Paris, 15 February,
In a letter to French Interior Minister, Claude Guéant, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's President for France, Richard Odier and its Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, called for measures "to cancel the 'Israel Apartheid' conference at the University of Paris VIII and anywhere else in France, as a provocation threatening public order and a danger to the Jewish community".
Samuels recalled "Guéant's welcome last November to the North American Trustees of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, where he had shared with us his commitment to combat antisemitism in all its forms".
The letter highlighted "the Centre's global campaign against this month's university campus 'Israel Apartheid Week', which is manipulated by an extreme-left / Islamist alliance, with support emanating from the Middle East", adding that, "while the thrust of 'Apartheid Week' is to delegitimize and isolate the Jewish State by boycott and embargo, it is, in fact, a clear violation of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency's Working Definition of Antisemitism. The EU has thereby defined the collateral threats of such measures to Jewish communities, wherever they take place."
The Centre brought to the Minister's attention that, "on 27 and 28 February, such a conference on 'New Sociological, Historical and Juridical approaches to the Call for International Boycott : Israel, an Apartheid State ? ' is to be held at the University of Paris VIII. It is to be addressed by international coordinator of the so-called BDS (Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment) campaign, Omar Barghouti, notorious for his reported comparisons of Israeli policies with 'Nazi practises against Jews'".
The letter continued, "these gatherings have, in the past, degenerated into attacks on synagogues (for example during the anti-Israel agitation of the 2003 European Social Forum in St. Denis) and, more recently, against supermarkets across France, at which the kosher food sections have been pillaged, thereby intimidating the Jewish community and the shopping public at large".
Odier and Samuels noted that Guéant's predecessor, Brice Hortefeux, "in correspondence with us, had endorsed legal measures under the French Criminal Code article 225-1/2 and articles 23 and 24 of the 1881 law against racial and religious discrimination"..."Indeed, we have noted that, on 7 March 2011, the Council of State upheld the refusal of a hall to the Collectif Palestine (Palestine Society) at the prestigious Paris college - The Ecole Normale Supérieure - arguing that this did not violate freedom of assembly and of expression on campus."
The Centre urged the Minister "to take the necessary measures to cancel the 'Israel Apartheid' conference at the University of Paris VIII and anywhere else in France, as a provocation threatening public order and a danger to the Jewish community".
"We also suggest that foreign agitators, such as Omar Barghouti, involved in the 'Apartheid Week' programme should be denied the opportunity to abuse the hospitality of France. All university and academic debate is, certainly, at the root of French liberty on condition that it does not become a platform for invective and incitement to hatred" concluded Odier and Samuels.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre is an international Jewish human rights organization with a worldwide membership of 440,000. Established in 1977, with headquarters in Los Angeles, it draws the lessons of the Holocaust to the analysis of contemporary issues of prejudice and discrimination. The Centre is an NGO in consultative status to the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the Organization of American States and the Council of Europe.
For further information, please contact Dr Shimon Samuels at +33.609.7701.58