Police investigate false bomb threat against comedian Dieudonne


French comedian Diedonne M’bala M’bala complained to police about threats to blow up the theater in which he performs.

The bomb threat was made Thursday against the Main D’Or theater, which Dieudonne operates, in Paris’ 11th arrondissement, according to MetroNews.fr. Police rushed to the scene but found no explosives.

Performances by Dieudonne, a professed anti-Semite and inventor of the quenelle anti-Semitic salute, have been targeted in the past by activists of the Ligue de Defense Juive, the local branch of the JDL.

Last week, six men believed to be linked to JDL were arrested in Lyon for allegedly assaulting two individuals who posted online pictures of themselves performing the quenelle, a quasi-Nazi salute which French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said Tuesday was a gesture of hate and anti-Semitism.

In recent months, several athletes in France and beyond were seen performing the quenelle, which is believed to be gaining traction in French society.

On Dec. 28, West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka performed the salute during a match, prompting strongly worded condemnations from anti-racism campaigners.

But Kick it Out, a prominent British organization working to curb soccer racism, issued a guarded statement saying only that it will assist Britain’s Football Association in investigating Anelka’s behavior. Anelka has ignored calls to apologize, saying the salute was a gesture to his friend Dieudonne.

John Mann, chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism at the European Parliament, blasted Kick it Out for not using stronger language.

“Not good enough,” Mann wrote on Twitter last week. “You should be leading on challenging this racism. Your statement is weak and puny.”

‘Aftermath’ exposes dark secrets in Poland


The Nazi occupation of most of Europe during World War II and the Holocaust tested the moral fiber not only of the individual citizen but also of entire nations.

Today, 68 years after the guns fell silent in Europe and the Far East, historians and filmmakers not-yet-born in 1945 are still wrestling with the questions of moral courage, indifference and depravity that comprised the human mosaic in that era.

Most films dealing with the years of the Holocaust focus on the bravery of the resistance and some on the villainy of collaborators, but only a handful of German and French movies have examined the much touchier issue of national guilt.

This is certainly true of American producers and directors, who can smugly pat their nation on its collective back, because it never had to face the harsh test of living under enemy occupation.

Given this preamble, the Polish movie “Aftermath” is a particularly valuable contribution to the examination of national guilt or fortitude.

In the collective Jewish memory, the old Poland was a hotbed of anti-Semitism, and there are enough personal and historical accounts to validate the attitude. Yet in the Yad Vashem listing of the Righteous Among the Nations, which honors non-Jews who risked their own and their families’ lives to shelter or otherwise aid Jews, Polish Catholics outnumber the rescuers of every other country.

But if the Polish nation, one of the chief victims of Nazi barbarity, had its heroes, it was also home to numerous perpetrators who happily denounced their Jewish neighbors and took over their houses, businesses and fields.

That duality is at the heart of “Aftermath,” a movie so powerful and provocative that its lead actor has received numerous death threats in Poland, while the movie won the Yad Vashem Award at this year’s Jerusalem Film Festival.

“Aftermath” is set in the recent past and opens with the arrival of Franek, who has lived for the past 20 years in Chicago and is returning to his native village in Poland to visit his younger brother, Jozek.

Jozek works the family farm, but, to his brother’s puzzlement, is the hostile target of the villagers, who throw rocks through his windows, paint Zyd (Yid) on his barn door, and finally burn his fields.

Gradually, Franek learns that Jozek’s initial offense was to damage public property by excavating the gravestones that had been taken from the Jewish cemetery during the war and used as road pavement. He carefully hauled the old headstones back to his farm, where he established his own impromptu Jewish cemetery.

Jozek has a hard time explaining this strange behavior, even to himself, except that “there was no one else to take care of them.” He has even taught himself the Hebrew alphabet to decipher the names on the grave markers.

But worse is to come. The young farmer starts exploring the village’s dark secret, and eventually Franek, though dismissive of Chicago’s money-grubbing “Yids,” joins in his brother’s quest.

