French government sounds alarm over rising anti-Semitic acts

France’s prime minister on Friday sounded the alarm over a sharp rise in anti-Semitic acts this year, pledging to increase efforts to punish perpetrators and police hate speech online.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on his Facebook page a 69 percent rise in the number of anti-Semitic acts reported to police in the first nine months of 2018 compared to the same period last year.

Despite years of government efforts to fight it, “we are very far from having finished with anti-Semitism,” he wrote. He expressed particular concern because overall, anti-Semitic acts have been on the decline in recent years.

He didn’t indicate a reason for the rise, and the government would not release specific figures. Over all of 2017, the government reported 311 anti-Semitic acts, from threats to swastikas on Jewish gravesites to physical attacks on people wearing kippas. That was down from 335 the year before, but the number of violent anti-Semitic acts rose, along with anti-Muslim and other violent hate crimes.

The Interior Ministry said part of the recent rise could be attributed to a government push over the past year to encourage people to report hate crimes, including a new online portal to file police reports.

The prime minister promised new measures to better handle victims and punish perpetrators, to take down potentially violent hate speech online more quickly and to help teachers who report anti-Semitic behavior.

“Each attack against one of our compatriots because he or she is Jewish resonates like new broken glass,” the prime minister said, in reference to the mass crackdown on Jews throughout Germany and Austria on Nov. 9, 1938 known as the Night of Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht. “It is up to each French person to mobilize ‘for’ something: for life together, for France’s identity, for the values of the Republic.”

Anti-racism groups said they have also noted a rise in anti-Semitism this year.

Islamic extremists targeted a Jewish school and kosher supermarket in two of France’s most deadly terrorist attacks in recent years, and some blame Islamic radicalism for resurgent anti-Semitism in France. Muslim leaders acknowledge that some imams have fueled radicalism, but warn against stigmatizing France’s millions of moderate Muslims.

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