Attack on Jewish men outside French synagogue

Francois Hollande

Francois Hollande

Jewish organisations have expressed concern after a group of French Jews were subjected to a verbal and physical attack while on their way to synagogue.

The three men, who were wearing kippot, were set upon in the Lyon suburb of Villeurbanne on Shabbat afternoon by ten men wielding hammers and iron bars. The attackers, who left their victims with neck and head injuries, shouted: "Dirty Jews! If we see you again, you're dead".

"They struck my son's head with a hammer," said the father of the one of the victims. "His head was opened. He needed four stitches."

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called for "harsh measures" and "education for tolerance", following the attack.

France is still returning to calm following the shootings of Jewish children outside their school in Toulouse in March. The Service de Protection de la Communauté Juive said that the Jewish community had been again "shocked by this weekend 's vicious assault on several of its members".

"The SPCJ is deeply concerned not just by the extremely high number of these antisemitic acts but also by their motivation. It appears that some perpetrators feel empathy with Mohamed Merah, perpetrator of deadly attacks in Toulouse and Montauban" .

The organisation called for "vigilance against the resurgence of antisemitic rhetoric and violence, which stems from issues in the Middle East" and for people to "take action against the hate speech disseminated by radical movements in France".

Abraham Foxman, national director of the US-based hate monitor the Anti Defamation League, said he had written to the French president to urge him to further strengthen efforts against antisemitic behaviour.

"We are alarmed by the recent increase in violent incidents against Jews in France," he said. "French officials have consistently and rightfully said that such attacks are attacks against the Republic of France itself.

"Those who would harm Jews must also be made to understand that the safety and civil rights of the French Jewish community are of highest priority to the President. We look forward to President François Hollande's leadership to prevent a resurgence of these violent hate crimes and to further diminish them."

Last updated: 8:45am, June 6 2012