The writing is on the wall

29th July 2003, Comments 0 comments

Escalating, near-daily anti-Semitic attacks in France have shaken the country's Jewish community and threaten a violent divison of one of Europe's most racially mixed countries. Marc Burleigh reports.

Members of France's 700,000-strong Jewish community have begun developing a fortress mentality in the face of the authorities' inability to stop the repeated assaults directed at them.

"It's getting very dangerous," Patrick Gaubert, the head of anti-racist group LICRA, said. "The feeling in the Jewish community is that some don't dare talk about attacks against them and others want to create their own security militia," he said.

His group announced on 11 April that it was lodging a lawsuit to get authorities to react to an "extremely serious" attack that occurred the previous day, when a masked gang wielding metal bars and shouting anti-Jewish insults beat up a group of footballers from a Jewish club in the Paris suburb of Bondy.

"Enough impunity. This goes beyond swearing and spitting," Gaubert said.

That incident is only one of many. It is part of a rising wave of violence that started around the time of the Palestinian intifada in September 2000 and which suddenly surged when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered tanks and troops into Palestinian towns at the end of March in a rough reprisal for suicide bombings against Israelis.

Marginalised youths from North African immigrant families — who make up the bulk of France's five million Muslims — are, according to media reports, claiming the Palestinian cause to target symbols of Judaism - synagogues, Jewish schools, even homes and individuals. However, the perpetrators of the recent spate of attacks have not all been identified.

On the same day as the attack on the football team, a bus transporting kindergarten and primary school children from a Jewish school in a racially mixed eastern district of Paris was pelted with stones. The missiles shattered one of the windows, wounding a young girl who received slight facial injuries.

Paris' Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe said he was "deeply shocked" by the incident and stressed the city was working to improve security around schools and synagogues.

Other attacks have occurred around France in recent days — the destruction of a synagogue in the southern city of Marseille, attacks against a Jewish family in a Paris suburb by a gang of men of Arab background, Molotov cocktails thrown against Jewish schools and cultural centres and anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on walls in several towns.

On 8 April, a man who was sentenced to two months' jail for writing anti-Semitic slogans on the walls of a hotel and town hall in the Alps said he was acting because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ali Guia, 36, said he had been "traumatised by the events in the Middle East".

Last Sunday presented intense scenes before television cameras, when a pro-Israeli march by around 50,000 people in Paris turned ugly. A demonstrator stabbed a policeman after scuffles erupted between rival Jewish factions, while Jewish youths assaulted media they accused of being biased towards the Palestinians.

The march - replicated in several other French cities - took place a day after thousands joined a pro-Palestinian march through the French capital to condemn Israel's military assault on the West Bank.

At least 39 people have been arrested in connection with attacks on Jewish people and property, although most were later released.

The authorities have struggled to prevent the acts of hatred. Armed police stand watch outside 44 of the 59 Jewish schools in Paris while other schools have hired private guards.

France's political leaders, meanwhile, have pleaded for the communities to restrain their extremists.

rong Jewish community have begun developing a fortress mentality in the face of the authorities' inability to stop the repeated assaults directed at them.

"It's getting very dangerous," Patrick Gaubert, the head of anti-racist group LICRA, said. "The feeling in the Jewish community is that some don't dare talk about attacks against them and others want to create their own security militia," he said.

His group announced on 11 April that it was lodging a lawsuit to get authorities to react to an "extremely serious" attack that occurred the previous day, when a masked gang wielding metal bars and shouting anti-Jewish insults beat up a group of footballers from a Jewish club in the Paris suburb of Bondy.

"Enough impunity. This goes beyond swearing and spitting," Gaubert said.

That incident is only one of many. It is part of a rising wave of violence that started around the time of the Palestinian intifada in September 2000 and which suddenly surged when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered tanks and troops into Palestinian towns at the end of March in a rough reprisal for suicide bombings against Israelis.

Marginalised youths from North African immigrant families — who make up the bulk of France's five million Muslims — are, according to media reports, claiming the Palestinian cause to target symbols of Judaism - synagogues, Jewish schools, even homes and individuals. However, the perpetrators of the recent spate of attacks have not all been identified.

On the same day as the attack on the football team, a bus transporting kindergarten and primary school children from a Jewish school in a racially mixed eastern district of Paris was pelted with stones. The missiles shattered one of the windows, wounding a young girl who received slight facial injuries.

Paris' Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe said he was "deeply shocked" by the incident and stressed the city was working to improve security around schools and synagogues.

Other attacks have occurred around France in recent days — the destruction of a synagogue in the southern city of Marseille, attacks against a Jewish family in a Paris suburb by a gang of men of Arab background, Molotov cocktails thrown against Jewish schools and cultural centres and anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on walls in several towns.

