French President François Hollande announced tough new measures to combat anti-Semitism on Tuesday as he marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp with a visit to Paris's Holocaust memorial.
"France is your homeland", Hollande told representatives of the Jewish community gathered at the Shoah Memorial in central Paris, Europe's leading Holocaust documentation centre, which uses the Hebrew term "Shoah" (catastrophe) to refer to the Nazi genocide of European Jews.
The French president said the rise of anti-Semitic acts in France was "an unbearable reality", after new figures showed these doubling last year.
He said new measures would be implemented to fight anti-Semitism and racism in France, which has also witnessed a growing number of verbal and physical attacks aimed at France's large Muslim, black and Arab communities.
Special report: Auschwitz, 70 years on
“The government is taking measures to make sure synagogues, as well as Jewish businesses and schools, are protected,” he said.
“But I want to go further than this,” he added, saying that racist and anti-Semitic comments, so far dealt with under media laws, would become criminally aggravating acts written into the French penal code.
The proposed laws, which could be in place as early as February, would also allow the French state to block websites containing racist or anti-Semitic content.
Hollande, whose speech commemorated the 76,000 Jews deported from France toward Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War, was due to fly to Auschwitz in southern Poland later on Tuesday.
The announcement of tougher anti-racist laws follows a series of terror attacks in Paris that targeted satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, as well as a Jewish supermarket in the east of Paris. Four French jews were among 17 dead in one of the worst attacks on French soil in living memory.
The killings have heightened fears of an increase in Jewish emigration to Israel. Some 7,000 Jews left France for Israel in 2014, twice as many as in the previous year, meaning that for the first time in history more Jews moved to Israel from France than from any other country.
Date created : 2015-01-27