Antisemitism in France still trending upward

Antisemitism in France still trending upward

The last two months have seen a wave of disturbing antisemitic attacks in France. Such incidents include: a grenade exploding at a kosher grocery store in Sarcelles with one man injured; bullets fired at a synagogue west of Paris; a Jewish man attacked and rendered unconscious in a Paris metro; a family eating in their sukkah were pelted with rocks, injuring a woman; a 19-year-old Jewish man wounded by a metal ball after leaving a Paris synagogue; and, near Marseille, assailants destroyed a Star of David that was imprinted on the exterior wall of a Jewish cemetery and chiseled off the word “Jewish.”

French antisemitism is even sweeping the ‘Twitter-sphere’, where this week’s top trending words on French language tweets was the hashtag #unbonjuif, which in English means “a good Jew”. This led thousands of Twitter users to enter what the French daily Le Monde called “a competition of anti-Semitic jokes.” Israel National News reported that one Twitter user posted a picture of an emaciated Jewish woman in a Nazi concentration camp as the interpretation of “a good Jew,” while others tweeted that “a good Jew is a dead Jew.”

Then there was Monday’s popular hashtag “LaRafle,” meaning “the roundup” – the title of a 2010 film about the Holocaust-era deportation of French Jews that was recently aired. Haaretz reported that Twitter said that the LaRafle hashtag was “related to UnBonJuif.” Many tweets containing the LaRafle hashtag were antisemitic, and some users denied the Holocaust. Anti-racist groups MRAP and SOS Racisme, joined the representative organisation of the French Jewish community, CRIF, to condemn the tweets and warned of possible efforts to sue people sending antisemitic tweets. MRAP said in a statement that Twitter should “take the appropriate measures” to end what it called a “flood of anti-Semitism” and said it was proposing to meet with executives from the firm.

The current of antisemitism has been recorded by France’s SPCJ Jewish security mointoring organisation, who reported a 45% surge in antisemitic acts in the first eight months of 2012, in comparison with the 2011 level of 266 incidents. Incidents particularly increased following the Toulouse shooting, when Islamist extremist Mohammed Merah killed three Jewish children and a Rabbi in March this year (see previous AIJAC blog post).

French police carried out raids across France on October 6, after DNA from the grenade that exploded at the kosher grocery store led them to a suspected jihadist cell of young Frenchman who had recently converted to Islam. According to French police, the raids uncovered a dangerous terror network of home grown radical Islamists with bomb making material and weapons, as well as Islamist manuals. French police also found documents that show the group, responsible for the recent attack on a kosher supermarket, were planning new attacks against the Jewish community.

A raid in Strasbourg ended in the fatal shooting of 33-year-old suspect Jeremie Louis-Sidney, after he opened fire on police. Twelve suspects have so far been arrested for links to the terrorist cell. The suspects were described in news reports as admirers of Mr. Merah, and some even called his actions “the battle of Toulouse.”

Following the arrests, French President Francois Hollande met with Jewish and Muslim leaders and promised to step up security measures for the Jewish community in France, he stated: “I have reaffirmed that the state will not compromise in fighting racism and anti-Semitism.”

Hollande also said that a new law would soon make it a crime to travel to militant training camps and that, “Nothing will be tolerated; nothing should happen… Any act, any remark will be prosecuted with the greatest firmness”.

Muslim and Jewish spokesmen also expressed their concern regarding the domestic expansion of radical Islam. Richard Prasquier, the President of CRIF, the representative organisation of French Jewry, said that the fight is not between the Jewish and Muslim communities, but “between those who hate the principles, values, laws and objectives of the French Republic and those who are firmly attached to them.” While Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the umbrella group of Muslim organizations CFCM, said the group “assures the French Jewish community of its support and fraternal solidarity in the face of all attacks.”

Serge Cwajgenbaum, Secretary-General of the European Jewish Congress, said France’s problems are similar to those elsewhere in Europe, but they are more notable because of the larger Jewish population. He said:

“The only group of people, of citizens in Europe, who go and pray under police protection are the Jews. The only group who sends its kids to a school under police protection are the Jews… That’s a real question – Why?”

Sharyn Mittelman