French Group Changing 'Dirty Jew' Ads

A Jewish group said Sunday it plans to "modify" its publicity campaign to fight anti-Semitism that showed an image of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary with the slur "Dirty Jew" scrawled across it to mimic graffiti after it drew negative reactions.

"Faced with the reactions to this campaign against anti-Semitism, the Union of Jewish Students (search) of France has decided to modify the visuals," the group said in a statement.

The advertisements were due to be published in French newspapers this week. Last week newspapers ran articles previewing the ads, which were designed to shock and draw attention to France's ongoing battle against anti-Semitism.

"We have to accept that something strong is needed today to fight against anti-Semitism," Yonathan Arfi, the group's president, said. "And we thought these advertisements were good. We thought they were strong."

Arfi said that "reaction came from everywhere" and eclipsed the goal of the campaign, which was not to spark anger or show disrespect for Catholicism.

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