January 21, 2020
More than 70 years after the Holocaust, Jews across the European Union continue to be the target of discrimination, verbal, and violent physical attacks, including murder. AJC’s newly-released survey on antisemitism in France, carried out in partnership with the Foundation for Political Innovation (Fondapol), presents the views of French Jews and society as a whole on the prevalence and evolution of antisemitism in French society.
The results, which can be viewed in full by clicking here, are sobering.
- Antisemitism Pervades Everyday Life
Both Jews (67%) and the general public (47%) identified antisemitism as a serious problem in French society. In the wake of horrific antisemitic attacks from the kosher supermarket siege in 2015 to the brutal murder of Mireille Knoll in 2018, it should come as no surprise that 77% of Jews and 53% of the general public believe that anti-Jewish hatred is on the rise.
Seven out of ten French Jews stated that they had fallen victim to at least one antisemitic act during their lifetime. Nearly two out of three Jewish respondents (64%) reported that they had suffered antisemitic verbal abuse at least once and nearly one in two French Jews (44%) stated that they had been mocked or insulted.
Nearly a quarter (23%) of participants had fallen victim to an act of physical violence on at least one occasion. One out of ten French Jews have experienced violence on several occasions. The younger generation, aged 18-24, are more likely to have suffered at least one antisemitic act (84%) compared to 70% of all Jewish respondents.
The survey also found that an alarming number of French Jews feel that they have a target on their back simply because of who they are. A third of the Jewish sample said they felt insecure because of their religious beliefs, with over one third (34%) saying they often or occasionally feel threatened. This proportion is significantly higher than the threat assessment observed within the general French population (8%).
- Jews Are Hiding their Identity
Rising levels of antisemitism in France have resulted in a significant percentage of French Jews taking actions to protect themselves. A third said that they had taken active steps to hide their Jewish identity by not displaying symbols such as a mezuzah (37%) or refraining from wearing clothing or items that would identify them as Jewish (33%). More than two out of five respondents (43%) said that they avoid certain locations.
Furthermore, a quarter of respondents believe it is best to avoid revealing their Jewish identity in the workplace. Nearly half of French Jews (46%) said that they had suffered antisemitic verbal abuse at work. But the phenomenon is not limited to professional life. Over half of French Jewish (55%) have been insulted or threatened in the street and nearly six out of ten Jewish children (59%) said that they had suffered physical abuse in school.
The survey also found that religious French Jews are at higher risk of being attacked because they are more identifiably Jewish . Over seven in ten (74%) religious Jews reported that they had suffered at least one act of antisemitic verbal abuse – a 10% higher score than in the overall Jewish sample.
The persistent feeling of insecurity has prompted some Jews to question their future in France and Europe as a whole. The survey reveals a shocking reality: More than one out of two French Jews (52%) have already considered emigrating. 21% of respondents cited fear for their safety and that of their loved ones as their primary motivation. The pervasiveness of antisemitic acts has also resulted in some French Jews considering moving neighborhoods (22%), cities (17%), or regions (15%).
- Antisemitism Is Not A Jewish Problem
While the overall findings of the survey are grim, the Jews of France can take comfort in the fact that the French public is generally in agreement with them in viewing antisemitism as a problem affecting society as a whole. This opinion is shared by 73% of the general public and 72% of French Jews. Only a small group of non-Jewish respondents (8%) identified antisemitism as an exclusively Jewish problem.
The survey also revealed a confluence of far-right, far-left, and Islamist ideologies that are united only by their hatred of Jews. The Jewish respondents referenced the ideas of the far-right and those of the far-left as almost equal causes (26% and 23%). In stark contrast, the general public identified the far-right as being considerably more responsible for antisemitism (30%) than the far-left (9%). In addition, a majority of the general public named prejudices as the primary cause for antisemitism in France (58%), followed by the ideology of Islamism (36%). In contrast, French Jews felt more threatened by Islamist violence (45%) and placed antisemitic prejudices second (42%).
When it comes to the confidence placed in different bodies to tackle antisemitism, both French Jews and the general public named Jewish civil society organizations as leading the way (77% and 66%), followed by the authorities in second place for the Jewish sample (60%) and in third for the general public (59%), after anti-racism associations (61%). A slim majority in both groups (58% and 56%, respectively) believed that local elected officials were working to combat antisemitism.
However, nearly one in two French Jews (47%) and members of the general public (48%) raised doubts that French President Macron was tackling antisemitism effectively, compared to 46% of Jews and 41% of the general public who questioned the commitment of the French government to treat anti-Jewish hatred as a national priority.