After the German army occupied the village, two SS officers approved a plan by some of the leading citizens to avoid the bother of deporting some 340 Jewish men, women and children.

The proposal called for rounding up all the Jews, locking them inside a barn and then burning the place down. After the Germans gave the green light, the villagers put the plan into action with great enthusiasm, drinking vodka and cursing the incinerated “Christ killers.”

Afterward, the villagers took over the homes and fields of the dead Jews.

The main characters in the film are fictitious, but the central horror, the burning of the village’s entire Jewish population, is based on a wartime atrocity.

For decades, during Poland’s postwar communist regime, the official government version had it that the actual mass killing and burning were the work of the German army.

But in 2001, Jan T. Gross, a Polish-American professor, wrote the book “Neighbors,” which documented in devastating detail that the Polish citizens of the small town of Jedwabne had incinerated hundreds of their Jewish neighbors in a large barn on July 10, 1941.

The book’s revelations were contested and bitterly denounced by nationalist politicians and media as “part of a Jewish conspiracy to tarnish Poland’s reputation,” but among many younger Poles, the exposé triggered a curiosity about the Polish Jews they had never known.

One was the Polish filmmaker Wladyslaw Pasikowski, who started to write the screenplay for “Aftermath” 10 years ago.

In one interview, Pasikowski explained that the film is about one “one of the most painful chapters of Polish history. We already have a huge number of movies on the horrors committed by the Germans and the Soviets, and I think it is time to show the horrible things we did ourselves.”

(Originally, the film was to have been titled “Kaddish,” and the present Polish title, “Poklosie,” translates as “Consequences.” Either choice would arguably have made for a more apt title than “Aftermath.”)

The movie has its Polish heroes, foremost the brothers Jozek, played by Maciej Stuhr, one of his country’s best-known actors, and Franek (Ireneusz Czop), as well as an elderly priest, but it is unsparing in depicting the anti-Semitic mob mentality of the mass of villagers.

Predictably, “Aftermath” aroused a storm of controversy in its native land, split mainly along political right/left lines. The primary target has been the actor Stuhr, shown on magazine and newspaper covers as a traitorous “Zyd.”

In an e-mail exchange, Dariusz Jablonski, one of the film’s producers, noted that Stuhr was the public face and defender of the film, championing the “new” Poland against the prejudices of the “old” Poland.

Asked, “What made you decide to produce this film, knowing that many of your countrymen would bitterly resent it,” Jablonski responded, “It is not easy to tell uncomfortable truths to your nation, but that is an artist’s/filmmaker’s job. The truth is unconditional, and when I read Pasikowski’s script, I felt obliged to do it.

“We Poles have to acknowledge that being one of the main victims of World War II, and having at that time so many brave people saving Jewish lives, so often paying with their own lives, we also had a few perpetrators among us. Why do we have to do that? We owe it to millions of Jews who found their good life for centuries on Polish soil.”

Is the movie based on Gross’ book on the actual mass burning of Jews in Jedwabne?  “The film is not based on any single book or document, but every element in the film is credible and can be identified as coming from documented stories,” Jablonski responded to the Journal’s question.

Despite the controversy, “Aftermath” won the Critics Prize at Poland’s most important film festival at Gdynia, but it was not chosen as the country’s entry for the Oscars’ foreign-language film competition.

“Aftermath” opens Nov. 15 at Laemmle’s Royal Theatre in West Los Angeles, Playhouse 7 in Pasadena and Town Center in Encino.

France’s soaring anti-Semitism lures Jewish Defense League vigilantes out of shadows


With scooter helmets in hand, a man called Yohan and six buddies stroll around Paris’ 20th arrondissement. The seven look much like a typical group of French students — until they locate a group of Arab men they suspect of perpetrating an anti-Semitic attack the previous day.

Using their helmets as bludgeons, members of France’s Jewish Defense League, or LDJ, set upon the Arabs and beat them. Several of the Arabs attempt to escape in a blue sedan, but the LDJ members pursue the vehicle, causing it to crash into a stone wall.

