Joseph Zrihen: 'My children face a daily barrage of insults and name-calling'

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My children suffer more than I do for being Jewish. I think it's much more common in France among young people nowadays. My children have to face a daily barrage of insults and name-callings. Thankfully they haven't really been the victims of physical violence. But I know other people whose children have been verbally and physically harassed and one who actually had to go to hospital.

You cannot say anti-Semitism is a recent phenomenon in France but it does seem to have worsened and become more publicly obvious in recent years. In just the first half of 2004 there have been more than 370 discriminatory acts against Jews which have given rise to complaint. I think that people are now much more free to say what they want about people, races, anything they want.

The boundaries marking what you can say in public and what you cannot have retreated and people can get away with all kinds of malicious insults and slurs. This is absolutely intolerable; after words come acts, so we must do our utmost to condemn this way of speaking. Any racist or discriminatory comments must be severely punished.

But, however bad the situation may be, Sharon's comments were highly excessive. He simply has no legitimacy to make appeals like that. There has been a Jewish community in France for over 2,000 years. You cannot talk about "French Jews"; we are simply French citizens of Jewish denomination, just as there are French citizens of Muslim and Christian denomination.

If one of us were to make the decision to go to live in Israel it would be the highly personal, spiritual choice of an individual. Sharon is wrong to suggest such a decision could be collective. One thing is for sure: we must keep our heads and not panic. I have faith in this government to fight against this anti-Semitism.

I can bear witness to President Chirac's willingness to try to solve the problem.

France is certainly not the most anti-Semitic or racist country in the world; we live in a democracy and we are surely capable of beating this kind of hatred.

Mr Zrihen is vice-president of Crif, an umbrella group representing Jewish organisations in France