Sharon urges French Jews to move to Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has called on all Jews living in France to leave and move to Israel "immediately" after a rise in anti-Semitism.

    Sharon wants to maintain Israel's Jewish majority

    "Altogether I have to advocate to our brothers in France: Move

    to Israel as early as possible," Sharon told a meeting of an

    American Jewish association in Jerusalem on Sunday.

    "That's what I say to Jews all around the world but there [

    France] I think it's a must. They have to move immediately."

    Sharon praised the French government for taking action against

    the "spread of the wildest anti-Semitism", but said it was

    struggling against the impact of the growth of the Muslim


    France is home to Europe's biggest Jewish and Muslim

    communities, estimated at 600,000 and five million respectively.

    According to French interior ministry statistics, the number of

    racist incidents has soared this year.

    Racist incidents

    There were 135 physical acts (vandalism, arson, assault, and

    attacks or attempted attacks) against Jews in the first half of

    2004, compared to 127 for all of 2003, according to the statistics.

    For the same period, there were another 95 acts against other

    ethnic groups - mainly those of North African Arab background -

    compared to 92 for all of last year.

    Jacques Chirac has condemned
    racist violence

    France was gripped by a bout of soul-searching about

    anti-Semitism last week when a 23-year-old woman initially told

    police that a gang of six youths had accosted her on a Paris

    suburban train.

    She claimed they slashed her clothes and drew swastikas on her

    stomach after mistaking her for a Jew.

    But she later admitted she had made up the entire

    incident and begged forgiveness in a televised apology.

    Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said in the aftermath of the

    alleged attack: "Anti-Semitism is a disgrace. We want to fight

    this sort of intolerable racism."

    Israeli demography

    "There is also something wrong in our society: it's the

    indifference to violence," he said.

    French President Jacques Chirac this year excluded racist crimes

    from the traditional blanket clemency for prisoners he signs every

    July for Bastille Day.

    "There is also something wrong in our society:
    it's the

    to violence"

    Jean-Pierre Raffarin,
    French prime minister

    Recent racist acts in France have included the son of a rabbi

    being beaten by five youths near his Paris home, a rabbi in another

    suburb being struck and insulted, and a 15-year-old Jewish boy being

    assaulted at an ice-skating rink near the capital.

    Jewish and Muslim tombs in cemeteries around France have also

    been defaced with graffiti, notably neo-Nazi slogans and symbols.

    Israel has traditionally encouraged Jews from all over the world to emigrate to Israel.

    Israeli politicians have warned if more Jews do not arrive, then Pales

    tinians will eventually outnumber Jews in the country.



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