• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'Anti-Semitic' riots: 'We may leave France'

Joshua Melvin · 21 Jul 2014, 14:18

Published: 21 Jul 2014 14:18 GMT+02:00

Shattered glass, a handful of burned out businesses and the presence of dozens of riot police were the clues pointing to the destruction left behind by a mob of pro-Palestinian protesters who turned on the Jewish community in the northern Parisian suburb of Sarcelles on Sunday.

What began as a protest against Israel’s bombing and ground offensive in Gaza quickly turned into a rampage with the so-called "Little Jerusalem" neighborhood in working class Sarcelles as the number one target for rioters. It is one of the centres of France’s Jewish population, which at some 500,000 is the third largest in the world behind Israel and the United States.

(People gather outside a pharmacy on Monday that was destroyed in the riot. Photo: The Local/Joshua Melvin)

In addition to the cars and waste bins set ablaze, several Jewish business were torched, including the Naouri kosher market which was the target of a flash-bang grenade attack in 2012. Rioters also tried to approach a synagogue, before being repelled by riot police.

At least one unconfirmed report stated the building was suffered minor flame damage from a petrol bomb.

As the rioters rampaged through Sarcelles into the early evening, witnesses told The Local they'd heard chants of "Israel, murderers!" and "Hitler for president!"

For the French government, Sunday's violence was clearly an attack on the country's Jews. "Attacking a synagogue, a kosher supermarket, it's pure and simple anti-Semitism, racism," said PM Manuel Valls.

The riot was the third time in eight days a pro-Palestinian demo has degenerated into violence. The first march on July 13th saw protesters attempt to storm two synagogues in Paris, before being beaten back, by riot police and Jewish militants.

(Police guarded the burned-out remains of a pharmacy attacked in the riots. Photo: The Local)

The repeat of the violence left some members of the anxious and concerned Jewish community in Sarcelles considering leaving France.

“We’ve been thinking about moving to Israel for some time now,” Daniel Ullmann, 58, a teacher told The Local. “There is a part of France that is very xenophobic. There’s a part of the population that has no liking for foreigners.”

As he spoke to The Local a passerby shouted at him: “Go back to Israel!”, which drew only a sad shrug and knowing grimace from Ullmann.

Jewish people in Sarcelles like Ullman are concerned about what could happen next.

"We don't know if they are coming back. The troublemakers sleep during the day," said Ullmann. "We'll find out tonight."

He said for a long time life has been tranquil between Jews and the other groups that make up the diverse population of town, including its large Muslim community. But now Ullman feels it has once again become a “time of pogroms” where “Jews had better stay at home", unless they’re looking for trouble.

(Rioters smashed windows to several buildings in Sarcelles. Photo: The Local/Joshua Melvin)

'Young people being manipulated into violence'

Sarcelles includes several poor neighbourhoods and sits to the north of a string of Parisian towns that make up one of the largest concentrations of poverty in the country.

Some observers in Sarcelles told The Local the anti-Semitic violence in France is being fanned by the country’s dire economic situation - with unemployment rates among young people hovering at 25 percent - as well as by Islamists.

“It’s young people, who’ve got no work and aren’t in school, they are the ones being manipulated into this kind of violence,” said journalist André Nahum, 92, a retired doctor and a long-time member of the Sarcelles Jewish community. “It’s Islamists who are at the source of these problems, not just here, but around the world.”

He said leaving Sarcelles for Israel or elsewhere isn’t a solution because the problem is global.

“You stay, you fight,” Nahum said. “Otherwise you are just handing the country over to them.”

The anger the deaths in Gaza has provoked among the Muslim population in Paris’s suburbs is raging, but in Sarcelles a Muslim man who would give only his name as Jamel said Sunday's attacks were wrong and were not perpetrated by local Muslims, who the 39-year-old firefighter says get along with the Jewish community.

(The Naouri kosher market, which was the target of a hand grenade attack in 2012, was torched by pro-Palestinian protesters on Sunday. Photo: The Local/Joshua Melvin)

“It’s scary. We live in a civilized country,” he said while standing outside the remains of a pharmacy that was torched in the riots. “But it’s wrong, it’s wrong for kids to be killed by Israel. What are they going to do against the Israeli army? Throw rocks at them?”

