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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Benajmin Netanyahu set to visit site of Toulouse attack

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fly to France this week for a two-day visit during which he will meet with French President Francois Hollande to discuss, among other things, the difficult situation of French Jewry, which has been hit with a recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents.

Netanyahu will also visit Otzar Hatorah, the Jewish school in Toulouse where terrorist Mohammed Merah killed three children and a rabbi in March. Merah was shot and killed by a police sniper in a standoff after his killing spree, which also included the shooting deaths of three French paratroopers.

"It's no secret that the Jews of France are experiencing a difficult period since the Toulouse incident," Barnea Hasid, Israel's consul-general in Marseilles, said.

Barnea was a guest of honor at a gathering sponsored by CRIF, the umbrella group of Jewish communities in France, on Sunday. The theme of the gathering was the rising tide of anti-Semtism in France and the global Iranian threat, issues which are slated for discussion as well between Netanyahu and Hollande when they meet at the Elysee Palace.

"French society and government are aware of the increase in anti-Semitism in their country and are working determinedly to stem the phenomenon," Barnea said.

Last week, anti-Semitic material was placed in mailboxes throughout the southeast city of Aix-les-Bains. A flyer was found by many residents in their mail saying, "The Jews are damaging the white population." The approximately 1,000 mostly traditional Jews who reside in the city were shocked by the flyer and turned to the local police for help.

"There is a renewal of incidents based on anti-Semitism here, and when a grenade was thrown at a Jewish shop owner in Sarcelles, it proved that the aim was the disruption of routine Jewish life," said a member of the French parliament representing Marseilles. "But Israel should know that Interior Minister Manuel Valls has set his sights on fighting anti-Semitism."

Nicole Yardeni, CRIF director in Toulouse, said, "The visit of an Israeli prime minister in Toulouse is of great importance. It shows the residents that the people of Israel and the Jewish people in general are expressing their solidarity with the residents after the horrific attack there. I wouldn't say that after the incident the Jews are living in greater fear, because they seem to be carrying on with their lives. But they are certainly shocked by the level the hatred against them has reached."

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