in the fields which concern us.
This explains the setting up and bolstering of working committees and groups with a view to conducting a dialogue with our fellow citizens. (…) While wary of the need not to fall into the trap of dividing France into communities along sectarian lines, of turning France into a tribal society, we feel it is essential to develop relations with groups that represent religious believes, a culture and different interests. (…)
The CRIF has long worked to reconcile Jews and Catholics. This year, the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the CRIF has paid numerous tributes to Pope Jean-Paul II who has made a major contribution to bridging the gap between the Catholic Church and Jews since he visited the Rome synagogue in 1986 and since his historical visit to Jerusalem in 2000.
Roger Cukierman and Richard Prasquier represented the CRIF at the funeral of Jean-Paul II in Rome. In Paris, Marseille, Besançon, Lyon, Montpellier and elsewhere the CRIF attended masses in memory of Jean-Paul II. A CRIF delegation presented its condolences to Mgr André Vingt-Trois, the new archbishop of Paris. A delegation of Jews and Catholics traveled to Wadowice, Jean-Paul II‘s native village, on 10 April 2005. The delegation included Catholics Mgr Jean-Marie Lustiger, Mgr Jean-Pierre Ricard and Mgr Stanislas Lalanne, respectively president and general secretary of the Episcopal Conference of French Bishops, Mgr Francis Deniau, president of the Episcopal Commission responsible for relations with Judaism, fathers Patrick Desbois and Jean Dujardin, respectively its secretary and former secretary. The CRIF delegation included Dr Richard Prasquier, Rabbi Gilles Bernheim, Serge Klugman, Yonathan Arfi and I. (…)
A word about the Protestants. After the success of last year’s symposium organised by the CRIF and the Fédération Protestante, we are pursuing a frank dialogue and are planning a joint trip to Israel.
We are following with interest the activities of the French Muslim Council (CFCM). The CRIF Steering Committee welcomed the CFCM president Dalil Boubakeur on 12th October 2004. In many regions, a dialogue has been initiated between the CRIF and the Regional Muslim Councils (CRCM). The CRIF has supported the Foundation for Friendship between Jews and Muslims which organized its first meeting on 21th November 2004 in Paris. Unfortunately, the CRIF has had to condemn frequent attacks on Muslims and the desecrations of mosques and cemeteries.
On our relations with Muslims, within the Commission of Relations with Muslims, Dr Bernard Kanovitch regularly welcomes politicians, NGOs and intellectuals. On 9th September 2004 it received Fouad Alaoui, Secretary General of the Union of Muslim Organizations in France (UOIF). We have calculated that this meeting could have merit if it helped to reduce anti-Semitic acts. However, following the publication, on 28th October 2004, by the daily Le Figaro of extracts of a conference by a UOIF preacher, Hassan Iquioussen, who expressed anti-Semitic remarks, Fouad Alaoui – replying to a letter from Roger Cukierman – merely condemned the remarks, not the person who made them. Consequently, the CRIF has decided to freeze its contacts with the UOIF. At the annual meeting of this organization which this year took place from 25 to 28 March in Le Bourget, cassettes calling for the death of Jews were sold at the booth of the Comité de bienfaisance et de secours aux Palestiniens.(Committee for the Assistance and support of Palestinians) Following a protests lodged by the CRIF, the UOIF condemned the same and expressed its regrets.
On relations with Blacks, Dieudonné is unfortunately not alone in voicing anti-Semitic remarks with their pernicious effects. At the end of last year CRIF's Yves-Victor Kamami set up a CRIF Committee for Relations with Afro-West Indians. He is also monitoring friendship between Jews and Blacks. This new structure successfully organized its first event on 6 February with the screening of the film "Black Israel", followed a few days later by the screening of the film "Live and Become" (on Ethiopian Jews). Under its statutes, this entity wishes to "to replace misunderstandings and hostility with knowledge, understanding, respect and friendship between Jews, Blacks and West Indians". The second day of the seminar on friendship between Jews and Blacks is being held today in Paris. Besides the efforts towards mutual understanding, this dialogue between Jews and Blacks has included tangible action such as support for Darfour and the commemoration of the genocide in Rwanda.
Other useful dialogue is being conducted with the Armenians. For a long time this dialogue has occurred in regional towns and cities. In recently weeks the CRIF and its Armenian partners have organized top-level symposia in Nice and Grenoble. Nationwide we have set up a liaison group with the Conseil de coordination des organisations arméniennes de France (Council for the Coordination of Armenian Organizations in France). (…)
The CRIF’s media monitoring unit has become an important means to decode current news. (…)
Our views and opinions also feature on the CRIF website. Our daily Newsletter has over 17,000 subscribers versus 7,000 subscribes last year. Its English version has 6.069 subscribers. We can constantly monitor it, our Newsletters are read by the media, by politicians and by our opponents.
Since our General Assembly meeting in May 2004 we have published new CRIF studies that show our willingness to open up to civil society: Joël Kotek, «La Belgique et ses juifs: de l'antijudaïsme comme code culturel à l'antisionisme comme religion civique» (June 2004); Jean-Yves Camus, «Le Front National: état des forces en perspective» (November 2004); Georges Bensoussan, «Sionismes passions d'Europe» (December 2004); Mgr Jean-Marie Lustiger, Mgr Jean-Pierre Ricard et Mgr Philippe Barbarin, «L'Eglise et anti-Semitism» (December - January 2005).
We continue to organize regular trips to Israel for journalists, choosing journalists with harsh rather than “soft” positions. In the best-case scenario, these journalists are indifferent, in the worst-case scenario their views are hostile. After a stay of 4 or 5 days, in meeting Israeli civil society, these journalists, realize that things are not that simple and that there are no goodies on one side and badies on the other. We traveled with journalists representing television, radio, national and regional newspapers. The results of these visits are encouraging. We have regularly sent you their articles which reveal how their attitudes have changed. We remain in regular contact with all these journalists with whom we have established friendly relations. (…)
This is what we do each day, at our very modest level, with the President of the CRIF, the Executive, the Steering Committee, regional delegations, the working committees, all of you, Edtih Lenczner, and the entire team of professionals. (…)
We are not an insular organization. We look out on our own country, France, a country we love, we look out to Israel where many our people live. We have links with all those who share our values. We share an alliance with them. This is not a strategy but an attitude, a stance adopted by French Jews who believe in certain principles and certain ideas.