Marc Knobel, from Jewish umbrella group CRIF also believes it's a mistake to blame the recent rise in anti-Semitism, sparked by the latest Israeli assaulty on Gaza, on Muslims in France.

Instead Knobel says the marginalization and alienation from mainstream French society has led to some youths in the poorer suburbs of French cities like Sarcelles, to identify themselves with the struggle of the Palestinians against Israel.

"It's difficult to determine who are the perpetrators of these anti-Semitic acts in terms of their religion," Knobel told The Local previously.

"The only thing we can say is that they are more often than not from poor suburbs in France and have been victims of racism and discrimination themselves. So they associate themselves with Palestinians and develop anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic views. Some are Muslims, some are not."

Story continues below…

Whatever the cause and whoever the perpetrators are, the violence is forcing many French Jews, like Daniel Ullmann, to think about packing up and leaving France.

In May The Local reported that figures revealed 2014 could see a record number of Jews in France leaving for Israel. As many as 5,000 could depart by the end of the year. That has not happened since 1948, according to the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Hollande says Brexit won't change Channel migrant deal
The Calais Jungle. Photo: AFP

President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday that the Brexit vote won't change border agreements between France and Britain.

Frenchman sentenced to jail time for burying dog alive
Photo: Pedro Dinis/Facebook

A man who buried his disabled dog alive, sparking social media fury in France, has been handed a jail sentence.

Le Thought du Jour
Post-Brexit: Could it benefit France to see the UK suffer?
Will Hollande benefit from the mess left behind by Cameron. Photo: AFP

The referendum result may have boosted Marine Le Pen and the growing anti-EU movement in France, but what has happened since may have taken the wind out their sails.

France 'probes new death threats' against Charlie Hebdo

A special French police unit has launched investigations after Charlie Hebdo magazine was subject to new death threats, according to reports in France.

Paris commuters face summer of transport headaches
Photo: AFP

Here are the train lines to avoid this summer if you're in Paris.

What's on in France: Eleven great things to do in July
Check out Provence's Lavender festivals in July. Photo: Ming-Yen Hsu/Flickr

We reckon July is by far the best month to be in France. Here's why.

Brexit
France wants Paris to profit from London's losses
Photo: AFP

Paris must take London's place as Europe's financial powerhouse once Brexit happens, a French minister says.

French foie gras industry warns of Christmas shortages
Photo: AFP

The foie gras industry in France is struggling to digest the consequences of the bird flu scare in its heartland.

Paris to honour Ireland's two sets of 'wonderful' fans
Photo: AFP

Fans of Ireland's "Boys in Green" and Northern Ireland's Green and White Army are to be given a special medal for bringing some joy to Euro 2016.

€5 to the coast? Ouibus rolls out new summer lines
Photo: Ouibus

Fancy heading to the coast for just €5 this summer?

Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
New app aims to rid Paris pavements of dog poo
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Society
No more plastic bags! See what changes in France from July 2016
National
Mixed reaction from the French as UK votes for Brexit
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
How Brexit could now scupper that dream move to France
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Brexit limbo: What happens next for Brits in France?
Gallery
Ten reasons why you should think about becoming French
Analysis & Opinion
Brexit: Life for Brits in France 'will get more complicated'
Culture
20 English words that 'should be banished' from French
National
Best Briehaviour: A guide to French cheese etiquette
Features
And the best city in France for expats to live in is...?
Society
Forget bikes, Paris is set to roll out scooter rentals
National
'We fear for our safety': French police feel the strain
Lifestyle
Why Rennes (and not Paris) is the best city in France for expats to live
National
Why are the French losing appetite for baguettes?
Lifestyle
Naturism booms in France as young eager to ditch clothes
Lifestyle
Is working life better in London or Paris?
National
Dear Americans: Please come to Paris
National
It's official (kind of): French work fewest hours in EU
And the best football fans of Euro 2016 in France are?
National
Paris has wettest spring in 100 years and it's hitting morale
Police murders remind France of complexity of terror threat
National
IN PICTURES: Labour law protests in Paris turn ugly
National
Double murder just latest jihadist attack on French police and soldiers
2,762
jobs available