PARIS/NEW YORK (EJP)—World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald on Tuesday praised French President François Hollande for delivering a “great speech” at the annual dinner of CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewishn organizations in Paris.
Lauder called the speech a “rallying cry in the fight against hatred.”
Hollande said that “the Jews are at home in France and it’s the anti-Semites who don’t have a place in the Republic” as he announced the next steps in the government’s plan to fight anti-Semitism in France, including protecting Jewish sites for as long as necessary and new measures to curb the dissemination of hate speech on the Internet. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls will present “in the coming days” the plan “as complete as concrete,” said the president.
Some 700 invited guests attended the prestigious dinner in a Paris hotel.
‘’In protecting its Jews, the Republic is protecting itself,’’ Hollande said, urging more European cooperation in the fight against jihadist terrorism.
The French president also called for more effective punishment of anti-Semitic acts and urged measures against hate speech: “I want such speech to come under criminal rather than media law.” The French leader said that talks with the CEOs of the major Internet giants would soon take place in France to determine how to curb the dissemination of hate speech on the Internet.
“Not teaching about the Shoah would already mean denying it,” said Hollande, who vowed to strengthen Holocaust education in schools.
The CRIF dinner came after the January Paris attacks against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and against the Hyper Cacher market of Porte de Vincennes, which killed 17 people including four Jews, and shortly after the Copenhagen attacks that left two dead including a Jew and the vandalisation of hundreds of graves at Jewish cemeteries in eastern and northern France in recent weeks.
“There is no ordinary anti-Semitism,” said Francois Hollande, speaking of “leprosy” that is “still there 70 years after the Holocaust,” and that “France will fight without weakness.”
” 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. ”
“President Hollande has made it absolutely clear: Anti-Semitism, and any other form of hatred and racism, must not and will not be tolerated, and the entire country must mobilize against it. His speech sends a strong signal that France will not surrender to the forces of evil and that it is taking the leading role in fighting anti-Semitism and terrorism. We fully support President Hollande and his government in this endeavor,” Ronald Lauder declared.
“In recent months, the Jewish community in France – the largest in Europe – witnessed the worst attacks since the end of World War II. We all – Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders, governments and the wider civil society – must work together to ensure that our freedoms are safeguarded and that the fight against terrorist and extremist of any form is won,” the WJC President added.
Shortly before the CRIF dinner began, France’s largest Muslim organisation, the French Muslim Council (CFCM), announced that it was boycotting the event following comments made by CRIF president Roger Cukierman that young Muslims were the cause of all violent crimes in France.
In an interview with French radio station Europe 1 earlier Monday, Cukierman noted that, “All violence, and we must say this, all violent acts today are committed by young Muslims. Of course, that’s a small minority of the Muslim community and the Muslims are the first victims,” he added.
The CFCM also denounced Cukierman’s support for the term “Islamo-fascism”, which was used by Prime Minister Manuel Valls earlier this month.
The annual CRIF dinner has traditionally drawn senior French politicians – almost half of the government- as well as leaders of all major religions.
Addressing the issue of the absence of the CFCM, Cukierman expressed the hope that “contact would be rapidly re-established” with France’s Muslim community.
The CFCM, said Cukierman, “informed us this afternoon of its decision not to attend the dinner. I learned of this decision with deep regret”, he said. Cukierman added that he had called CFCM leader Dalil Boubakeur, Rector of the Paris Mosque, “to try to change his mind” and that he had told the CFCM leader that the accusations against him were unfounded.
France is home to Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish communities.
In his interview with Europe 1 Cukierman also said while he would never vote for the extreme-right National Front party, “it is now a party that does not commit violence”.
National Front leader Marine Le Pen, however, has not been invited to the CRIF dinner despite a comment by Cukierman that the current FN leader, who is doing high in opinion polls, was “irreproachable”.
Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has been frequently accused and condemned for anti-Semitism and is reviled across France for his infamous dismissal of the Holocaust as a “detail” of history.
The new National Front, however, has spent considerable energy trying to soften the party’s anti-Semitic image.