Leaders of the American Jewish Congress have a message for critics of the group’s stance on French anti-Semitism: Let them eat cake.
A delegation of AJCongress leaders who visited France earlier this month said the country’s Jews heavily support the group’s tactics, which include an ad campaign criticizing the French for inaction on the eve of the Cannes film festival, and directing newspaper readers to a Web site, BoycottFrance.com.
Representatives of a French Jewish council, CRIF, had said during a visit to the United States that an aggressive stand by Jews in America could do more harm than good, and other Jewish groups here criticized the AJCongress stance.
But AJCongress president Jack Rosen said he sees a different outlook in France. "We found a good number of [Jewish] organizations who expressed far deeper concern than CRIF had represented when they came here, and [they] supported our positions," said Rosen, who returned to the United States one day before a right-wing extremist tried to assassinate President Jacques Chirac.
Rosen said the awareness of government leaders about the AJCongress campaign is proof it had an made impact. "They often had copies of our ads in the meetings and expressed their disapproval of our actions," said Rosen. "We also understand that Chirac told President Bush when he was there that he disapproved of the kinds of action on the part of the American Jewish Congress. I think we got their attention."
Rosen said the organization raised concerns about growing anti-Semitism in the nation’s large Muslim community, which he said was tolerated by the prior French government and "fueled by the media’s pro-Palestinian bias." He said the attack on Chirac may have been spurred by a lack of leadership against extremism, which "gives tacit approval to others to carry out their hatred."
He expressed optimism that the new government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is taking a more aggressive stance, adding 1,200 new police officers to combat hate crimes. The progress of a bill that would double the penalties for hate crimes in the national assembly is also encouraging, said Rosen.
Last week, at a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the mass round-up of Parisian Jews during the Holocaust, Raffarin condemned the recent spate of anti-Jewish attacks and declared that France "has no place for anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia."
The ceremony was held at the Velodrome d’Hiver bicycle stadium, where Jews were deported to concentration camps.