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U.S. commission voices alarm over anti-Semitism in Europe

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom deplored the recent flurry of attacks on synagogues, other Jewish sites, and individuals in France and Belgium in a statement issued April 15.

The commission’s news release noted a firebombing had seriously damaged several synagogues. One in Marseille burned to the ground.

“Shots were fired at a kosher shop, a Jewish couple was attacked on the street, a bus full of schoolchildren was stoned, and high school soccer players were beaten by a gang wielding metal bars,” the commission release recounted, noting more than 400 incidents have been documented in France since October 2000. The USCIRF is an independent federal agency advising President Bush and Congress. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, is among its members.

“These attacks on Jews in France and Belgium are despicable,” said Michael K. Young, USCIRF chairman. “We hope the French government, in particular, will follow through on its recent statements to track down the perpetrators and hold them to account, making it clear such behavior will not be tolerated in France. The U.S. government should follow this issue carefully and urge the French authorities to treat these incidents with the seriousness they deserve.”

There were 228 acts of violence against Jews or Jewish property recorded in 2001, according to a study released by Tel Aviv University.

The secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress, Avi Beker, said in The Jerusalem Post April 9, “… we are witnessing what future historians may yet call a watershed in the very long and gloomy history of anti-Semitism on the continent. These days no Jew with a kippa on his head feels comfortable walking the streets of any city or town in Europe.”

Beker suggested the last 10 days have seen the worst anti-Semitic activity in Europe since the end of World War II.

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