PARIS – Claiming to offer a cure for a well-known social disease, French Jews attempted to “break the Internet” this past week.
On December 16 the European Jewish Organization launched a bold digital campaign, called “Antisémitox: First aid for anti-Semitism.” The much shared meme features a white-coated stethoscope-wearing doctor holding a box of honey candies.
Based in Levallois, a northwestern suburb of Paris, the European Jewish Organization was founded six months ago to combat a rising French anti-Semitism.
“Anti-Semitism has become a plague in France, and it is growing towards a crescendo,” OJE leader Fabien Bellahsen told the Times of Israel this week. “Our objective is to raise awareness in the media, the public authorities and the civil society.”
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was presented with a box on Monday following a meeting with Jewish French MP Meir Habib, who recounted the encounter on French website JSSNews.
“We decided to use humor as a weapon against the resurgence of violence,” said Bellahsen. “However, I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to keep that sense of humor, especially when it comes to such serious matters.”
‘We decided to use humor as a weapon against the resurgence of violence’
In the fundraiser/awareness campaign, the organization sells boxes of Antisémitox online, priced at 5 euros each (a minimum donation to OJE).
Bellahsen said all profits will be used to “finance the fight against anti-Semitism,” such as giving legal advice to victims of verbal or physical violence.
Each box contains three honey-flavoured “pills” and “detox patches,” and text of the French law prohibiting anti-Semitism and its penalties.
The packages’ warning label humorously states: “This medicine may only be prescribed in cases of apparent anti-Semitic symptoms: insults, curses, aggressive behavior, revisionist ideas, ‘quenelles’ [the Nazi-like salute popularized by French stand-up comedian Dieudonne], ‘Shabbat fevers,’ Judeophobia, anti-Zionism.”
Frank Tapiro, the brains behind the campaign, heads Hémisphère Droit, a famous Paris-based advertising agency. On launch day he told French newspaper Le Parisien that his intention was to create an “electroshock” in French society.
Welcomed by the French media, the Antisémitox campaign was also deemed “an excellent idea” by Coordination Against Racism and Islamophobia president Abelaziz Chambi.
‘This medicine may only be prescribed in cases of apparent anti-Semitic symptoms’
Its timing was crucial, said Bellahsen: the campaign was launched only a day after President Francois Hollande delivered his first speech on immigration since taking office in 2012.
At the inauguration of the National Museum of the History of Immigration, Hollande praised the contributions immigrants have made to France and reiterated the government’s will to turn the fight against racism and anti-Semitism into a “national cause.”
A week earlier, on December 7, France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced that “anti-Semitic acts and threats have increased by well over 100% in the first ten months of the year.”
He added that over 930 cases have been prosecuted in the first half of the year 2014.
So far, OJE has about 400 members in France, and seeks to reach out to other Jewish communities in Europe. In 2015, it hopes to expand its activities to Belgium, Switzerland, the UK, and the Netherlands.