- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 23, 2001

PARIS A wave of anti-Semitic attacks has swept France, causing concern and even alarm among Western Europe's largest Jewish community.
Synagogues have been torched, cemeteries desecrated, and prominent Jews have been threatened in acts that members of Jewish organizations blame mainly on French Muslims. However, some also have complained about Christian indifference.
The leading mainstream Jewish organization, known as the Representative Council of Jewish Institution in France, has accused the government of "passive reaction" and the media of silence and pro-Palestinian bias.
"The national media are openly pro-Palestinian. They portray the Palestinians as victims and Jews as their torturers," said Olivier Guland, editor of the Tribune Juive (Jewish Tribune).
Jewish organizations have asked the government for special protection for France's 300 synagogues and about 100 schools attended by an estimated total of 26,000 Jewish children. Some of these institutions now are protected by Jewish vigilantes.
Among the towns and cities where synagogues were burned or damaged in recent attacks were Ris-Orangis, Bagnolet, Aubervilliers, Creteil and Paris.
Many leaders of the 600,000-strong Jewish community in France feel the government is purposely minimizing the extent of the attacks in order to defuse ethnic tension.
The dominant feeling among the French Jews is that the government is more concerned about the nearly 4 million Muslims living in France than about the fate of the Jewish community.
Members of the Jewish organization say the attacks started after the October 2000 Palestinian intifada and intensified after the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Joseph Sitruk, the grand rabbi of France, said there have been 350 attacks against Jews in France this year, "not counting thousands of Jews insulted every day."
To some Jewish activists, anti-Semitism, contained for a long period after World War II , is back, ignited by television footage of Israeli reprisals against Palestinians.
The anti-Semitic attacks have created "an attitude of siege" among many French Jews, leading to the tendency described by the conservative daily Le Figaro as "withdrawal into the community."
The events come at a time of continued soul-searching about the fate of France's Jews during World War II, when French police rounded up many Jews and deported them to death camps.
However, Alain Gerarci Slama, a Jewish writer, does not see "a rebirth of ideological anti-Semitism of the end of the 19th century."
He said Jewish Frenchmen now have no reason to fear anything "from a vast majority of their compatriots." But he does see a serious problem in the attitude of French Muslims, most of them of North African origin and heavily influenced by the drama of the Middle East.
Sixty percent of French Jews are Sephardic, of Spanish and North African origin, and the rest have roots in Eastern Europe. Although most French Jews do not practice their religion, there has been considerable growth in the number of synagogues, from 30 in 1965 to 300 today.

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