France is failing to fight its rising tide of anti-Semitism

The most dangerous place to be a Jew in Europe is France. That’s the conclusion of an unpublished, two-year report on anti-Semitism in 11 European countries, conducted by former NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly at former US Ambassador to Austria Ronald Lauder’s behest.

Kelly’s report concludes that the threat to the 450,000 Jews in France, the world’s third-largest community (after Israel and the United States), is the most “acute.” Attacks and threats against French Jews surged 74 percent from 2017 to 2018, and preliminary data for the first half of 2019 indicate “further intensification,” with another 75 percent increase last year.

Moreover, the official estimates of some 500 attacks and anti-Semitic acts per year are “notoriously underreported,” according to the study, which contends that “no responsible individuals or even government representatives place much credence in these numbers.”

Kelly and two fellow investigators, David Cohen and Mitchell D. Silber, both former senior NYPD counterterrorism officials, blame the French government for failing to respond to the almost-constant violence against and harassment of French Jews.

France initially overreacted to the 2015 attacks at the Bataclan and Hypercacher supermarket, but it has underreacted ever since. What the report calls the police’s “catch-as-catch-can” mobile deployments to protect synagogues and other Jewish facilities “provide little or no police presence and deterrence.”

To justify such indifference and what the report calls the public and private sector’s “inadequate” response to the growing threat, Paris hides behind its “lip-service to France’s secularism.” Requests for additional government funding to address security shortfalls would likely be rejected, prominent French Jews complained to Kelly’s team, since the French establishment interprets the country’s “secularism ideology” to mean that the state “cannot give ‘special’ attention to one ethnic or religious group over another, even in the face of disparate threat or dangers.”

This translates into “doing very little to provide French Jewry with confidence that they will be protected on a sustained basis from the verbal and physical harassment and/or violence facing them,” Kelly writes.

The report attributes French anti-Semitism to history, a sluggish economy and demography. Jews now face hate from three main sources. First, the old “strain” from the far right. The second threat comes from the left — the “intellectual/university class, [which] directs its anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian views at French Jews via protests and social ostracism of even professional Jews.”

However, the report stresses that the “single greatest threat of violence” against French Jews emanates from radicalization among portions of a growing French Muslim population. Anti-Semitic attacks and verbal harassment are especially pronounced in areas where middle- and working-class Arabs live side-by-side with Jews. These “at-risk” residents make up a third of France’s Jewish population.

In response, French Jews have started emigrating, either to Israel or to safer French cities and neighborhoods. Many wealthier French Jews have established dual residency in Israel or other countries. While the flow of emigration to Israel has slowed to 2,500 last year, from a peak of 9,000 in 2015, between 3,000 and 5,000 French Jews each year now emigrate to Britain, Australia, the United States and elsewhere — a “significant” exodus.

To protect their children, French Jews have largely abandoned public schools. Some 70 percent of all school-age Jews, among the highest proportion in Europe, now attend religious schools. Sports programs are also increasingly Jewish-only matches, as are cultural events. Jewish communities rely on “volunteers” to safeguard France’s 300 synagogues and other Jewish institutions. Their staffing, organization and infrastructure have been “outstripped by the growth of the anti-Semitic threat.”

While the report doesn’t urge Jews to emigrate, it suggests a bleak future for those who remain, given projected Muslim population growth. The French Muslim population now stands at some 6 million, and a recent Pew study projects a 50 percent increase by 2050, even with no additional immigration.

The report recommends more than a dozen steps that the government and French Jews could take to reduce the threat. It urges the leading Jewish security organization, the Jewish Community Protection Service, to establish a Security Operations Center, which can monitor security cameras in synagogues and other major Jewish hubs, and to create a “crime-prevention unit” to examine the security of Jewish locations.

Overall, however, the report is pessimistic: “This more violence-prone anti-Semitism is certain to worsen.”

Judith Miller is a contributing editor of City Journal, from which this column was adapted.

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