French Jewish entertainers caught up in Arab-Jewish tensions

19th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

Home to Europe's biggest Muslim and Jewish populations, France has recorded scores of anti-Semitic incidents since Israel launched its Gaza offensive late last month.

Paris -- France's chief rabbi said he was worried after a French Jewish standup comedian and a singer were forced to cancel shows over rising Arab-Jewish tensions since the start of Israel's Gaza offensive.

Known by his stage name Arthur, Jacques Essebag scrapped his one-man show in the southeastern Ardeche region on Friday after dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters prevented the audience from taking their seats.

Singer Enrico Macias dropped plans for a concert on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius later this week after the island's leaders criticised him for taking part in a pro-Israel rally.

"What has happened with Enrico Macias and Arthur suggests to me that there is a certain view of Jews that is worrisome," chief rabbi Gilles Bernheim told reporters in Bordeaux, southwest France.

"It could be anti-something-or-other, but we are really not very far from anti-Semitism when we stigmatise a Jew based on his name, his role in society or his achievements."

Home to Europe's biggest Muslim and Jewish populations, France has recorded scores of anti-Semitic incidents since Israel launched its Gaza offensive late last month, drawing appeals for calm from politicians and religious leaders.

Three synagogues have been firebombed and vandals have daubed anti-Israeli graffiti on at least two more. A Jewish man was stabbed four times in a Paris suburb on Thursday in an apparent anti-Semitic attack.

On Friday, pro-Palestininan protesters turned up at a venue where Arthur was to perform his comedy show in the town of Vals-les-Bain and began accusing the comedian of being a "financial supporter" of Israel, witnesses said.

After unfurling a banner demanding an end to Israeli bombings in Gaza, the demonstrators peacefully left the hall one hour later.

But Arthur told the audience he "didn't feel much like laughing" after the incident and announced he was cancelling his one-man show, according to witnesses.

France's main Jewish organisation condemned the protest against Arthur and Culture Minister Christine Albanel said it was a worrisome development that "flouts republican principles that we hold dear: tolerance and freedom of expression."

"It is unacceptable to see supporters of the Palestinian cause prevent an artist from expressing himself based on the pretext that his political opinions may be different from theirs," said the CRIF Jewish organisation.

Mauritius concert organiser Lab Entertainment said the Enrico Macias concert would not take place on Friday as planned because of "security reasons but also to avoid a situation which could tarnish the image of our island."

AFP/Expatica

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