PARIS, Nov. 17, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Three distinct groups in France are noticeably more anti-Jewish than the overall population, according to two new public opinion surveys on French anti-Semitism.
The groups are supporters of the National Front party (extreme right), to a lesser extent supporters of the Left Front coalition (extreme left), and members of the Muslim community.
"These groundbreaking surveys are important for understanding the complexities and sources of anti-Semitism in France," said Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC Paris. "Clearly, the government and civil society must not be afraid to identify and name the sources of anti-Semitism. Only then can a comprehensive plan be developed to address a problem that fundamentally threatens all of French society."
The Foundation for Political Innovation (Fondapol), a leading French think tank, commissioned the surveys following a series of seminars, co-organized with AJC Paris, on anti-Semitism in France. The seminars met amidst a pronounced increase in anti-Semitic activity in France. According to the Jewish Community Protection Service(SPCJ), there was a 91 percent spike in the first seven months of 2014, with more than 200 incidents this summer, during the Hamas-instigated war against Israel, targeting Jewish individuals, shops and synagogues. The seminar discussions sought to gain a better understanding of the sources of anti-Semitism in France and to develop clear policy recommendations.
One survey, conducted by the polling firm IFOP on behalf of Fondapol in October 2014, was completed online by 1,005 respondents, who were asked if they are supporters of the National Front or Left Front. Separately, 575 self-identified Muslims were polled by IFOP in individual face-to-face interviews. The surveys are available at http://www.fondapol.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/CONF2press-Antisemitisme-DOC-6-web11h51.pdf
The surveys are both unprecedented, the first for breaking down respondents by political affiliation, and the second for exclusively polling Muslims. Both gauged attitudes towards Jews and opinions on the Holocaust, Zionism and other issues. Also, these surveys for the first time examined the correlation between anti-Semitism and heavy reliance on the Internet for information and news.
On the positive side, the surveys found broad support across all sectors of the French population for Holocaust education and for efforts to combat anti-Semitism and racism. Seventy-seven percent of all survey respondents agree and only 12 percent disagree that teaching the Holocaust to younger generations is important. Laudably, Holocaust denial is virtually absent in French public opinion.
On the other hand, significant percentages of the French general population maintain stereotypical views of Jews, particularly that they have too much influence in key sectors of society. For example, 25 percent of Frenchmen, 33 percent of Left Front sympathizers, 51 percent of National Front sympathizers, and 61 percent of Muslims say Jews have too much power in the media.
Perceptions that Jews use their Holocaust victim status "in their own interest" resonate strongly among National Front supporters (62 percent), Left Front supporters (51 percent) and Muslims (56 percent). But that view is held by 35 percent of the French population as a whole.
Regarding Zionism, the Jewish national movement, 46 percent of the entire sample agree,12 percent disagree, and 42 percent say they don't know that Zionism is "an ideology which claims the right of Jews to have their own state on the lands of their ancestors." Interestingly, majorities of Muslims (51 percent) and Left Front supporters (60 percent) agree, while only 37 percent of National Front backers agree.
And while 25 percent of all French people believe Zionism is "an international organization that aims to influence the world and society in favor of the Jews," 57 percent of Muslims, 32 percent of National Front supporters, and 28 percent of Left Front supporters consider that statement true.
"The high numbers of French who assert no knowledge or a highly distorted view about the true nature of Zionism is disturbing, and doubtless is a contributing factor to misperceptions and lack of understanding of the movement and Israel prevalent in France today," said Rodan-Benzaquen.
Rodan-Benzaquen also pointed out "the tolerance for violence targeting Jews among a rather significant percent of the population," revealed in the surveys.
Seventy-three percent of all survey respondents said the protests and violence against Jews during the summer were unacceptable, while 14 percent said they were understandable. The 14 percent figure rose among the three groups under examination. Among National Front supporters, 65 percent considered them unacceptable and 20 percent understandable. Seventy-five percent of Left Front supporters found them unacceptable and 21 percent understandable. Among Muslims, 67 percent thought they were unacceptable and 25 percent understandable.
General attitudes towards fellow French Jewish citizens also are "disturbing," said Rodan-Benzaquen. While 84 percent of the French population says that a Jew is just as French as any other person, only 61 percent of National Front supporters do. More aligned with the general French population on this issue are Muslims (91 percent) and Left Front supporters (85 percent).
Within the Muslim community, the survey found that anti-Semitism tends to vary by degree of religiosity. For example, 51 percent of all Muslim respondents, compared to 19 percent of all survey respondents, say "Jews have too much power in politics." But among the Muslim respondents, 37 percent of those who identify themselves as of "Muslim origin," 49 percent as "believing Muslims," and 63 percent as "practicing Muslims" agree with that statement. The Muslim sample consisted of 21 percent who identify as of "Muslim origin," 34 percent as "believing Muslims," and 42 percent as "practicing Muslims."
Significantly, the surveys revealed for the first time a clear link between anti-Semitism and those who get most of their information online -- via social media, discussion forums, and videos such as YouTube.
Forty-two percent of those who watch videos online believe that Jews have too much power in finance, 59 percent that Jews have too much power in the media, 47 percent that Jews have too much power in politics, and 67 percent that Jews use their status of victims during the Holocaust in their own interest.
The surveys also found a correlation between views of French democracy and anti-Semitism.
Among those who say that democracy works well -- 32 percent of the total sample -- only 24 percent believe that Jews have too much power in politics. In comparison, of the 68 percent who say democracy does not work well, 76 percent believe Jews have too much power in politics.
"This confirms that anti-Semitism is linked to a more profound crisis that affects the very ideals of France, its democracy and republican model," said Rodan-Benzaquen. "The fight against anti-Semitism is a fight for France's values."
SOURCE American Jewish Committee