Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who is currently serving as a city councilor in Barcelona, has spoken out against antisemitism in an interview with the Jewish radio-station Judaïques FM, calling for the public to remain vigilant in the fight against antisemitism.
“Through the greatest pandemics of history, we have seen the Jews viewed as the propagators of these epidemics – this has been a foundation of conspiracy theories,” Valls said. Therefore, you must be vigilant. You must be ruthless in the struggle against this antisemitism, which is proliferating most notably on social media.”
Valls also noted that France must not be blind to the conflation of antisemitism and anti-Zionism, as it did in the 1980s and early 2000s, during the Palestinian uprisings.
In a message of optimism, Valls added: “France needs this part of Judaism. It needs French Jews. It needs this incredible and unparalleled relationship with itself, with its soul.”
Earlier this month, French lawmakers approved a bill requiring social media companies to report posts that glorify or threaten violence, or express hate speech, and then to remove the post within 24 hours. CRIF President and WJC Vice President Francis Kalifat welcomed the passage of the legislation, describing it as “an important step and step forward in the fight against online hatred,” adding that “hate on the Internet is a scourge that should not be overlooked.”
Valls has long been a strong and vocal advocate for the Jewish community against all types of antisemitism. In January 2014, WJC President Ronald Lauder praised the French government, and specifically then-Interior Minister Valls for imposing a ban against the antisemitic comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, who regularly makes offensive jokes about the Holocaust. “France has no choice but to confront this preacher of hate head-on,” Lauder said in a statement. “Minister Manuel Valls is right: This is a political battle and not just a legal one.”
Shortly after becoming Prime Minister, Valls wrote a letter to President Lauder reaffirming his determination to fight antisemitism and hate speech. “You know my determination, and that of the government, to put an end to the rhetoric of hatred and to hold its propagators accountable to French justice,” Valls wrote. “My engagement is total, as is that of Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve and the other members of the government, and antisemitism will always be fought and punished.”
In 2016, Valls attended the Representative Council of Jews of France (CRIF) dinner. In his remarks, Valls strongly condemned antisemitism from both the extreme right and the extreme left, noting the unfortunate reality that the Jews of France are, “too often afraid to wear a kippah, to go to the synagogue, to go shopping in kosher stores, to send their children to public school. We don’t accept this reality.” Valls’ remarks echoed similar comments he made while speaking at the National Assembly in December 2015.
In May 2015, Valls was honored by the Conference of European Rabbis with the organization's Lord Jakobovits Award for his “exemplary determination in the fight against antisemitism.”