Published on 2 December 2019

VoteIHRA - Crif President Francis Kalifat Op-Ed: “Fighting antisemitism: an important vote at the French Parliament”

Crif President Francis Kalifat calls on the French Parliament to adopt the resolution to fight antisemitism.

Op-Ed published in Le Figaro on December 2nd

On December 3rd, a motion for a resolution to combat antisemitism will be put to the vote of the French Parliament. This text supports the definition of antisemitism by the International Alliance for the Remembrance of the Holocaust (IHRA), an intergovernmental organization that brings together 33 states, including France, since 1999: "Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

 The President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron announced the implementation of this definition at the 2019 Crif Dinner. The vote of December 3rd is an important vote because in the context of crisis, distrust and distress that our country is experiencing, antisemitism is getting worse and worse.

Since the beginning of this century, we, French Jews, see our situation deteriorate, sloping gently or intermittently, in silence or in the media, murder after murder. We who represent less than 1% of the total population are victims each year of about 50% of all racist acts identified by the Ministry of the Interior. 2018 was a black year. In the first half of 2019, antisemitic acts increased again by 78%. It is an everyday life antisemitism, made of insults, threats, tags, and fear. This situation must change.

We need a more effective, more targeted policy that tackles all forms of antisemitism.

There needs to be a more effective, more focused policy that addresses all forms of antisemitism. Policemen, magistrates, teachers, educators, social network leaders tell us their need for a clear text to which they could refer. This text exists, it is the IHRA definition. The fight against antisemitism and IHRA definition should make consensus. This is not the case.

The IHRA definition has been demonized The IHRA definition has been demonized. It would be a threat to freedom of expression and any criticism of Israel's policy would become impossible. It's completely wrong. Just read the definition: "Criticizing Israel as one would criticize any other state can not be considered antisemitism."

The Observatory of Hate over the Internet, which Crif is currently finalizing with the Ipsos Institute, shows that the hatred against the French Jews very often expresses itself through the hatred of Israel and that there is a great confusion between Jew, Israeli and Zionist. As an illustration, I reproduce two posts that appear in the Ipsos study: "100% of those who pull the strings are Zionists", and "France was sold to banks and who owns these banks? The Zionists". It is useful here to quote the IHRA definition: "Antisemitism often consists in accusing Jews of conspiring against humanity and, in so doing, holding them accountable for all the problems of the world."

The IHRA definition would also prohibit criticism of Israel's existence. But to oppose the existence of a state, is it not to wish for its disappearance? Assad massacred his people, yet no one criticizes the existence of Syria. The Chinese regime represses the Muslim minority of the Uighurs, yet no one criticizes the existence of China. Why should Israel be the only state to be wiped off the map? To oppose the very existence of Israel, is it not antisemitic?

"All hatreds are diseases"

On another note, endorsing the IHRA definition would be unbalanced because nothing would be done at the same time for the Palestinians. Why mix the fight against hatred against French in France with the resolution of a conflict abroad? Would it be a question of indexing the fight against anti-Semitism in France to the situation of the Palestinians? It would also be communitarian ... because it would only concern Jewish French people. Racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, homophobia, islamophobia..., all hatreds are diseases and none is more serious than others. But we do not cure all diseases with the same treatment. It is about time to try more targeted treatments. The IHRA definition will address antisemitism in all its forms.

The vote of December 3rd will follow the vote of June 1st 2017 by the European Parliament, which called on the Member States to adopt and apply the IHRA definition. Today, fifteen European member States have responded to this call, including Germany and the United Kingdom.

I will end this text by asking French Parliament members two questions. With a new rise of antisemitism in 2019, is it time to tear up on a definition that will better fight against antisemitism?

Does the French Parliament want to be the first in Europe to reject the IHRA definition, or adopt it with a narrow majority? I hope with all my heart that you will be a lot, on December 3rd, to vote in favor of the resolution. The current situation requires it.

Francis Kalifat, Crif President