Haïm Korsia: “We all have to protect the Republic”

July 23, 2014

Jewish chaplain and the new Chief Rabbi of France, Haïm Korsia is known for his commitment to interreligious dialogue and to the values of the French republic. He was elected June 22, 2014 and is now faced with a series of attacks against the country’s Jewish community that have occurred during pro-Palestinian demonstrations. In the wake of rioting in Sarcelles Korsia participated in an interfaith prayer session with Drancy’s imam Hassen Chalghoumi in the town’s synagogue. Korsia answered questions in a recent interview with Le Point.

When asked his reaction to the speeches given at the presidential palace and at the prayer session in Sarcelles, he answered that is was a “necessary time for the national community, that needed to express the idea of solidarity between all its peoples, to say that there are things that are unacceptable.”

Korsia affirmed that it was not only up to Muslim leaders to speak out against violent acts. In the words of imam Chalghoumi, those perpetrators “are not in true support of any cause, they are not Muslims, they demonstrate only a rejection of the system and a hate for Jews. It is necessary to recognize this in order to fight: it will not work to be alarmist, but to make a fair observation in order to institute working methods, education, and courage so that there may be a peaceful ‘living together,’ which is France’s true mission.” The rabbi stated, “There is no war of religions, but of Frenchmen who attacked other Frenchmen.”

The rabbi trusts Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve’s statement that there will no future demonstrations. He expressed his surprise at elected officials who attended banned demonstrations, saying, “It is incomprehensible that certain people scoff at the Republic that they are supposed to embody.”

He stressed the importance of interreligious dialogue and of schools to introduce children to classmates with different religions than their own. “Someone else’s religion doesn’t have to be a mystery, a radical otherness, but another form of humanity that is just as deserving of respect,” he said. Korsia believes that this type of dialogue is possible in public schools. “One must go back to basics, at what is at the heart of the republican intention: we are all citizens, and there is a single community that counts: the national community,” he affirmed.

When referring to the “great national cause” he acknowledged the specific fight against anti-Semitism. However he said “it’s necessary to see things as they are: when we engage in methods to fight anti-Semitism, we give the impression that there are two weights, two measures…In reality one must fight against any rejection. The fight against global racism is good, but with a specificity towards anti-Semitism, which must become a great national cause.”

According to the recent findings, 5,000 French Jews have relocated to Israel in 2014 compared with 1,907 in 2012. Korsia stated that this number may be related to the anxiety many Jews feel in France, but is not the only reason for their relocation.

When asked if he believes that the majority of France feels a “softness” towards the anti-Semitic violence that occurred he answered, “not a softness, but an indifference, a resignation.” He stated that it’s necessary to work towards instituting “freedom and brotherhood while at the same time working toward national reconciliation.”

“Muslims of France wish for a united brotherhood” affirm Muslim leaders

July 23, 2014

In a recent statement, Muslim leaders recognize the “particular resonance in our country” of the “war between Israel and Palestinians.” They emphasized that “the Muslims of France wish for one united brotherhood, to live together peacefully.”

“No exterior conflict, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, should, in any case and in any way, be brought into France and most of all affect the relations between our country’s citizens or generate hostile behavior between them,” they wrote.

The leaders condemned “the small minority, who under pretext of defending the Palestinian cause, infiltrate the demonstrations that have peaceful objectives to attack citizens or their places of worship, no matter if they are Christians, Jews or Muslims.”

They called on the Muslim community to stand up to these “‘thugs’ whose objectives are totally foreign to [the community’s] interests and principles.” Reaffirming their support for the Great Mosque of Lyon they called on Jewish leaders to “understand, beyond the passions and legitimate feelings that they feel in regard to Israel, that we as well cannot remain insensitive to these children, to these women and these Palestinian men who die each day.”

The concluded: “We propose to our Jewish citizens of France to discuss together the best ways to resist…proponents of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in France and in the world.”

