“Decline in tolerance,” “increase in racist acts,” “explosion of anti-Semitic acts,” and “persistence of xenophobic discourse” mark a stark observation from the public agency on Thursday, June 27, following the release of its annual report on combating racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia.

While the number of anti-Semitic acts has remained relatively high in recent years, 2023 saw a significant surge amidst an “exceptional international context” following terrorist attacks by Hamas on October 7. Within a year, anti-Semitic incidents spiked by 284%, rising from 436 to 1,676, with a notable concentration post-October 7 (almost three-quarters of the total). The report describes this increase as unprecedented since the start of the second Intifada in 2000, reflecting a concerning trend against France’s Jewish community, which numbers around 500,000 — implying that nearly 1 in 30 French Jews experienced such acts in 2023.

Additionally, the report highlights a “remarkable 4-point decline in tolerance towards the Jewish minority,” dropping from 72 to 68 on a scale of 0 to 100. Nonna Mayer, a political science researcher and emeritus director at CNRS, notes a polarized perception of Jews as “not entirely French like others.” Survey results indicate that 10.8% of respondents view Jewish French people in this light, a rise of 3.4 points from November 2022. Moreover, 42.1% agreed that “for French Jews, Israel holds more significance than France,” an increase of nearly 7 points from 2022’s 35.4%.

Despite the emergence of what is termed as “new anti-Semitism,” rooted in an anti-Zionism conflating “Jews,” “Israelis,” and “Zionists,” traditional anti-Jewish prejudices largely prevail. The report notes that negative views on Israel are more prevalent on the left and far left but remain distinct from classic anti-Semitic stereotypes, which are more pronounced among far-right supporters and those close to RN (National Rally). For instance, 34% of RN supporters believe “Jews have too much power,” while 51% attribute to them a special relationship with money, significantly higher than the general populace and supporters of other major political groups, according to researcher Nonna Mayer.

In parallel with the exponential rise in anti-Semitic acts, racist incidents also saw a worrying uptick, increasing by 32% in 2023 according to Interior Ministry figures. President of the commission, Jean-Marie Burguburu, asserts that despite these statistics, “France is not a racist country, but there are too many racist and anti-Semitic acts, and they are likely not sufficiently prosecuted.” He underscores the persistence of such intolerant discourses in public spaces and anonymously on social networks, reflected in a 20% rise in racist incidents reported on the PHAROS platform, which monitors illicit online behavior.

However, the CNCDH suggests that the actual number of racist acts is significantly higher than official records, pointing to underreporting driven by victims’ fear of disbelief, the repetitive nature of these incidents, or shame. Jean-Marie Burguburu notes that only 4% of victims file complaints, and even when complaints are filed, they often do not result in prosecution or conviction. This underlines a broader issue where a large number of racist, anti-Semitic, or xenophobic incidents go unreported or unaddressed by the judicial system.

Despite efforts like the 2023-2026 national plan against racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia, which includes 80 measures aimed at awareness, education, sanctions, and victim support, the CNCDH finds progress inadequate. It criticizes political leaders for employing rhetoric reminiscent of the far right, contributing to a polarized public discourse that exacerbates societal divisions. The report concludes on a sobering note, highlighting enduring prejudices and calling for a concerted effort to combat all forms of racism, which remain criminal offenses and not mere opinions under French law.