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Last Updated:  Thursday, 27 March, 2003, 15:38 GMT
French anti-Semitism reports surge
A Molotov cocktail was thrown at this synagogue in Montpellier last year, but attackers missed their target
Attacks on synagogues have increased since 11 September 2001
There was a dramatic rise in reported racist and anti-Semitic acts in France last year, according to the French Government's human rights watchdog.

The National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH) said there had been more than 300 registered instances of violence, and almost 1,000 cases of abuse or threats.

Two-thirds of them were anti-Semitic - six times as many as in 2001.

If the increase in the number of attacks aimed at the immigrant community is significant, the quantity of attacks aimed at the Jewish commmunity has truly exploded
CNCDH report
The CNCDH said the incidents, often blamed on young men of Arab descent, were largely connected with the escalation in the Middle East conflict.

The attacks on America of 11 September 2001 are also thought to have fuelled tensions.

The report also confirmed a tendency in recent years towards a drop in racism linked to traditional far-right groups.

Iraq factor

Correspondents say many in the French Jewish community have been shocked by attacks against rabbis, synagogues and Jewish schools.

RACIST ACTS
Acts of violence (total) - 313
Acts of violence (anti-Semitic) - 193

Threats, graffiti, insults (total) - 992
Threats, graffiti, insults (anti-Semitic) - 731
"If the increase in the number of attacks aimed at the immigrant community is significant, the quantity of attacks aimed at the Jewish commmunity has truly exploded," the report said.

And there are concerns that tensions between France's half a million Jews and five million Muslims could now rise further as a result of the war in Iraq.

On Saturday, four Jews participating in an anti-war demonstration in Paris were attacked with metal bars.

Tensions reduced

Last month Education Minister Luc Ferry announced new measures to deal with anti-Semitism in French schools.

Muslim schoolchildren
Muslims fear being singled out as an enemy
Schoolteachers have reported problems teaching subjects such as the Holocaust, the war in Algeria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to classes with large Arab representation.

However, the French Government's position of opposing the US-led war on Iraq appears to have helped to calm the situation.

"The Jewish community is worried about being made a scapegoat while Muslims fear being singled out as the enemy," Malek Boutih, president of SOS Racism, was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

"But France's position on the international front has encouraged republican integration. A national community is forged through trials such as this."




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