Scores of Jewish graves were found desecrated in a cemetery in the small Alsatian village of Westhoffen, hours before lawmakers adopted a resolution equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Dozens of graves have been found daubed with swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti, the latest in a series of cemetery and synagogue profanations in the region.
The historic cemetery, which dates to the 16th century and houses the graves of the families of Karl Marx and former French prime ministers Léon Blum and Michel Debré, is the third Jewish cemetery in Alsace to be desecrated in the last year, according to the authorities.
Jean-Louis Debré, former president of France's Constitutional Council, who visited the cemetery with Mr. Castaner on Wednesday, and whose family is buried there, said: "I'm not forgetting that 10 members of my family did not come back from Auschwitz."
There have been more than 50 incidents this year of school and village walls and cemeteries scrawled with anti-Semitic graffiti in the region.
According to research by the Vienna-based European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) anti-Semitism is growing in the EU. "We have observed an increase in acts of violence against Jews in certain countries," Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, a scientific adviser to the FRA, says, adding that "the kind of anti-Semitism that permeates these societies makes Jews feel they cannot live like others and that they cannot live as Jews in their home countries."
He says: "(...) the harassment, verbal abuse and belittling of Jews has become 'normal' in some European societies today - that is a deeply worrying trend."
A 2018 FRA survey found that 65% of French citizens and 43% of Germans consider anti-Semitic incidents a "very serious problem." In Italy, however, only 21% shared the view, while merely 14% of Danes said they thought this was problematic. Most cases of anti-Semitic harassment were registered in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, according to the FRA.
The EU agency registered the fewest such incidents in the UK, France and Italy. Even so, Dimitrakopoulos does not believe any parts of the EU are immune to anti-Semitism: "I think this problem affects all member states, though countries like Germany and France are impacted more because they have a larger number of Jewish communities which makes Jewish life more visible there."
Hostile attitudes toward Jews are part of a syndrome that according to the findings of a series of national empirical studies also includes xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, sexism, exclusion of the homeless, etc. Antisemitism, however, also displays very specific characteristics, which distinguishes it from attitudes toward other groups that suffer discrimination. The cause of this difference must be sought in the deep historical roots of the categorization of Jews. It derives less from the current group status of Jews or in contact or conflict with Jews presently living in the respective country, who make up a dwindling share of the population in many European countries. In order to understand today's attitudes toward Jews it is necessary to examine the long history of religious antiJewish hostilities and in particular the specific social position of Jews in the nationstates emerging in nineteenth-century Europe.
We believe that from the AEPJ, we are in an important position to contribute our grain of sand in combating anti-Semitism and all kinds of hate discrimination. Therefore, we are very happy to announce that we will participate, from next year 2020, in the NOA project, (networks overcoming antisemitism) with the support of the European Commission Rights and Citizenship Program.
The NOA project will provide a mechanism to support Member States in the development and implementation of national action plans and provide a wealth of socio-cultural educational resources that can reverse the tide of antisemitic attitudes. Only through such a hand-in-hand approach that marries policy and practice, security and education, transnational and national actions can positive results be achieved in reducing the prevalence and impact of antisemitism in Europe.
Press on Westhoffen's attack
Le Journal du Dimanche
New York TImes
Interview Philippe Ichter à la radio nationale juive RCJ
Jean-Louis Debré parle de Westhoffen et de sa famille sur Akadem
Times of Israel
France 3 Grand Est ?. en bas de l?article vous trouverez des liens vers des actes antisémites commis récemment dans de nombreuses localités alsaciennes
Video sur 20 minutes/Youtube