Antisemitism in France both rose and fell last year

Franciaország-szakértő, politológus

I received two reports in my inbox, practically at the same time: The first one says that in 2021, the number of antisemitic incidents in France decreased by 14% compared to 2019. The second one says that antisemitic incidents jumped by 75% last year versus 2020, writes Petronella Eszter Soós in an article published on the website of the Action and Protection Foundation.

Both texts refer to the same set of figures published by the French Ministry of the Interior and the SPCJ (Service de protection de la communauté juive or the Jewish Community Protection Service), exactly the same.

Yet it is as if they were not talking about the same thing.

Here’s the data series highlighted from the SPCJ site (the full report for 2021 is available here):

It can be seen that neither the news nor the press release was a lie, both were true.

Compared to 2019, the number of antisemitic incidents did decrease in 2021, and compared to 2020, the number of antisemitic incidents did explode. So the difference is that the reports are looking at recent data against different base years. This choice, of course, allows for different interpretations of the data. It also goes without saying that the SPCJ, which focuses on Jewish security, has chosen the 2020 base year, thus drawing attention to the fact that the number of cases is not reassuring, and is by no means at a low level.

Of course, critics may argue that it is not worth comparing the 2021 data with 2020, as there was less social interaction and less space for such „cases” during the strict closures due to Covid, and therefore 2020 can be ignored as not a perfectly reliable year for comparison. A further objection to the latter, of course, is that even if this is the case, the number of antisemitic incidents is still relatively stagnant in France (the President of the Consistory, for example, points this out in an interview). 

On the other hand, it is also worth highlighting that, according to the SPCJ, a quarter of incidents take place in the vicinity of the victim’s home. This is important because it is likely to reinforce the — relatively recent — experience of the French Jewish community that they are sometimes not safe in or near where they live (for example, in recent years there have been two murders of Jewish women in their homes).

The SPCJ’s flash report also points out that the protests against the Israeli crackdown on Hamas as well as the closures during the Covid pandemic saw a surge in the number of antisemitic incidents. The former has to do with the fact that the Palestinian situation has been to a certain extent represented and imported into France and is a well-known phenomenon; the latter has to do with blaming Jews as instigators and profiters of Covid, while anti-vaccine campaigners also compared themselves directly to the victims of the Shoah (reported in detail by TEV). These two circumstances are also discussed by the report on global antisemitic trends as being behind the 2021 surge in incidents.

Shlomo Köves: Jobbik has become a public symbol of antisemitism

Mandiner asked the chief rabbi of EMIH about the latest antisemitic scandal surrounding Jobbik’s vice-president, Dániel Z. Kárpát.