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France

'We will fight anti-Semitism', Hollande tells Netanyahu

©

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-11-01

French President François Hollande promised on Thursday to fight anti-Semitism in France as he joined Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu at a memorial service for four Jewish victims, shot dead outside their school in March by gunman Mohammed Merah.

French President François Hollande vowed on Thursday that France would battle “relentlessly” against all forms of anti-Semitism in order to protect Jews living in the country.

Hollande made his commitment at a memorial service in Toulouse for the four Jewish victims of al Qaeda-inspired gunman Mohammed Merah, where he was joined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
 
The service took place at Ohr Torah school where Merah shot dead three children and a rabbi outside the gates as they arrived on the morning of March 19. Merah also killed three French soldiers in a deadly shooting spree before being killed in a dramatic shootout with police.
 
'Not just acts but words'
 
“We are here because a terrorist committed a cowardly and barbaric act,” Hollande told those who had gathered to pay their respects, including the families of the victims.
 
“I would like to remind you of the French Republic’s determination to fight relentlessly against anti-Semitism. We will attack anti-Semitism and we will repress anti-Semitism, not only the acts but also the words,” Hollande said.
 
The French president said this “repression” would be extended to social networks,which give people the right to express their hatred anonymously”.
 
“Jews in France must be aware of the fact that the French Republic will do everything it can to protect them and to give them security, which is in the interest of all of France.”
 
In the weeks that followed Merah’s deadly rampage, authorities in France reported a worrying rise in the number of anti-Semitic attacks across the country.
 
On Wednesday France expelled a Muslim preacher because of his anti-Semitic speeches and earlier this month, the government carrried out a series of raids targeting a network of French-born Islamists bent on targeting Jews.
 
A day after Netanyahu caused controversy by calling on French Jews to "come home", the Israeli premier praised Hollande for France’s efforts in tackling the “folly” of anti-Semitism and warned against allowing it to fester.
 
“Anti-Semitism very quickly becomes a fire that spreads everywhere and consumes everything,” Netanyahu said.
 
“Anyone who does not respect the human rights of Jews will not respect the human rights of other people.”

'Life turned upside down'
 
The service at the school, previously called Ozar Hatorah, drew pupils and their parents, France's chief rabbi Gilles Bernheim, and Eva Sandler, whose Franco-Israeli husband Jonathan and their two sons, 4-year-old Gabriel and 5-year-old Arieh, were shot dead.
 
School principal Yaacov Monsenego, who lost his eight-year-old daughter Miriam in the attack, broke down as he addressed the gathering.
             
“My life as a husband, as a father, as the principal of a school is turned upside down,” he said.
             
"The attack plunged us into darkness," he added, expressing thanks and gratitude to the "thousands of well-wishers who comforted us."
             
Last week French police unveiled a damning report that exposed several holes in an investigation of Merah before his shooting spree.
             
The joint visit by Hollande and Netanyahu sent "a very strong message of unity against this menace which threatens all humanity," said Nicole Yardeni, president of the Council of French Jewish Institutions in the Midi-Pyrenees region.
              
There was tight security at the venue with one police officer saying, "Netanyahu is one of the world's most protected figures along with the Pope and the president of the United States."
             
France is home to between 350,000 and 500,000 Jews, according to estimates. Since the creation of Israel in 1948, more than 90,000 French Jews have settled there.
 
(FRANCE 24 with wires)

 

Date created : 2012-11-01

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