AP file
One of the ads shows Jesus with the words “Dirty Jew” scrawled across as if graffiti. The caption underneath reads: “Anti-Semitism: What if it were everyone’s problem?”
updated 10/22/2004 5:36:58 PM ET 2004-10-22T21:36:58

A new advertising campaign to fight anti-Semitism in France aims to shock. The campaign features serene images of Jesus and Mary with the slur “Dirty Jew” scrawled across them as if in graffiti.

Underneath the picture appears the slogan: “Anti-Semitism: What if it were everyone’s problem?”

The advertisements, which will run in French newspapers beginning Tuesday over a period of about 10 days, were created by the Union of Jewish Students of France, or UEJF, its initials in French.

The UEJF said that it recognized the startling nature of the images but that the goal was to grab people’s attention.

‘Wake people up’
“It’s a way to wake people up and make them aware,” said Yonathan Arfi, the group’s president, in a telephone interview. “That’s what is important. Today, it is difficult to wake people up without running the risk of shocking them a bit.”

He stressed that no disrespect for Catholic images or Catholicism was intended.

“On the contrary, we are, more or less, paying homage to Jesus and Mary as the first to protest racism, the first who took it upon themselves to defend others,” Arfi said.

The Conference of Bishops of France declined Friday to comment.

The UEJF cited rising anti-Semitism in France as the impetus behind the campaign.

The French Interior Ministry said this week that the number of anti-Semitic acts appeared to be rebounding, with 166 counted in the first nine months of 2004, compared with 127 for all of last year. In 2002, the Interior Ministry counted 195 such acts.

France, which has the largest populations of Jews and Muslims in western Europe, has suffered a rising tide of anti-Semitic crime since 2000, when tensions between Israelis and Palestinians worsened in the Middle East.

President Jacques Chirac addressed the topic Friday during a reception for the 20th anniversary of the Judaism and Liberty association at the presidential Elysee Palace.

“There is no question about allowing a climate of tension, rivalry and antagonism to develop in France,” he said, adding that France’s policy of secularism was the “strongest support of liberty for all and of the respect for the convictions and beliefs of every person.”

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