Never had such a level been reached, according to Yonathan Arfi, the president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF): the number of anti-Semitic acts recorded in France jumped to 1,676 in 2023, compared to 436 the previous year, warns a CRIF report, Wednesday January 24.

This almost quadruple increase in one year is put into perspective by Mr. Arfi who reminds Agence France-Presse that “we had a few dozen acts per year in the 1990s, a few hundred over the period 2000- 2022.”

In almost six out of ten cases (57.8%), the acts recorded last year were attacks on people (physical violence, threatening words and gestures, etc.) rather than on property, according to this report compiling figures ” recorded by the Ministry of the Interior and the Jewish Community Protection Service (SPCJ). But these figures reflect “only part” of anti-Semitic acts, those which were the subject of a complaint or a report to the police, recalls the CRIF.

In more than 40% of cases, it involved “threatening words and gestures”. And if they were mainly committed in the private sphere (32%) and on public roads (20.4%), 7.5% were recorded on the Internet.

October 7, a “catalyst for hatred”

Another worrying point for the CRIF, 12.7% of the acts took place in a school environment, the majority of which were in middle school. “We are witnessing a rejuvenation of the perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts. The school is no longer a sanctuary of the Republic,” he laments. “For the first time in a long time, the coming generations are more susceptible to anti-Semitic prejudices than previous generations,” explains Yonathan Arfi, identifying “three fuels” for this phenomenon: “Hate of Israel, Islamism and conspiracy.”

In a country which is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe (around 500,000 people), the CRIF notes an “explosion” (1,000%) of anti-Semitic acts after October 7, the date of the deadly Hamas attack on the Israeli soil, leading to a response from the Israeli army in Gaza where the Palestinian movement is in power. During the three months that followed, their numbers “equaled those of the previous three years combined.”

“October 7 served as a catalyst for hatred, activating latent anti-Semitism, and disinhibiting action,” said Yonathan Arfi, according to whom the vision of massacred Israeli civilians played a triggering role in this phenomenon.

The temptation to hide signs of Jewishness

Already in 2012, after the attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse where three children and a teacher were killed by the radicalized delinquent Mohamed Merah, a 200% increase in anti-Semitic acts was noted. The progression was 300% after the jihadist attack on the Hypercacher supermarket in 2015. “After October 7, we could have had an effect of empathy, a vaccine effect, it was the opposite,” sighs the president of CRIF.

From around forty each month over the summer period, anti-Semitic acts increased to 563 in October, 504 in November and 175 in December. A decline at the end of the year “difficult to analyze” for Mr. Arfi who remains cautious. “There were the holidays, undoubtedly a drop in intensity” but “we remain very far from the figures before October 7,” he underlines, deploring the “lack of social disapproval of anti-Semitism “.

Recalling that some may have been tempted to hide what could designate them as Jewish – a mezuzah on the door, a name on the mailbox – Yonathan Arfi worries: “The risk in the end is that of invisibility Jews in public spaces. This is a victory that cannot be served to anti-Semites.” Because “anti-Semitism is a question that goes beyond Jews, and says something about the societies where it develops,” he insists.