New Major Report Outlines Strategies to Combat French Antisemitism and Extremism

Washington, D.C.—Today to mark the one-year anniversary of the tragic attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris, Human Rights First has released a major new report detailing the rise of antisemitism and extremism in France and how the United States can work with its key ally to combat resulting violence and hate crime.

The report, “Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Countering Antisemitism and Extremism in France,” is based on months of research and analysis on antisemitism and extremism in France. It examines how the rise of the far right and Islamic extremism are converging in a vicious cycle to fuel intolerance and violence. The report focuses on ways that U.S. government leaders can work with their French counterparts to prevent future attacks, promote greater tolerance and inclusiveness, and chart a path forward that upholds our shared commitment to human rights as an integral part of national security.

“Antisemitic violence harms not only its direct victims but entire Jewish communities, preventing them from exercising their fundamental rights,” noted Human Rights First’s Susan Corke, lead author of today’s report. “Left unchecked, antisemitism leads to the persecution of other minorities, and to an overall increase in repression and intolerance. An increase in antisemitism is a harbinger of societal breakdown.”

The report comes weeks after November’s tragic terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 individuals and wounded hundreds more. Building on the organization’s history of combating antisemitism and hate crimes in Europe, Human Rights First has researched violent extremism and antisemitism in France and examined why these trends have erupted into horrific violence. The problems identified in today’s report become all the more pressing due to the upcoming French presidential election in 2017, the rise of far-right parties, and the effects of the global refugee crisis in France.

The report’s key findings include:

  • French Jews confront multiple forms of antisemitism, including antisemitic hate crimes ranging in severity from insults and graffiti to assaults;
  • Antisemitic incidents are on the rise in France, yet underreported and inadequately researched; and,
  • Government action to denounce and confront antisemitism, if not part of broader, inclusive efforts, may paradoxically exacerbate it.

The report identifies a complex array of root causes that contribute to rising antisemitism, including the increasing influence of the far-right political party the National Front, and the exclusion of marginalized groups from French identity and “Republican values.” It finds that French Muslims, immigrants, and French citizens of Middle Eastern, North African, and Sub-Saharan African heritage also suffer from hate crimes, prejudice, and discrimination that arises in an environment in which racist, xenophobic, and antisemitic discourse is on the rise.

“France is a vital American ally; as such, the United States has a strong interest in combating these serious human rights problems and supporting efforts to have a stronger and more inclusive society,” stated Corke.

Breaking the Cycle of Violence” identifies a number of ways in which the U.S. government can promote greater transatlantic cooperation in addressing the root causes of antisemitism and extremism to prevent future attacks. These recommendations for the U.S. government include:

  • Senior U.S. officials should continue to condemn antisemitic violence in France. Official statements should avoid fueling a “clash of civilizations” narrative between Jewish and Muslim communities, and instead develop messaging that is sensitive to current forms of marginalization.
  • The State and Justice Departments should conduct intergovernmental exchanges on current strategies to prevent and respond to hate violence.
  • The U.S. government and French governments should create a joint action task force on combating antisemitism and racism, and should advance exchanges for French civil society leaders to learn about U.S. experiences in building coalitions, combating discrimination, and developing evidence-based strategies.
  • The U.S. government should consistently uphold respect for human rights as a critical means of combating violent extremism, and should strengthen transatlantic security institutions based on these democratic principles.

The report will be launched at an event in Washington, D.C. at the National Press Club. A live stream will be available beginning at 9am EST.


Published on January 7, 2016


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