By: Kenzie Jansonius
A series of vandalisms and attacks have led French President Macron to declare that anti-Semitism is at its worst in the country since World War II. The nation has seen a 74% rise in anti-Semitic acts from 2017 to 2018. In 2019 alone, a cemetery has been vandalized with swastikas, a tree memorializing Ilan Halimi (a French Jew who was murdered in 2006) has been chopped down, “Juden” was spray painted onto the window of a bagel shop, vandals defaced a memorial for the Strasbourg synagogue, and swastikas were painted on a kindergarten building.
Mounir Mahjoubi, France’s Digital Affairs Minister, vows to stand up to Yellow Vest protesters who have been behind many of the attacks by purging social media of hate speech. Social networking sites were given just twenty-four hours to dispose of any content containing homophobia, anti-Semitism, or ethnic slurs. Heavy fines were imposed on platforms that refused to comply.
Despite the measures to protect French Jews, many are considering flight to Israel. According to the Israeli Immigration Ministry, 3,120 French Jews immigrated to Israel in 2018, 63% higher than in 2017. Salome Roussel, who has faced many an anti-Semitic remark and gesture, is considering immigrating to Israel “because it is a Jewish state, so you can be Jew, no big deal! You have other problems, but not this one.”
Even though Jews make up around one percent of the French population, Jews are the victims of 40% of the country’s hate crimes. Numbers from the Jewish Community Protection Service show that Jews are more likely to be subject to verbal harassment and physical aggression than any other ethnic group in France. Many blame this on the nation’s large Muslim population, but Yellow Vest members who are perpetrating the majority of these crimes are typically far right militants, royalists, and traditionalist Catholics who also oppose the presence of Muslims in France.