Statement issued by:

*Laid Abdelkader Bendidi, Président du CRCM Rhône-Alpes

Benaissa Chana, Vice Président du CRCM Rhône-Alpes

Azeddine Gaci, Recteur de la Mosquée Othmane

Kamel Kabtane, Recteur de la Mosquée de Lyon

Paris, Sarcelles: Cazeneuve “takes complete responsibility” for the ban on pro-Palestinian demonstrations

July 21, 2014

After a pro-Palestinian demonstration turned violent in Sarcelles, Val-d’Oise on Sunday, July 20, a similar demonstration followed in the streets of Paris in the Barbès neighbourhood. Bernard Cazeneuve spoke about the controversial decision to ban public demonstrations in support of Palestinians. He does not regret this decision, stating, “I take full responsibility for the decision…Every French citizen should live harmoniously with one another no matter their religious beliefs, their confession, their conviction. Can you do this when you let things escalate?” asked Cazeneuve in a recent interview.

According to Cazeneuve the violence would have been “worse” in Sarcelles without the ban. He assured those wishing to hold demonstrations that police heads would meet to discuss the possibilities of future pro-Palestinian demonstrations. If the demonstrations can be held “without risk” to public order “they will be allowed” he said.

According to Cazeneuve there is a “small minority” of French Muslims who are “radicalized.” “That has already shocked the representatives of Islam in France…There is a large majority of French Muslims that condemn [the violence] in France, Muslims are tied to the Republic,” he affirmed.

“’They themselves are put at risk’ by the recent events…They see the consequences that all of this can have on them” said Cazeneuve. “These hoodlums who riot in Sarcelles or elsewhere are not representative of the Islam of France.”

In Sarcelles, Muslim and Jewish dignitaries pray for peace

July 22, 2014

On Sunday, July 20 violence marred a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Sarcelles. In its aftermath leaders from both the Muslim and Jewish communities, including France’s chief rabbi Haim Korsia and the imam of Drancy, Hassen Chalghoumi, gathered to pray together.

The multi-faith prayer took place in the town’s synagogue under the protection of local police and included singer Enrico Macias and writer Marek Halter. Soon after Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Buddhist leaders gathered at the French president’s official residence to denounce anti-Semitism. “The president of the Republic reminded us that the fight against anti-Semitism will be a national cause,” underlined president of the Central Israeli Consistory Joel Mergui.

The violent riots took place in Sarcelles, a city north of Paris, known for its large North African Jewish community and often referred to as “little Jerusalem.” Cars were burned and stores were ransacked, including a kosher grocery store. Eighteen people were arrested and eleven remain in police custody, four of whom are minors.

“I didn’t sleep at night, I was anxious. People from all places live together here, we don’t understand,” said a 67 year-old Jewish resident whose car was destroyed. The city’s mayor Francois Pupponi later stated that “the Jewish community is scared” and no longer feels secure.

Hollande urges Middle East diplomacy after pro-Palestinian protest in Paris

July 14, 2014

After Muslim youths attempted to forcefully enter two Paris synagogues on Sunday, July 13, French president Francois Hollande is calling for diplomatic measures between leaders of Hamas and Israel and “pressing Israel for restraint in Gaza.”

The conflict has caused religious tension within France and has led to several violent outbursts by pro-Palestinian protestors.

In a recent televised speech, Hollande stated, “Israel has the right to its security; Israel can defend itself if it is attacked; but at the same time Israel should show restraint.” A synagogue near the Bastille was stormed by more than 100 youths chanting “Israel murder.” More than two thousand protestors participated in Sunday’s march. Some carried banners saying “stop killing children.” Six policemen and two worshippers at the synagogue were injured.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who lives in the neighborhood, condemned the attacks. “France will never tolerate people trying in words or deeds to import the Israeli-Palestine conflict onto its territory,” he said.

The French president said that he has attempted “to convince those who could have an influence on Hamas, on the Gaza Strip, and at the same time putting pressure on Israel” to put a stop to the ongoing attacks. Hollande has affirmed that he is intent on stopping the violence from being “imported” to France.”

“We cannot have intrusion or efforts at intrusions into places of worship, whether they are synagogues, as happened yesterday, but I would say the same thing for mosques, for churches, or for temples,” he said. “Religions should be respected, all religions. These places of worship should be protected.”