The attack last August, filmed by a television crew shooting a documentary on LDJ, was one of at least 115 violent incidents that critics attribute to the group since its registration in France in 2001 — a year after the eruption of the second intifada in Israel and the sevenfold increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the 12 years that followed.

“Now they know the price of Jewish blood,” said Yohan, the nom de guerre of Joseph Ayache, one of LDJ’s young bosses.

An offshoot of the American Jewish Defense League, which was founded in New York by the ultranationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1968 and which the FBI considers a domestic terrorist group, LDJ stages violent reprisals to anti-Semitic attacks.

The group, which numbers about 300 members, is now on a collision course with France’s Jewish establishment, which has condemned its activities and threatened a lawsuit.

French authorities have ignored calls to ban LDJ, though in Israel the Kach movement, also founded by Kahane, has been outlawed.

The French government’s apparent acquiescence may have inspired LDJ to ratchet up its deterrent potential by showcasing its activities following the murder of four Jews in Toulouse last year by a Muslim extremist.

LDJ traditionally had shied away from media attention. But in the weeks after the killings, which was followed by a 58 percent increase in attacks on Jews in France over the year before, LDJ for the first time allowed a television crew to tag along on a number of guerrilla operations.

In addition to the helmet assault, Ayache was filmed calling for revenge killings in posters he and his group posted around central Paris. When a police car neared, Ayache told officers that he and his friends were working on an art project. The police officers wished him a pleasant evening and drove away.

Ayache also was filmed attempting to storm a performance of the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne.

“Since when is it illegal to run?” a brazen Ayache told the police after they detained him.

Another sequence shows Ayache firing a pistol at a shooting range.

“We’ve noticed the Muslim community believes LDJ is some vast machine that operates with impunity and help from Mossad,” said an LDJ spokesman who goes by the alias Amnon Cohen. “It’s not true, but it’s not a bad thing if they are scared. It’ll make them think twice.”

LDJ’s growing assertiveness has further strained the group’s already tense relationship with the CRIF, the umbrella body of French Jewish communities.

In April, CRIF’s former president, Richard Prasquier, said he would sue LDJ for defamation for posting a photograph on its website depicting him with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The caption accuses Prasquier of “pardoning [a] killer.”

LDJ, meanwhile, has accused CRIF of being undemocratic, obsolete and ineffective.

“We operate outside and independently, and that creates opposition within the establishment, which is run by men and women who mean well but don’t know the painful reality of the Jewish rank and file in Paris’ suburbs and poor neighborhoods,” Cohen said.

“There are hundreds of French and Belgian Muslims fighting in the Syrian civil war. When they return, do you think they will be scared of a couple guards trained by the community?”

CRIF declined to comment.

Earlier this month, LDJ announced that its “soldiers” had put a young Arab in the hospital with a coma, “a rapid and effective response” to the man’s attack on Jews at Saint-Mande, just east of Paris.

The announcement drew calls to ban LDJ. As criticism mounted, LDJ retracted the statement and denied any involvement in the violence.

Cohen told JTA the person who published the “false statement” had been removed from the group and that the violence actually resulted from a drug deal gone sour. A spokesperson for the Saint-Mande municipality confirmed that account.

Still, the events at Saint-Mande resulted in a public row between LDJ and CRIF, which on June 4 blamed LDJ for the violence at Saint Mande and for subsequent calls “to take revenge against the Jews.”

Cohen said CRIF is looking for a “scapegoat” to distract from its failure to prevent attacks on Jews through outreach and education. He also denied the group engages in violence, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

Besides the television footage, a French court last week sentenced LDJ activist David Ben Aroch to six months in prison for an attack he staged with another LDJ member at a Paris bookstore owned by a pro-Palestinian activist.

Aroch’s accomplice, Jason Tibi, was sentenced to four months for the attack at Librairie Resistance that sent the two victims to the hospital for days.

It may have been a real-life demonstration of what one masked LDJ boss recently called “treatment a la Israel” during a speech at a secret training camp in France.

The filmed address was the introduction to a LDJ propaganda clip titled “Five cops for every Jew, 10 Arabs for each rabbi.”

