More than 850 guests, including many senior French politicians, attended the annual dinner of the Jewish umbrella organization CRIF in Paris on Monday.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls filled in for President François Hollande, who was held up in Brussels at an EU summit. Valls said he understood Jewish concerns following last year's terror attacks in Paris. "All too often, French Jews have reason to be frightened." He went on to say: "French Jews must not have doubts about France [...] They have helped to build France, and they must continue to build it."
In his remarks, Valls strongly condemned anti-Semitism from both the extreme right and the extreme left. “Yes, 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 said.
Valls vigorously defended the right of Jews in France to live and dress as they please, to be Jews in France.
Valls also acknowledged that anti-Zionism was simply a thin veil for the new style of hatred of Jews. “There is anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, which is synonymous with anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel,” he said.
“The Jews of France have built France and they must continue to build it – but at the same time, I know the solidarity that you feel for Israel,”Valls added.
“Israel is a democracy, a nation that speaks to the world, and France will always be by its side,” the Socialist politician added.
Cukierman: 'State of emergency must also apply to the internet'
In his opening speech, CRIF President Roger Cukierman, who is also a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, highlighted that after the 2015 terror attacks French Jews often felt like second-class citizens who had to lead "secluded lives" for their own safety.
"When will we finally get some revolutionary proposals to make public schools once again the schools for everybody?" Cukierman asked, noting that most Jewish parents nowadays preferred to send their children to Jewish schools instead of state institutions.
He also denounced an explosion in the number of "hate messages" disseminated on the internet and called for "new rules" to be "imposed on Facebook, Twitter and Google to stop this development." Cukierman said: "The state of emergency [currently in force in France] must also be applied when it comes to the internet." He called for more resources to be allocated to the fight against cyber hate.