(JTA) – French President Francois Hollande said France would protect its Jews against rising anti-Semitism.
“Jews are at home in France, it’s the anti-Semites who have no place in the republic,” Hollande said Monday night at the annual dinner of CRIF, the country’s Jewish umbrella organization. “In protecting its Jews, the republic is protecting itself.”
With some 500,000 Jews, France has the highest Jewish population in a European country. Last month, four Jews were killed in a terrorist attack by an Islamist gunman on a kosher market in the Paris area, and earlier this month, an Islamist gunman shot and killed a volunteer Jewish security guard outside the main synagogue in Copenhagen.
“In Paris as in Copenhagen, terrorists have sent the same message: that of war. This scares, which kills, which divides, which seeks to destroy the very foundations of living together. And among the first victims there is always the Jews,” Hollande said.
Hollande also said that attacks against Muslims are on the rise in France.
Some 10,000 troops and police forces are currently protecting the country’s Jewish sites, as well as mosques and places where the public congregates.
Hollande also called for “faster and more effective sanctions” against racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia.
The president also said he would strengthen Holocaust education in French schools. “Not teaching about the Shoah would already mean denying it,” he said.
CRIF President Roger Cukierman earlier Monday during a radio interview asserted that most of the anti-Semitic attacks in France are being perpetrated by a minority of radicals from within the country’s Muslim community. The statement drew condemnation, particularly for Cukierman’s use of the term Islamo-facism, from the French Council of the Muslim Faith, which pulled out of the CRIF event.
Speaking at the dinner, Cukierman said he regretted the absence of Muslim leaders.
“Jews and Muslims are all in the same boat and I hope that contact will swiftly be re-established,” he said.