Three men linked to Mohamed Merah arrested in France


Three men believed to be linked to Mohamed Merah were arrested in southern France.

Two of men were arrested Tuesday in Toulouse by a French police anti-terror unit, the French news service AFP reported.

A third person was arrested on Wednesday morning in the nearby town of Castres.

Merah, a 23-year-old radical Muslim, killed a rabbi and three children in an attack on the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school, now Ohr Hatorah, on March 19, 2012. The slayings came a few days after Merah gunned down three French soldiers in two drive-by shootings from a scooter near Toulouse. He was shot dead on March 22 during a standoff with police.

French police have arrested and released several people and questioned dozens in connection with the shootings.

Report: 58% rise in anti-Semitic attacks in France in 2012


France saw an increase of 58 percent in anti-Semitic incidents in 2012 compared to the previous year, according to a report by the French Jewish community.

The report released on Tuesday by the SPCJ, the security unit of France’s Jewish communities, showed that 614 anti-Semitic acts were documented in the republic last year compared to only 389 in 2011.

“2012 has been a year of unprecedented violence against Jews in France,” the report read, referencing the murder of a rabbi and three Jewish children on March 19 by an Islamist radical who gunned them down at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Incidents in which the victims were accosted physically or verbally on the street saw an increase of 82 percent, from 177 cases in 2011 to 315 last year, SPCJ said, and 25 percent of the 96 physical anti-Semitic assaults involved a weapon.

The SPCJ report reflects a near doubling in physical anti-Semitic assaults, of which only 57 were documented in 2011.

Twitter must reveal details of users posting anti-Semitism, French court rules


Twitter must divulge details about French users who posted anti-Semitic messages, a French tribunal ruled.

Thursday's order by a Grand Instance Court judge in Paris came in response to a lawsuit by the Union of French Jewish Students that sought to limit the impunity with which Twitter users may disseminate anti-Semitic incitement.

“It is a major precedent and breakthrough in the attempt to balance privacy online with the need to combat hate speech,” Sacha Reingewirtz, vice president of the students' union, told JTA.

The court, Reingewirtz added, imposed a pending fine of $1,300 against Twitter for every day in which it fails to deliver whatever details it possesses on users who are suspected of disseminating hate speech on Twitter. The ruling, he said, applies only to users in France.

Additionally, the ruling by the Paris court’s 17th chamber ordered Twitter to establish a system in which French users may flag anti-Semitic content, which would be reviewed by Twitter before removal and possible referral to the authorities.

At the court, a few dozen activists assembled alongside journalists.

“Social networks were created as essentially democratic tools that are also being used by people who oppose democratic principles,” Nuno Wahnon Martins, director of European Affairs at B'nai B'rith International, told JTA. “Like any democracy, the social networks also need to defend themselves, and the first step is to deny those who spread hate speech in anonymity as something to hide behind.”

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, welcomed the ruling and told JTA his organization would “use this to lobby other European countries to join in this combat against anti-Semitism.”

The student association sued Twitter in November after the San Fransisco-based company refused to reveal the identities of users who flooded the site under the hashtag #unbonjuif (#agoodjew), with examples including “#agoodjew is a dead Jew.”

The hashtag was the third most popular in France in October.

French teens arrested for chemical explosion near teacher who reported anti-Semitism


Two French teenagers were arrested on suspicion of setting off an explosion near a teacher after she reported receiving anti-Semitic threats at school.

The teenagers, 16 and 19 years old, were arrested on Dec. 13 in Aix-en-Provence near Marseille in southern France for allegedly setting off a chemical explosion in the classroom of their plastic arts teacher, according to France Info, a public radio station. No one was hurt in the explosion.

The teacher, Chantal Viroulou, told the radio station that before the incident, “students from that class, two or three of them at least, called me and told me: 'Jew, we will break your face.'” Viroulou, who teaches at the Latecoere professional high school in the town of Istres, did not say whether she was Jewish.

