Anti-Semitic attacks against French Jews have increased by 40 percent in France since March this year, when an al-Qaida inspired terrorist Mohammed Merah went on a killing spree that ended with the murder of three Jewish children and a rabbi in the south of France, a top Jewish leader said on Tuesday after meeting the country's interior minister to discuss the phenomenon.
Abraham Cooper, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, met French Interior Minister Manuel Valls against a backdrop of what he said was rising anti-Semitic and hate crimes reported to his organization by families in Toulouse, Marseille and Lyon. France has the world's second-largest Jewish population outside of Israel, estimated at 550,000 individuals, following the U.S.
Cooper said he pressed Valls for extra measures to secure the safety of French Jews and to discuss strategies to thwart a growing trend of lone-wolf terrorists on the Internet.
"He [Valls] confirmed that following that murder, there was an increase of 40% in anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish crimes in France. A shocking number especially because in this round that was taking place, the French authorities on both sides of the political aisle did exactly the right thing immediately after Toulouse," Cooper told Reuters.
Cooper said he discussed with French authorities the possibility of meeting social media giants to discuss how to better intercept anti-Jewish propaganda on the internet and how to prevent the emergence of other radicalized terrorists like Merah.
"The minister said that there are probably more Mohamed Merahs out there. We discussed in detail how the Internet plays a very pivotal role in incubating more Mohamed Merahs, in encouraging them [and then] making someone who is a mass murderer of innocent people into a hero. A hero who is targeted by young people," Cooper added.
Cooper also warned that the feeling of insecurity was encouraging rising numbers of French Jews to leave the country.
"In every place we went, we met with Jewish people who said either they are sending their kids overseas, to Israel or the States, or Canada to go study. Some people say they are thinking of relocating to Israel. There is no question that what happened in the past few months in France has come as a very profound existential shock to French Jews," he said.