Fri, Jul 30, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Sharon praises France for fighting anti-Semitism

AFP , Ben Gurion Airport, Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon paid tribute Wednesday to French President Jacques Chirac's efforts to combat anti-Semitism, as he greeted some 200 new Jewish immigrants from France.

"We have seen over the past few years a renewed outbreak of anti-Semitism and we greatly value the mobilization of Jacques Chirac and his government against anti-Semitism," he said in a welcoming speech at Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv.

"I hope this example will be followed by other countries," Sharon said.

"The distinction must be made between the fight against anti-Semitism and encouraging immigration [to Israel]. The Jews should come and settle here because it is their homeland, not to flee anti-Semitism," he said.

The latest immigrant influx from France comes on the heels of a diplomatic spat between France and the Jewish state after Sharon urged all French Jews to leave immediately to avoid what he called "the wildest anti-Semitism."

France is home to Europe's biggest Jewish and Muslim communities, estimated at 600,000 and five million respectively. According to French interior ministry statistics, the number of racist incidents has soared this year.

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