Jewish Agency heads words incense French leadership

PARIS — A war of words has erupted between the head of France's Jewish community and the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

For the second time in two months, Avraham Burg, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, criticized the French Jewish leadership for being too soft on the issue of restitution.

"For a long time the problem of banking assets, stolen artwork and real estate looted from Jews has been widely known in France. However, with the exception of a few individuals who have gathered information, no one from the Jewish community organizations has done anything," Burg said in an interview with the French Jewish weekly Tribune Juive.

"The leaders of the French community fear a resurgence of anti-Semitism," he said.

Henri Hajdenberg, president of the CRIF, France's umbrella group for secular Jewish organizations, reacted angrily to Burg's statements, calling them "a type of provocation."

"What happened to the Jews of France is not the same as what happened to the Jews of Switzerland," Hajdenberg said. "What happened in France was much more serious — tens of thousands of Jews were deported and murdered and millions of dollars cannot rectify that. This cannot be treated as a mere question of money."