19 July 2004
Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has angered the French government by calling for France's 600,000 Jews to immigrate to Israel because of growing anti-Semitism. The French Foreign Ministry has described Mr. Sharon's action as unacceptable and demanded an explanation.
Mr. Sharon made his views known during an address to visiting Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. His message is that French Jews should swiftly abandon their current home and resettle in Israel.
"About France, on the one hand, we see the spread of the wildest anti-Semitism there," said Ariel Sharon. "In France today, about 10 percent of the population are Muslims, although the French government is taking steps against that. But altogether if I have to advocate to our brothers in France, I would tell them one thing: move to Israel, early as possible. And that is what I am saying to Jews around the world, but there I think it is a must, and they have to move immediately."
Mr. Sharon's comments were made a week after a 23-year-old woman in France claimed that on a train she had been the victim of an anti-Semitic attack by Muslims who had mistaken her for a Jew - a claim she later admitted making up.
The French Foreign Ministry estimates that in the first six months of this year there have been 135 physical attacks against Jews. This is slightly more than the number of such attacks in France in the whole of last year.
While acknowledging such attacks, the Foreign Ministry described Mr. Sharon's statements as unacceptable and said France is demanding that Israel make a formal explanation.