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Antisemitic attacks surge in France

French Interior Ministry figures indicated that there were 92 violent antisemitic incidents last year, a 28 per cent increase

    Police officers outside a Hyper Cacher supermarket south of Paris that was the site of an arson attack last month (Photo: Getty)
    Police officers outside a Hyper Cacher supermarket south of Paris that was the site of an arson attack last month (Photo: Getty)

    The increase in antisemitic attacks in France recorded in 2017 disguises an even bigger picture of hate crimes against Jewish people, community leaders say.

    French Interior Ministry figures indicated that there were 92 violent antisemitic incidents last year, a 28 per cent increase.

    There were a further eight attacks in January 2018, including on a young boy on his way to after-school tutoring.

    It prompted Edouard Philippe, France’s Prime Minister to say this week that a “new type” of antisemitism had emerged in France that was “violent and brutal”.

    The murder of 23-year-old Ilan Halimi in 2006, the 2012 attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse and the 2015 hostage incident at the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris were all classified by the authorities as antisemitic killings.

    They topped a catalogue of other serious incidents, including riots outside Parisian synagogues in 2014, attempted murders and cases of assault, vandalism and arson.

    Mr Phillippe said he had ordered a review into the measures taken against antisemitism and their effectiveness.

    However, Sammy Ghozlan, head of the national antisemitism monitoring group BNVCA, said judges were still refusing to recognise many antisemitic crimes

    Mr Ghozlan added: “This ‘new form of antisemitism’ has been analysed for 20 years now. Several governments have pledged to fight it.

    “The truth is that many antisemitic attacks are not even [considered as such], like the murder of Sarah Halimi.”

    Mrs Halimi, a retired kindergarten director, was tortured and thrown out of her balcony last year in northern Paris. The alleged suspect, reported to be her neighbour, is said to have shouted verses from the Koran and called his victim “Satan”.

    The suspect has been charged with murder but last week a judge refused an application to treat the attack as motivated by antisemitism.

    Joel Mergui, a Jewish community leader, said this was the same act of denial that was seen in the court system when another French Jew, Ilan Halimi [no relation to Sarah], was murdered 12 years ago. “Ilan Halimi and Sarah Halimi were both held hostage, were tortured and murdered because they were Jewish,” he said.

    “We thought the times of denial were over. But it appears they’re not. I think our grave concern is very legitimate.”

    Mr Mergui said he was shocked that the judge requested protection for the suspect due to hostility against him.

    “It’s outrageous to claim the Jewish community could cause public disorder or represent a threat to the accused or society.”

    Mr Ghozlan said last week’s judicial decision was not an isolated case: “When people write on Jewish homes ‘Long live Isis’, leaving bullets on site, this is not considered antisemitic. When schoolchildren say a boy should be hit harder because he’s Jewish, this is not referenced as antisemitic.”

    In 2015, France invested €100 million (roughly £71 million at the time) in a long-term plan to fight racism and antisemitism.

    Prime Minister Edouard Philippe
    Prime Minister Edouard Philippe
    A government body for fighting hate, known as Dilcrah, is currently working on updating those plans to focus on social media.

    “We released a first video about revisionism on January 26. The goal is to deconstruct conspiracy theories and spread our videos across social media sites to target younger populations,” a Dilcrah spokesperson said.

    But Mr Ghozlan doubted the efficiency of such measures.

    “Fighting racism and fighting antisemitism is important, but authorities are wrong to fight them together because they are different phenomena carried out by different people,” he said.

    “You’ll never successfully bring antisemitism down if you do not identify what it is and hit it at its root.

    “Those extremists are influenced by organisations and far left political parties who lobby against Israel, carry out boycott actions, name streets after terrorists responsible for children’s deaths in Israel.”

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