France shaken by outbreak of anti-Semitic violence and abuse




  • In World
  • 2019-02-19 16:45:19Z
  • By By Luke Baker

By Luke Baker

PARIS (Reuters) - A series of attacks across France in recent days has alarmed politicians and prompted calls for action against what some commentators describe as a new form of anti-Semitism among the far-left and Islamist preachers.

The problem was starkly underlined on Tuesday with the discovery of more than 90 graves in a Jewish cemetery in eastern France desecrated with swastikas and other abuse. It remains unclear who carried out the attack.

"Whoever did this is not worthy of the French republic and will be punished," declared President Emmanuel Macron as he paid homage at the site. "We'll take action, we'll apply the law and we'll punish them."

Politicians from across the spectrum will join marches against anti-Semitism across France on Tuesday evening, including in Paris. Macron will visit the Holocaust memorial in the city, together with the heads of parliament.

France is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, around 550,000 people, a population that has grown by about half since World War Two. But anti-Semitic attacks remain common, with more than 500 alone in 2018, a 74 percent increase on 2017, according to figures released last week.

Almost every day over the past two weeks there has been new evidence of anti-Semitism.

A tree in memory of Ilan Halimi, a young Jewish man kidnapped, tortured and murdered in 2006, was cut in two. A bagel shop in Paris was spray-painted with the word "Juden", German for Jews, in yellow letters. Portraits of Simone Veil, a Holocaust survivor and magistrate, were defaced with swastikas.

Then last Saturday, a group of around 30 'yellow vest' protesters were filmed harassing Alain Finkielkraut, a well-known writer and son of a Holocaust survivor, as he walked through a Paris neighborhood, calling him a "dirty Zionist shit" and telling him to "go back to Tel Aviv".

UNCHECKED INCITEMENT

Some commentators have blamed the resurgence on unchecked incitement by fringe Islamist preachers, calling it a new form of anti-Semitism, as opposed to that most commonly associated with Nazi ideology and the far-right.

Others point to the increasingly virulent criticism of Israel coming from the far-left and the rise of anti-Zionism - opposition to the existence of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people - which has morphed into hatred of the Jews.

Among those filmed hurling abuse at Finkielkraut was a Muslim on a watchlist, according to French officials.

Francis Kalifat, the head of Crif, an umbrella organization representing France's Jewish community, said anti-Zionism needed to be regarded as akin to anti-Semitism.

"If you want to have an effective fight against anti-Semitism, you need to be able to fight against all forms of it," he said. "It's not enough to fight against the (anti-Semitism) of the extreme right, or that of the extreme left or the Islamists. We need to fight against all forms, and that's what we're waiting for from political leaders."

The leader of France's far-left, Jean-Luc Melenchon, defended the 'yellow vest' movement against accusations of anti-Semitism on Tuesday, following the video targeting Finkielkraut.

Melenchon, whose La France Insoumise party draws support from the 'yellow vests', criticized the "politicization" of anti-Semitism, saying people from across the political spectrum needed to stand against all forms of racism and hatred.

"No, the 'yellow vest' movement does not deserve to be tarred by these despicable acts," he said.

"No, the 'yellow vest' movement is not a racist movement, no the 'yellow vest' movement is not an anti-Semitic movement."

France's parliament on Tuesday debated whether anti-Zionism should be classified as a form of anti-Semitism, a position President Emmanuel Macron said he was opposed to.

"Those who today want the disappearance of Israel are those who want to attack the Jews," he said. "But nevertheless, I think that when you delve into the detail, a penal condemnation of anti-Zionism creates other problems."

Amid the rash of attacks, Israel's immigration minister sent a tweet calling on French Jews to leave France and move to Israel, where around 200,000 French Jews already live.

(Additional reporting by Richard Lough and Johnny Cotton in Paris; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

COMMENTS

More Related News

France to ban
France to ban 'yellow vest' protests if violent groups take part: PM

France's prime minister said Paris's police chief had been sacked and that the government would shut down "yellow vest" protests if violent groups were identified among the ranks of "yellow vest" protesters. President Emmanuel Macron and his government have been forced back on the defensive after rioters ransacked luxury boutiques and torched cafes and a bank on Saturday in the latest flare-up of violence against Macron's pro-business reforms. "From next Saturday, we will ban 'yellow vest' protests in neighborhoods that have been the worst hit as soon as we see sign of the presence of radical groups and their intent to cause damage," Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in a televised...

France scrambles for police response to
France scrambles for police response to 'yellow vest' violence

The French government's failure to keep Paris protests over the weekend from spiralling out of control has put a harsh spotlight on its law enforcement strategy, which makes avoiding injuries a priority even after hours of rampant destruction and looting. Business owners on the iconic Champs-Elysees avenue were fuming Monday as President Emmanuel Macron met with Interior Minister Christophe Castaner and Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet to weigh their response to an 18th consecutive Saturday of "yellow vest" demonstrations. For decades French authorities have usually preferred the opposite, putting down mass protests with tear gas and rubber bullets but avoiding physical clashes against...

'It's the apocalypse': Paris rioters run amok at yellow vest rallies

The Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris was a sea of black and yellow on Saturday as black-clad anarchists used a "yellow vest" rally to run amok, looting shops and torching businesses in scenes reminiscent of the riots that shook the city late last year. The demonstrator was referring to December 1, when protesters went on the rampage in Paris, smearing the Arc de Triomphe war memorial in graffiti in a frenzy of vandalism, looting and arson. The violence prompted President Emmanuel Macron's government to rescind planned fuel tax hikes and announce billions in measures to assist the working poor.

Paris stores looted, bank torched in new
Paris stores looted, bank torched in new 'yellow vest' violence

Demonstrators looted and torched shops and businesses on the famed Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on Saturday, on the 18th straight weekend of "yellow vest" protests, characterised by an uptick in violence after weeks of dwindling turnout. A Boss menswear store and the upscale Fouquet's restaurant -- a brasserie popular with politicians and film stars -- were among the premises to have their windows smashed by groups of hooded demonstrators in scenes reminiscent of the worst "yellow vest" riots in Paris in December. The demonstrators also set fire to a Longchamp handbag store and to a bank situated on the ground floor of an apartment building, which was engulfed by flames.

Chelsea Clinton berated by students blaming her 'rhetoric' for causing New Zealand shootings
Chelsea Clinton berated by students blaming her 'rhetoric' for causing New Zealand shootings

Video of Chelsea Clinton being confronted by several students who blamed her "rhetoric" for helping cause the New Zealand mosque attacks went viral on Saturday.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: World

facebook
Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.