On 8 April, a man who was sentenced to two months' jail for writing anti-Semitic slogans on the walls of a hotel and town hall in the Alps said he was acting because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ali Guia, 36, said he had been "traumatised by the events in the Middle East".

Last Sunday presented intense scenes before television cameras, when a pro-Israeli march by around 50,000 people in Paris turned ugly. A demonstrator stabbed a policeman after scuffles erupted between rival Jewish factions, while Jewish youths assaulted media they accused of being biased towards the Palestinians.

The march - replicated in several other French cities - took place a day after thousands joined a pro-Palestinian march through the French capital to condemn Israel's military assault on the West Bank.

At least 39 people have been arrested in connection with attacks on Jewish people and property, although most were later released.

The authorities have struggled to prevent the acts of hatred. Armed police stand watch outside 44 of the 59 Jewish schools in Paris while other schools have hired private guards.

France's political leaders, meanwhile, have pleaded for the communities to restrain their extremists.

a man who was sentenced to two months' jail for writing anti-Semitic slogans on the walls of a hotel and town hall in the Alps said he was acting because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ali Guia, 36, said he had been "traumatised by the events in the Middle East".

Last Sunday presented intense scenes before television cameras, when a pro-Israeli march by around 50,000 people in Paris turned ugly. A demonstrator stabbed a policeman after scuffles erupted between rival Jewish factions, while Jewish youths assaulted media they accused of being biased towards the Palestinians.

The march - replicated in several other French cities - took place a day after thousands joined a pro-Palestinian march through the French capital to condemn Israel's military assault on the West Bank.

At least 39 people have been arrested in connection with attacks on Jewish people and property, although most were later released.

The authorities have struggled to prevent the acts of hatred. Armed police stand watch outside 44 of the 59 Jewish schools in Paris while other schools have hired private guards.

France's political leaders, meanwhile, have pleaded for the communities to restrain their extremists.

rong Jewish community have begun developing a fortress mentality in the face of the authorities' inability to stop the repeated assaults directed at them.

"It's getting very dangerous," Patrick Gaubert, the head of anti-racist group LICRA, said. "The feeling in the Jewish community is that some don't dare talk about attacks against them and others want to create their own security militia," he said.

His group announced on 11 April that it was lodging a lawsuit to get authorities to react to an "extremely serious" attack that occurred the previous day, when a masked gang wielding metal bars and shouting anti-Jewish insults beat up a group of footballers from a Jewish club in the Paris suburb of Bondy.

"Enough impunity. This goes beyond swearing and spitting," Gaubert said.

That incident is only one of many. It is part of a rising wave of violence that started around the time of the Palestinian intifada in September 2000 and which suddenly surged when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered tanks and troops into Palestinian towns at the end of March in a rough reprisal for suicide bombings against Israelis.

Marginalised youths from North African immigrant families — who make up the bulk of France's five million Muslims — are, according to media reports, claiming the Palestinian cause to target symbols of Judaism - synagogues, Jewish schools, even homes and individuals. However, the perpetrators of the recent spate of attacks have not all been identified.

On the same day as the attack on the football team, a bus transporting kindergarten and primary school children from a Jewish school in a racially mixed eastern district of Paris was pelted with stones. The missiles shattered one of the windows, wounding a young girl who received slight facial injuries.

Paris' Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe said he was "deeply shocked" by the incident and stressed the city was working to improve security around schools and synagogues.

Other attacks have occurred around France in recent days — the destruction of a synagogue in the southern city of Marseille, attacks against a Jewish family in a Paris suburb by a gang of men of Arab background, Molotov cocktails thrown against Jewish schools and cultural centres and anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on walls in several towns.

On 8 April, a man who was sentenced to two months' jail for writing anti-Semitic slogans on the walls of a hotel and town hall in the Alps said he was acting because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ali Guia, 36, said he had been "traumatised by the events in the Middle East".

Last Sunday presented intense scenes before television cameras, when a pro-Israeli march by around 50,000 people in Paris turned ugly. A demonstrator stabbed a policeman after scuffles erupted between rival Jewish factions, while Jewish youths assaulted media they accused of being biased towards the Palestinians.

The march - replicated in several other French cities - took place a day after thousands joined a pro-Palestinian march through the French capital to condemn Israel's military assault on the West Bank.

At least 39 people have been arrested in connection with attacks on Jewish people and property, although most were later released.

The authorities have struggled to prevent the acts of hatred. Armed police stand watch outside 44 of the 59 Jewish schools in Paris while other schools have hired private guards.

France's political leaders, meanwhile, have pleaded for the communities to restrain their extremists.

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