French Jewish Leader Asks Francois Hollande for National Fight on Anti-Semitism

Quenelle and Rising Hate Should Be Prime Cause

French Jewish leader Roger Cukierman greets French President Francois Hollande ahead of an annual community dinner.
getty images
French Jewish leader Roger Cukierman greets French President Francois Hollande ahead of an annual community dinner.


Published March 05, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The head of France’s Jewish communities, Roger Cukierman, urged President Francois Hollande to make the fight against racism and anti-Semitism a national cause.

Cukierman, president of the CRIF umbrella organization of French Jewish communities, made the plea in an interview he gave to the BMFTV network Tuesday, as he and other CRIF leaders prepared to greet Hollande at the annual CRIF dinner.

French presidents have attended the event for the past 29 years.

“I will ask him to consider making the fight against racism and anti-Semitism a national cause,” Cukierman said when asked about the subjects he would like to bring up during his meeting with Hollande.

Since 1977, French prime ministers have designated one cause each year that would receive free publicity on state media. Last month, the prime minister’s office designated the fight against illiteracy as this year’s national cause.

Cukierman said the move was necessary because the media storm around Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, a comedian who has multiple convictions for anti-Semitic hate speech, risked generating a new spike in anti-Semitic incidents.

Dieudonne, who has been disseminating anti-Semitic messages for years, has recently gained unprecedented media exposure. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who also attended the CRIF dinner Tuesday, has asked mayors to ban Dieudonne’s new tour. In parallel, several star athletes taught countless spectators the “quenelle” gesture Dieudonne has invented, which some say is anti-Semitic but which Dieudonne says is anti-establishment.

“Thousands wanted to watch this show of Jew hatred and millions were exposed to [Dieudonne’s] online videos. There is a large audience so I am concerned that, following recent events, we would have a new conflagration of anti-Semitic acts,” Cukierman said.

On Sunday, the SPCJ watchdog group counted 423 anti-Semitic incidents in its annual 2013 report on anti-Semitism in France — a 31-percent decrease over 2012.

“But 2012 saw a conflagration after the slaying of children in Toulouse,” Cukierman said in reference to the slaying of four Jews at a Jewish school by an Islamist. “So we are talking about a decrease, but on the contrary, there is growth. Behind the figures there is a difficult climate.”

Cukierman also said he would ask Hollande to have France’s education system teach tolerance values beginning in first grade.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.