An unnamed police source told Ouest France, a local daily, that Viroulou is not Jewish and that “the anti-Semitic connotation” is not being investigated. The source added that the explosion — which the two suspects allegedly caused by mixing hydrochloric acid with aluminium — “had nothing to do” with the threat.

Earlier this week, the news site Lyonmag reported that a teacher undergoing conversion was fired after she reported repeated anti-Semitic harassment by her pupils at Condorcet secondary school in Saint-Priest, a southern suburb of Lyon.

The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism, a French nonprofit, wrote on Dec. 13 to France's minister of education to ask him to launch a special action against “the development of anti-Semitic acts and behavior” in French schools.

Two Jewish cemeteries, municipal building vandalized in France


French police reportedly are investigating fresh acts of vandalism in two Jewish cemeteries and a municipal building.

On Monday in Paris, police arrested two men suspected of digging up two corpses at the Pantin cemetery, according to a statement from the municipality. They were found to be in possession of a number of human teeth and are suspected of being gravediggers, the statement read.

In Avignon near Marseille, two plaques on the Jewish cemetery’s wall were bludgeoned on Nov. 22, according to 20minutes, a French news site. The plaques had been repaired from being smashed on Oct. 8. One plaque read “Jewish cemetery” and the other had a Star of David.

Olivier Tainturier, director general of the local municipality of Vaucluse, said his office was “planning to install video surveillance.”

The previous evening, “pro-Palestinian, anti-Semitic texts against Israel and the police” were discovered on the municipal theater of Neuilly-sur-Seine, a western suburb of Paris, according to the French television channel BFM. The report did not say what was spray-painted.

Jean-Christophe Fromantin, a deputy mayor, filed a complaint with police and had the graffiti, which he called “odious,” removed by the end of the week. A practicing Catholic, Fromantin has declared that the “return of the Jewish people to Israel was a miracle.”

Also Monday, SPCJ, the security unit of France’s Jewish communities, praised French authorities’ handling of the prosecution of a university student studying Islamic studies who threatened to start “another Shoah” in an email to a Jewish professor.

On Nov. 15, a court in Aix-en-Provence handed the unnamed man a one-year suspended sentence plus two years of probation.

In an email sent March 19, the day that a Muslim extremist killed four Jews in Toulouse, the man wrote to a Jewish professor of Hebrew and Jewish studies at the University of Provence, “When will you stop making us swallow your tragicomedies, the latest this morning? I don’t like taking orders and even less so from a Jew. That's enough now or I will make another Shoah.”

‘Dead Jew’ is newest anti-Semitic phrase on French Twitter


Hundreds of French Twitter users wrote the phrase “a dead Jew” on Twitter after the company removed some anti-Semitic content.

Twitter agreed to pull anti-Semitic materials offline on Oct. 19 after the Union of French Jewish Students threatened legal action. During that week, a hashtag meaning “a good Jew” became the third most popular among French-language Twitter users. Le Monde wrote that the hashtag functioned as the entry to a virtual “contest of anti-Semitic jokes.”

On Monday, the Jewish student association reported that Twitter still carried anti-Semitic hashtags and content including images.

Some of the users of the “dead Jew” hashtag, or “unjuifmort,” wrote that they were using it to protest censorship on Twitter. A user on the account of Kamel Mezouar wrote the hashtag and added, “Here comes the Mossad.”  

Others posted the “dead Jew” hashtag along with “dead Muslim” and slogans for freedom of speech.

Stephane Lilti, a lawyer for the student association, told the French news agency AFP that her group has flagged the anti-Semitic tweets in a report to Twitter.

“We are giving a few days for these tweets that we have drawn attention to be taken off,'' Lilti said.

‘Good Jew’ hashtag is third most popular on French Twitter


A French nonprofit said it was considering making complaints against some Twitter users following an explosion of French-language anti-Semitic messages.

SOS Racisme, a Paris-based anti-discrimination organization, made the statement on its website after the phrase UnBonJuif on Oct. 10 became the third most popular hashtag among French Twitter users.

Literally meaning “a good Jew,” it served thousands of Twitter users to enter what the French daily Le Monde termed “a competition of anti-Semitic jokes.”

