Tuesday, 24 June 2008

French anger over anti-Semitic attack, by Devorah Lauter

Full article from JTA here

Latest brutal attack on a French Jewish teenager has reignited fear and anger in the local community.

"Angry and frightened Jewish youth gathered in the 19th district of northern Paris on Monday evening to show support for a 17-year-old Jewish boy who was brutally beaten with metal bars while on his way to synagogue Saturday evening.

Hospital officials said Monday that Rudy Haddad was temporarily out of a medically induced coma and was “doing better.”

But his improved conditon did little to quell anger among French Jews over the latest shock to their community. (...)

While Jewish leaders in the 19th district were discussing the possibility of an organized response to the incident, 150 Jewish youth and some adults spontaneously met near the scene of the crime on Monday for a second consecutive evening to protest the attack.

“It was senseless, and it could just as well have been me because I’m Jewish,” said David Sebban, 17, who spoke with his hands clasped before him, visibly angered and saddened.

As he spoke, a crowd of young Jews rushed to testify of their growing fears for their security in the neighborhood. Some said they would like to take revenge on the next group of “Arabs” they crossed, referring to Muslim immigrants of North African origin.

“When I go out, I go out with a big group, and if someone calls us a 'dirty Jew’, we fight them,” said David, 15, who declined to give his last name.

Most of the kipah-wearing boys and observant girls spoke soberly of increasing tensions in the neighborhood, which includes the largest Jewish community in Paris.

Though no official statistics exist, community leaders estimate that 25,000 to 30,000 Jews live in the 19th district, while roughly 200,000 live in Paris and its suburbs. (...)

Haddad's violent beating is a reminder of the 2006 anti-Semitic killing of Ilan Halimi, who was kidnapped and tortured before his body was left on a Paris street.

The latest incident has prompted some to question the French government’s response to the ever-present threat of anti-Semitism in French society. Some Jews in the 19th district expressed their frustration Monday with officials and the French media for declining to identify Saturday’s incident as clearly anti-Semitic.

“The government makes an effort,” said Joseph Cattan, 60. “But if everything they’ve done until now still hasn’t worked, it means they need to do more.” (...)

Other Jews said that police authorities and newspapers such as the daily Le Monde tended toward a purely gang-related explanation for the attack because they were ashamed of their failure to ensure the safety of the country’s Jewish population.

“They’ll try to do everything to turn this into a common offense,” said Rabbi Michel Bouskila, the 19th district Jewish Community Council president. “If we say it is anti-Semitic, it means they have failed, it says the government hasn’t done anything.” (...)

Some of the adults gathered around a tree-shaded intersection in the rue Petit, beside a kosher cafe, said they were aware that many of the country’s non-Jews accused them of “overreacting” to the threat of anti-Semitism.

“In the press they don’t talk about so many of the daily anti-Semitic incidents that happen because they’re not important enough, and because we’re so used to it, we don’t report most of them," said Patricia Tahar, 56, a mother of two. "It’s only the big, violent attacks that make it into the press, so of course the French don’t understand why we are scared.

“But if they knew what we lived through every day, the French would understand," she said. "I can’t take any risk with my children.”"

Read also by Devorah Lauter in JTA:
Jewish residents not surprised by jihadis in their neighborhood
Jews fleeing Paris suburbs for 'ghettos' where life is safer

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