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Graves desecrated at Jewish cemetery in south west France

A dozen graves at a Jewish cemetery in the southwest of France have been desecrated, the local community said Tuesday, after the latest in a string of recent attacks that have sparked concerns about a wave of anti-Semitism.

Graves desecrated at Jewish cemetery in south west France
The Jewish cemetery in Bayonne, south west France. Photo: AFP

Deborah Loupien-Suares, the head of the Jewish community in the towns of Bayonne and Biarritz, said she discovered the damage on Sunday when visiting the graves of her grandparents.

“There is significant damage to up to 10 tombs at the cemetery which have been smashed,” she told AFP, expressing her “shock and horror”.

ANALYSIS Where does all the hatred towards Jews in France come from?

Tombstones had been broken as well as a commemorative plaque for a girl who was deported during World War II.

Loupien-Suares said she would file a criminal complaint with police in Bayonne, where prosecutors confirmed an investigation was underway.

“There is no anti-Semitic graffiti and I don't want to inflame a debate. I want the investigation to take place calmly,” she said.

But she added that the Catholic cemetery which “is situated just opposite and is more easily accessible” was not damaged.

Bayonne Mayor Jean-Rene Etchegaray visited the scene on Sunday. The Jewish cemetery was created in the late 17th century and progressively extended.

“This is the first time this has happened in Bayonne, where the Jewish community has been perfectly integrated for years,” Loupien-Suares said.

Two Jewish cemeteries have been attacked in recent months in Alsace, eastern France.

Over 100 graves were defaced with swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti at the cemetery in Westhoffen in December, while 96 tombs were desecrated at Quatzenheim, also in Alsace, in February.

The rising number of anti-Jewish offences reported to police – up 74 percent in 2018 from the previous year – has caused alarm in a country that is home to both the biggest Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe.

President Emmanuel Macron said after the Westhoffen vandalism that “Jews are and make France” and that “those who attack them, even their graves, are not worthy of the idea we have of France.”

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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