One Twitter account registered to the username “Marcel Leblanc” posted a picture of an emaciated Jewish woman taken in a Nazi concentration camp as his or her interpretation of what “a good Jew” meant. Others tweeted that “a good Jew is a dead Jew.”

Jonathan Hayoun, president of the Union of French Jewish Students, or UEJF, called on Twitter to “put in place a new system to moderate” anti-Semitic tweets. His organization expressed “grave concern” in light of how popular the hashtag has become.

On Monday, the most popular hashtag in France was LaRafle, meaning “the roundup” — the title of a 2010 film about the Holocaust-era deportation of French Jews that  was aired the previous day by TF1, a public broadcaster. Twitter defined the LaRafle hashtag as “related to UnBonJuif.” Many tweets containing the LaRafle hashtag were anti-Semitic, and some users denied the Holocaust.

Michel Zerbib, director the news department of Radio J, France’s largest Jewish radio station, told JTA that anti-Semitic tweeting matches are “a new but unsurprising development, as the virtual space releases many of the inhibitions that limit anti-Semitic speech in the public sphere.”

French teen is beaten in anti-Semitic attack on train


A French Jewish teenager was the victim of a violent anti-Semitic attack on a train traveling between Toulouse and Lyon.

The victim, 17, reportedly is a student at Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, where an Islamist gunman shot and killed three students and a teacher in March.

He was accosted verbally before he was beaten by two assailants Wednesday night, the French news service AFP reported. Another passenger and train conductors reportedly came to his aid.

The teen was wearing what the French Interior Ministry called “a distinctive religious symbol,” according to AFP.

Railroad authorities reported the assailants to police but neither had been called in for questioning by Thursday morning.

The French Jewish umbrella group CRIF in a statement called the attack “another development in the worrying trend of anti-Semitism in our country.”

Toulouse shooting suspect’s standoff continues [VIDEO]


The standoff in France between police and Mohammed Merah, the suspect in the shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, stretched into its 13th hour Wednesday.

The standoff began at 3 a.m. Wednesday outside the Toulouse home of Merah, a 24-year-old French national of Algerian descent who claims ties to al-Qaida was continuing, French authorities said.

Merah reportedly has been known to French intelligence for many years.

On Wednesday morning, thousands attended the funeral in Jerusalem of the attack’s four victims two days earlier.

French police surrounded Merah’s home in the morning. Merah, in contact with the police, reportedly had agreed to turn himself later in the day before abruptly cutting off communication with police. The suspect’s brother, and possibly other siblings, reportedly had been arrested, and two police officers were injured in a shootout outside the home, according to reports.

Story continues after the jump

Video from MarkStoneSkyNews

The Ozar Hatorah school reopened Wednesday for the first time since the attack, in which a man riding a motorbike opened fire Monday outside the school where students were waiting to enter the building at the start of the school day.

Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, and his two young sons, as well as the 7-year-old daughter of the school’s principal, were killed in the attack.

Thousands attended the funeral of the victims on Wednesday morning at Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul cemetery.

“Your grief, your pain is ours too,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said at the funeral. “All of France is in shock.”

On Tuesday, three former French soldiers accused of having neo-Nazi ties who had been suspected of possible involvement in the shooting attack were questioned and released by French police.

Forensic tests found that the weapon used in the attack at the school was the same one used in a pair of fatal shooting attacks last week targeting off-duty French soldiers in and near Toulouse. The shootings, which also were committed by a gunman on a motorbike, left three soldiers dead and another seriously wounded. The soldiers who were shot were of North African or Caribbean background.

Sarkozy: Gunman in French shootings driven by racism [VIDEO]


French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that the same gunman who shot dead a teacher and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday was also responsible for the killing of three soldiers last week, apparently motivated by racism.

“We know that it is the same person and the same weapon that killed the soldiers, the children and the teacher,” Sarkozy said in a televised address, saying the terrorism alert level in France had been raised.

“This act is odious and cannot remain unpunished.”

