AJC Praises French President Hollande's Vow to Fight Anti-Semitism and Racism

Jan 01, 2014, 12:12 ET from American Jewish Committee

PARIS, Jan. 1, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC praised French President Francois Hollande for his New Year's pledge to fight anti-Semitism and racism.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100816/AJCLOGO)

In his televised end-of-the-year address to the nation, Hollande declared that he "will not condone anti-Semitism, racism and any form of discrimination...The values of the French Republic are not negotiable."

"Confronting the scourges of anti-Semitism and racism requires a sustained national effort," said Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC Paris. "It is reassuring for Jews and other minorities, indeed for all people of goodwill, that President Hollande and Interior Minister Manuel Valls have made it their priority to combat anti-Semitism and racism. All political, religious and civil society leaders should join in this national battle against ignorance and hate."

The French president's traditional New Year's Eve address to the nation comes after months of controversy over the use of a salute called the "quenelle," which has been made popular by the notoriously anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala. He has been convicted seven times for racial incitement against Jews, and French prosecutors last week opened an eighth investigation against him.

Minister Valls, announcing a legal review aimed at banning the comedian's public appearances for public disorder said, "Dieudonne M'bala M'bala doesn't seem to recognize any limits any more."

In recent days, the quenelle has gained further notoriety after a French professional soccer player, Nicolas Anelka, made the gesture during a football match in Great Britain.

The quenelle also has been used by individuals at Jewish sites, including earlier this week in front of the very same Jewish school in Toulouse where three schoolchildren and a teacher were brutally murdered in an anti-Semitic terror attack in 2012. In September, two soldiers were punished by the army for making the gesture in uniform in front of a Paris synagogue.

In addition, 2013 witnessed racist attacks against French Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, who was born in French Guiana and is black.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) survey of Jews in eight EU countries, released in November, found that 85 percent of French Jews see anti-Semitism as a problem and 70 percent fear becoming the victim of a hate crime in France.

SOURCE American Jewish Committee