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January 16, 2019 3:03 pm

After Legal Setback, French Jewish Student Vows Appeal in Antisemitic Bullying Case at Top Paris Medical School

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avatar by Ben Cohen

Students at the University of Paris walking past an entrance blockaded during protests in December 2018. Photo: Reuters / Charles Platiau.

A French Jewish student will continue her legal action against a leading Paris medical school where she said she experienced severe antisemitic harassment, despite the decision of the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday to dismiss her case on the grounds that “the facts could not be clearly established.”

“This student, who was compelled to switch to a different university because of the antisemitism she faced, said to me that she is going to continue with the case,” Sacha Ghozlan –- head of the French Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) — told The Algemeiner on Wednesday. “She is going to file an appeal.”

The 19-year-old student — named as “Rose” in the extensive French media coverage of the case — filed her legal complaint in October 2018, after she attended an “integration weekend” with fellow students from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Paris 13. In an subsequent interview with the broadcaster Europe 1, “Rose” spoke of her harrowing experience at the hands of eight other students, who bullied her with jokes about the Holocaust and Nazi-style greetings, as well as playing a game they called “frispa,” which involved throwing a kippah around the room in the manner of frisbee. When she pushed back, her complaints were dismissed by the other students as lacking a sense of humor.

“I was scared at first, I was extremely upset, I felt humiliated,” said “Rose” in her Europe 1 interview. She added that she had decided to pursue legal action “not out of vengeance,” but rather due to her wish to prevent other Jewish students from experiencing similar behavior in future.

Tuesday’s decision by the Paris public prosecutor will have come as a blow to both Jewish students and the French government, whose higher education minister, Frédérique Vidal, declared last October that fighting Jew-hatred was “everyone’s business,” following a spate of antisemitic incidents on French university campuses. Antonin Pechard, the lawyer who represented “Rose” at Tuesday’s hearing, said afterward that “the decision of the public prosecutor is incomprehensible.”

Asked whether the French judiciary sufficiently understood the nature of antisemitism, the UEJF’s Ghozlan answered, “No, they don’t.”

He continued: “The judiciary requires training on antisemitism. The problem now is that they are very cautious, they don’t want to pursue a case unless they are 100 percent sure that the facts can be proven.”

Ghozlan said that since the case of “Rose” became public, the UEJF had “heard from many other Jewish students in campuses across France who say they are being bullied or harassed, and they are not sure what to do. Many of them don’t want to report antisemitic incidents to the faculty deans.”

Ghozlan emphasized as well that antisemitism on French campuses echoes a more worrying social trend.

“There is a direct connection between antisemitic bullying that students experience and antisemitism on social media,” Ghozlan said. “The conspiracy theories about Jews are exploited by people like Dieudonné (an antisemitic propagandist who describes himself as a comedian) and Alain Soral (a far-right ideologue).”

Ghozlan added that the latest protest movement to shake France — the so-called “yellow vests,” who originally emerged out of national demonstrations against a now-abandoned government fuel tax — had been steadily penetrated by antisemitic activists pushing conspiracy theories about Jewish power and influence.

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