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'Jew or not Jew' app provokes outrage

Matthew Warren · 14 Sep 2011, 11:50

Published: 14 Sep 2011 11:40 GMT+02:00
Updated: 14 Sep 2011 11:50 GMT+02:00

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An app for the Apple iPhone which lists 3,500 well-known Jewish people has sparked criticism from anti-racist organizations and Jewish associations in France.

The application, called 'Juif ou pas Juif' (Jew or not Jew), promises to reveal "thousands of personalities who are Jewish (from the mother's side), 'half-Jewish' (from the father's side) or converts."

"I did it in good faith," said the app's creator, Johann Levy, to AFP. "I'm Jewish myself. The aim was just to give Jewish people a sense of pride when they see that this business person or that celebrity is also Jewish." 

"All the information is already available online," said Levy, who lives in Marseille and says he is British. "I'm just compiling it all."

The app was launched on August 9th and costs 79 euro cents. It has sold "in the tens" each day until now. 

SOS Racisme called on Apple to withdraw the app. In a statement, the anti-racism organization said "Apple must control the applications on offer in the App Store." The group said it would be looking at "complicity" by Apple in distribution of the "incriminating app."

Other Jewish and anti-racism groups were also outraged.

"I don't know if it's irresponsible, but it's incredibly dangerous," said Alain Jakubowicz, president of Licra (Ligue internationale contre le racisme et l'antisémitisme), the anti-racism and anti-Semitism league. 

The union of Jewish students, UEJF, said the application was "scandalous" and called on Apple to put in place a system to avoid applications that are "racist in character, anti-Semitic or allow and create ethnic profiling."

The young socialists organization issued a press release saying "the existence of this application reminds us of the darkest hours of the 20th century."

A law in 1978 banned the "collection of personal data that can show, directly or indirectly, racial or ethnic origins, political, philosophical or religious opinions."

"I didn't think it would create such a fuss," said Levy. "I'm staggered about the things I'm being accused of…I didn't know that saying someone is Jewish could be seen as pejorative."


Matthew Warren (news.france@thelocal.com)

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