A Bloody History: Attacks on French Jewry Since 1967
by Lakkana Nanayakkara
France has a checkered history of anti-Semitism and in the last few decades there have been bombings at Jewish schools and synagogues; Jewish tombs have been desecrated and Orthodox Jews have been attacked. The most recent attack occurred on Today, when 4 people, including 3 children, were murdered at a Jewish day school in the southern part of the country.
There are 600,000 Jews in France, comprising the world’s third-largest Jewish community and the largest in Europe. Since the foundation of the state of Israel, the perpetrators of anti-Semitic violence in France have shifted from those involved in fascist political parties to radical Islamists.
In 2004, former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon urged French Jews to move to Israel immediately to escape anti-Semitism and said “We see the spread of the wildest anti-Semitism”. He made the comments after French government figures showed 510 anti-Jewish acts or threats in the first six months of 2004, compared to 593 in all of 2003.
According to the French Jewish Community Protection Service (Service de Protection de la Communauté Juive – SPCJ) there were 466 anti-Semitic acts in 2010, compared with 832 in 2009.
In 2010, “violent acts” comprised 28% of the anti-Semitic acts committed, while the remainder were “threats and intimidating acts”. In 2009, “violent acts” were 21% of the 832 anti-Semitic acts committed that year.
The following are major attacks carried out against Jews in France since the end of World War II:
In January 2009, attackers launched two cars packed with petrol bombs at a synagogue in France’s southwestern city of Toulouse, causing damage but no casualties.
A high profile case involved the death of Ilan Halimi, a young French Jewish man of Moroccan descent. He was kidnapped on January 21, 2006 by a gang called “the Gang of Barbarians” and was tortured for 24 days. The murder was motivated by anti-Semitism and money. The gang leader, Youssef Fofana, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
In October 2004, 88 tombs in a Jewish cemetery in Brumath, near Strasbourg, were painted with swastikas and “SS” initials.
In November 2003, a young French Jewish DJ, Sebastien Selam, was murdered by his Muslim neighbor and former friend, Adel Boumedienne. Boumedienne slit Selam’s throat and gouged out his eyes with a knife and is quoted as saying, “I killed my Jew, I will go to paradise” and “It was what Allah demanded.”
In January 2003, a Rabbi in Paris was stabbed and had his car set on fire.
Between March and April 2002, the Orthodox Or Aviv synagogue in Marseille was destroyed by arson and two other French synagogues were set on fire.
In October 3, 1980, the bombing of the Copernic Street synagogue in Paris killed four people and injuring about 40 others.
The following are major anti-Semitic comments and anti-Israeli actions taken by French politicians since the end of World War 2:
Former French ambassador to the United Kingdom, Daniel Bernard, said Israel was a “s—y little country,” that did not merit putting the world “in danger of World War III.”
1980s to 1997
Right-wing French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen was known for his “trivialization of the holocaust” and had repeatedly accused, former President Jacques Chirac, of being “owned” and “held hostage” by the Jewish organization B’nai B’rith.
Charles de Gaulle questioned the Jews over “dual loyalty” and called the Jews “an élite people, self-confident and dominating”. He also reversed his earlier pro-Israel stance; criticizing Israel and imposing an arms embargo on the Jewish state.