Sarkozy also said he would suspend his campaign for France’s April-May presidential election until Wednesday.

Reporting By Daniel Flynn and Leigh Thomas; editing by Nicolas Vinocur

 

Open France’s Eyes to Hatred


Although Shelley Ventura-Cohen had been to France several times before as a tourist with an interest in French culture,this visit — on an American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) mission to counteract French anti-Semitism — was unique.

"The difference was, that this time I went with passion," said the Los Angeles psychologist. "And I went with a spirit of connection to the French and Belgian Jews. Anti-Semitism in France affects Jews everywhere, and I went to France knowing that there had to be a determined and fitting anger about it, and a profound need for dialogue with the French government."

Ventura-Cohen was one of nine participants on the July mission, which also included L.A. residents Gary Ratner, executive director of the AJCongress Pacific Southwest Region; David Suissa of Suissa-Miller advertising agency, and founder and editor of OLAM magazine, and Dr. Steven Teitelbaum, AJCongress Pacific Southwest Region president. The mission was organized against a backdrop of 1,000 anti-Semitic incidents that had occurred in France since the start of the Al-Aksa intifada — incidents that appear as a hideous epilogue to a history that has sustained both Dreyfus and Vichy. The mission comprised of meetings with French government ministers, officials at the European Union, leaders of the French Jewish community, and French Jewish intellectual groups. Besides offering solidarity and support to French Jews, the aim of the mission was to probe and prod politicians, who for the past year had treated the problem of the growing number of anti-Semitic battery, harassment and vandalism incidents evasively, failing to take measures that acknowledged the seriousness of the problem.

"One had to call attention to the fact that the French government tolerated the ridiculousness of anti-Semitism," said AJCongress President Jack Rosen, who headed the mission.

The mission arrived in France at the dawn of a new government, and many of the politicians the group met with, while not willing to admit that anti-Semitism was a problem in France, were eager to cast blame on their predecessors for their laxity in dealing with anti-Semitic crimes. Both the minister of justice and the interior minister assured the group that there had been a decrease in incidents since the new government was elected, and that from now on, tougher sentences would be handed out. They all tried to dissuade the group of the notion that anti-Semitism was endemic to French society — they explained it instead as a problem that was isolated among the millions of disaffected Arab migrants from places like Algeria and Tunisia.

Others were more circumspect about the situation, and urged the AJCongress to be vigilant about taking action. "Don’t be lured by smiles and other pleasing talk from the government," warned Michel Gurfinkel, the editor of a French weekly. "You don’t have SS men walking down the street, but the situation is very bad. The country has gone over the border."

Pierre Lellouche, a Harvard-educated French parliamentarian, explained that what was happening in France was that a new kind of anti-Semitism was arising, one that was championed by the extreme left. "You have the media in Europe and in France beating down on Israel as a butcher every day, and a lot of the good-faith guys are absolutely convinced that the bad guys are the Jews and the good guys are the Arabs, which means that you can be openly anti-Semitic in France today, in the name of anti-racism," he said.

Lellouche is championing a bill that will make a crime out of anti-Semitic or racist intentions on acts of aggression or battery either on persons or property

The mission encountered hostility on the trip to the European Union in Brussels, which began with a meeting with officials from the office of Chris Patten, the European commissioner for external relations, who acknowledged that they agreed with Cherie Blair’s comments about the desperation of suicide bombers — they thought suicide bombings had achieved a lot for the Palestinians politically, and tried to convince the group that long tourist lines outside of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam surely proves that there is no anti-Semitism in Europe today. After a day of meetings at the European Union, which included friendlier dialogue with Javier Solana and other policy chiefs (they even served a kosher lunch) — the group got back on the bus to find that someone had placed a Palestinian flag there, a sign that the group’s presence was resented.

Despite the current situation, Jews have thrived over the years in France, which makes the problem of anti-Semitism all the more urgent to combat.

"There are 600,000 Jews in France today," said Stephane Friedfeld, who was the group’s French guide, "and as a Jew, I can say that there are problems, but I am proud to be Jewish in France today."