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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 19:07 GMT 20:07 UK
France warned over anti-Semitism
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom
Courts need to do more to combat anti-Semitism, Silvan Shalom says
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has urged France to back up its strong words against anti-Semitism with action to curb a rise in attacks on Jews.

Anti-Semitic acts have more than doubled in the first seven months of this year compared to 2003.

After meeting French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin in Paris, Mr Shalom said courts needed to be firmer and schools should address the issue.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has urged Jews to flee France.

His outburst last month prompted a sharp rebuke from French President Jacques Chirac.

Anti-Semitism

After being threatened with a ban on travel to France, Mr Sharon changed his tone, praising Mr Chirac's efforts to combat anti-Semitism.

France is home to Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim communities, estimated at 600,000 and 5 million respectively.

Attacks against Jews have risen noticeably in France in the past four years, in parallel with the violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

I don't think any of us could believe that 60 years on, Jews would again live under a threat in Europe
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom

From January to July, there were 160 anti-Semitic acts in France - compared to 75 over the corresponding period the year before.

Mr Shalom's visit, the first by a high-level Israeli official since Mr Sharon's criticisms, came just two days after unidentified arsonists scrawled swastikas and torched a Jewish community centre in Paris.

War on racism

Mr Shalom praised the harsh condemnation of that attack and others voiced by the French government, which has declared "war on racism".

But he said courts needed to do more to punish those responsible.

"I don't think any of us could believe that 60 years on, Jews would again live under a threat in Europe," he said, referring to the Nazi Holocaust.

Mr Shalom added the fight must also be taken to French schools and universities, suggesting students be told "it is much better to love each other than to hate each other".

Mr De Villepin said the wave of attacks was "unacceptable" and contrary to French values.


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