France has a painful history of anti-Semitism, with its worst hours coming in the 1930s and during the German occupation in World War II. But in recent months, an impassioned debate has erupted over how to address what commentators are calling the “new anti-Semitism,” as Jewish groups and academic researchers trace a wave of anti-Semitic acts to France’s growing Muslim population.
Nearly 40 percent of violent acts classified as racially or religiously motivated were committed against Jews in 2017, though Jews make up less than 1 percent of France’s population. Anti-Semitic acts increased by 20 percent from 2016, a rise the Interior Ministry called “preoccupying.”
In 2011, the French government stopped categorizing those deemed responsible for anti-Semitic acts, making it more difficult to trace the origins. But before then, Muslims had been the largest group identified as perpetrators, according to research by a leading academic. Often the spikes in violence coincided with flare-ups in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, according to researchers.