Jewish and Israeli students attacked at Toulouse university event
The Le Mirail campus
The president of the French Jewish student organisation has called on the University of Toulouse to combat antisemitism after a talk by Israeli students last week was disrupted by protesters shouting abuse, making threats and singing antisemitic chants.
The incident, which happened on April 25, occurred just over a month after three Jewish students and a rabbi were shot by an Islamist gunman in Toulouse.
The delegation of Israeli students from thenon-political organisation What Is RAEL were midway through a tour of French universities and had held successful events in Lille and Lyon before visiting Le Mirail campus, in the area where the Toulouse gunman Mohammed Merah grew up.
They were at a stall on the campus and were handing out leaflets and chatting to students when a group of protesters arrived and began shouting at them through a megaphone.
"They began shouting anti-Israel slogans and saying that Israel was a criminal state," said Sacha Reingewitz, vice president of the UEJF. "They said Jews should be exterminated and that Israel commits genocide."
The protesters demanded that the Israeli group remove the Israeli flag from their stall and when the group refused, they took it down by force.
"Security had to intervene – it was very upsetting," said Mr Reingewirtz. "The protesters were saying 'get out of here' and they sang an antisemitic slogan in Arabic: Khaybar Khaybar is Yahud, Jaysh Muhammad sawfa ya'ud" (Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, the army of Muhammad will return)."
After security removed the protesters the event continued, but Mr Reingewirtz said the Israeli visitors were "very shaken".
"They did not expect this at all," he said. "They were very distressed. They were obviously willing to have a discussion, even one that was tense, but they were not expecting anything of this sort."
The students, who have also visited British campuses, have now returned to Israel.
The incident took place days after the first round of voting in the French presidential race.
A spokeswoman for the Union of Jewish Students in the UK expressed support for efforts to tackle such vitirolic incidents of antisemitism in universities.
"No university authority should stay silent and lay dormant when events such as this occur," she said. "This week we have been touring campuses promoting Tel Aviv as a wonderful holiday destinaton and earlier this year did a similiar tour with Israeli students and did not and have not come up against anything of this nature.
"We stand firm, as proven by last week's tackling of the antisemitic incident at the NUS Conference, that antisemitism will not be tolerated in British universities and UJS would always be willling to lend a hand of support to our French or any other counterparts in tackling this issue wherever it unfortunatley occurs.
"Antisemitism and hatred is universally unacceptable and there should be a zero tolerance policy for it in a university or any other environment."