France on alert for Gaza hate messages

Fri Jan 16, 2009 5:37pm GMT

(Adds complaint by Venezuela embassy)

PARIS, Jan 16 (Reuters) - French authorities will increase their checks on television, radio and the Internet to prevent any hate messages prompted by the conflict in Gaza from spreading, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Friday.

France has seen an increase in primarily anti-Semitic acts apparently related to Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 1,100 Palestinians in three weeks. Thirteen Israelis have been killed.

"Even a cursory look at the Internet is enough to find blogs ... carrying messages of incredible violence, whether against Israel or against the Palestinians," Fillon said after a meeting with ministers on fighting racism and anti-Semitism.

He said he had asked the CSA, the broadcast authority, and an expert on issues of freedom of expression on the Internet to conduct more thorough checks on what was being published.

Fillon also said the courts were primed to take vigorous action against any perpetrators of hate crimes related to Gaza.

Venezuela complained on Friday its embassy in Paris had been damaged by vandals earlier in the week, who had smashed windows and written "Israel will win" on the facade.

The embassy linked the attack to Venezuela's decision to cut ties with Israel over the Gaza war and called on France to boost protection for the building and diplomats.

Anti-Semitic actions were also reported. The Interior Ministry said on Friday a young Jewish man was stabbed on Thursday by two masked car thieves in Fontenay-sous-Bois, just outside the capital.

When they noticed that the young man was wearing a symbol showing he was Jewish, the attackers made anti-Semitic threats.

"(Interior Minister) Michele Alliot-Marie condemns this revolting attack and assures that since last night everything is being done to catch the attackers," her office said.

France has the biggest Muslim and Jewish communities in Europe and it is not the first time that violence in the Middle East has translated into a wave of anti-Semitic acts in France.

"We're not in Israel, we're not in Palestine, we're in France. And in France there are no communities because we're all citizens equal before the law," Fillon said.

He said police would boost security at pro-Palestinian demonstrations this weekend. Previous marches were marred by skirmishes between protesters and police, and cars were torched. (Reporting by Sophie Louet and Gerard Bon, writing by Estelle Shirbon and Crispian Balmer; editing by Elizabeth Piper)