Paris, 3 April 2013
In a letter to National Assembly Deputy and President of the Association of the Mayors of France (AMF) ,Jacques Pelissard, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, urged that "the AMF, representing 34,486 municipalities nationwide, mobilize local bodies - in major cities, towns, and villages - to contain the rapidly growing scourge of grassroots antisemitism that endangers France itself". Samuels stressed that "Mayors in France are active at both the municipal and the national legislative levels.
Indeed, since the 9/11 attacks in the United States, Mayors have become leading actors,on both sides of the Atlantic, against terrorism and incitement to hate". The letter pointed to the AMF mission statement presenting itself as "'a pro-active force with a real capacity to maintain a permanent dialogue with the public authorities…exercising a continuous followup on current legislation and regulation of communities, conducting a task of profound expertise to deliver personalized counsel to mayors and communal leaders'".
Samuels noted that he was present at the 3 October 1980 bombing of the rue Copernic synagogue in Paris. "This launched a series of 29 shootings and bombings of Jewish targets across France, culminating in the rue des Rosiers massacre in August 1982. Action Directe terrorists returning to France that summer, after training in Lebanese PLO camps, proceeded to attack banks, embassies, and general targets in Paris and the provinces. This proved the late Simon Wiesenthal’s maxim that 'what starts with the Jews never ends with them'. The French government, at that point, introduced Plan Vigipirate to smash the terrorists".
The letter described a new wave, in which "399 antisemitic incidents in 2011, rose to 614 (of which 102 violent) in 2012, leading to a poll claiming that 25% of French Jews consider leaving the country – indeed, significant numbers have already moved to the United Kingdom... This exodus mounted as 90 incidents followed,in the ten day aftermath of the atrocity at the Toulouse Jewish school in March 2012. Many of these were accompanied by statements heroizing Mohammed Merah, the Toulouse murderer".
Samuels emphasized that "in only the past two months there have been:
- Death threats to French Chief Rabbi, Gilles Bernheim and a man arrested making a Nazi salute outside his office.
- A dud bomb left next to a Jewish Centre in Lyon.
- The desecration of the synagogue of Haguenau. - Swastikas on the office of the French Union of Jewish Students.
- An attack on a 'kippa' wearing Jewish adolescent, by three reportedly 'Middle Eastern' adults on a Paris suburban train.
- The reported beating, by so-called 'Middle Eastern' hooligans, of Israeli film-maker Yariv Horowitz, at the Aubagne Festival, on the screening of his award-winning film, 'Rock the Casbah'.
- The threats reported by Paris Match from Mauritanian Salafist, Hacen Ould Khalil (aka Joulaybib), of 'new attacks against France, in which the Crusaders (Christians) and the Zionist Jews will pay for the aggression in the north of Mali',
continuing," I hope that France realizes that there will be dozens of Mohammed Merahs...'".
The letter argued that, "as in 1982, Jewish citizens will not henceforth be the only target, French democracy itself is at risk, especially when native born recruits to Jihadism return home from training in Pakistan, the North Africa or Syria".
The Centre acknowledged that "central government requires the input initiatives of local authorities to confront this challenge. We have learned from around the globe, that it is dedicated Mayors who can best engage civil society partners in zero-tolerance projects against hate and violence. It is their best practices that can be replicated from one municipality to another".
"We call on your leadership to launch a campaign to turn the tide of grassroots antisemitism in France – for all its citizens, Christian, Jewish and Muslim,just as the Simon Wiesenthal Centre is ready to work with you and the AMF to that end".