Interview by Barbara Slavin, published in Voice of America, March 09, 2015
Among those attending the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington last week was Roger Cukierman, president of an umbrella group of Jewish organizations in France.
Anti-Semitic violence there has gotten global attention since the January attacks on a Jewish deli and the headquarters of a satirical magazine in Paris, but the trend began more than a decade ago, Cukierman says.
“In 1991, there were 70-80” violent incidents directed against Jews for the whole year, Cukierman told reporters at a press conference at the Washington residence of the French ambassador. “Last year there were 851 incidents” against Jews in France, he said.
According to Cukierman, the numbers started rising exponentially after the year 2000. Asked whether the U.S. attacks on Muslim countries following 9/11 played some role, Cukierman said, “I never thought of any connection with U.S. responsibility.”
Perhaps the collapse of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in 2001 and the onset of the second intifada was a factor?
“I believe anti-Zionism is only a pretext,” Cukierman said.
Jews have lived in France for 2,000 years, he said, and endured far worse periods, including a World War II government that collaborated with the Nazis and let 25,000 French Jews be gassed at Auschwitz. But more and more French Jews are choosing to leave now because of hostility from the extreme right, the extreme left and elements in France’s growing Muslim population, he said.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced criticism in January for suggesting that France’s half million Jews should move to Israel for their own safety, Cukierman said it was a reality that emigration is on the rise.
Some 3,000 Jews left the country for good in 2013, 7,000 in 2014 and “I expect between 10,000-15,000” in 2015, he said.
They are going not because of Netanyahu’s appeal, he added, which he said he has heard before from previous Israeli leaders.
“A man who is considering leaving France does not do it because the prime minister of Israel has requested his presence,” Cukierman said. Instead, he blamed an “atmosphere” in which Jewish children must be protected by both police and the army and young men wearing skullcaps are accosted in the subway.
Only a third of Jewish families now send their children to public school in France to avoid harassment, he said… Read more.