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France's sorry record of anti-Semitic attacks

The Local · 16 Feb 2015, 13:54

Published: 16 Feb 2015 13:54 GMT+01:00

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“Nothing will be tolerated”, said François Hollande, a day after 300 graves at a Jewish cemetery were desecrated in the latest anti-Semitic act to blight France.

The president and the Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressed their indignation at an “odious” act and called for unity in the country.

The pair made a similar plea in January after the Paris terror attacks, which included a deadly shooting at a Jewish store that left four people dead.

Indeed it was a similar appeal that has been made numerous times over the years, almost every time anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head in a country that is home to Europe’s largest Jewish population.

In recent decades there have been numerous anti-Semitic acts, including three at the Sarre-Union cemetery alone, as well as other deadlier attacks that have left the country's Jewish community on edge and persuaded many to emigrate to Israel.

On Monday Hollande and Valls issued another call for Jews to stay in France, but with anti-Semitism on the rise, there will be some, who may look at the long list of incidents (below) and think it’s time to heed the call of the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and return “home”.

Here's a list of the most shocking acts of anti-Semitism in recent French history.

  • February 15th, 2015: Over 300 tombs are defaced in a Jewish cemetery, in the Sarre-Union cemetery in the Alsace region of North Eastern France. "It's an image of desolation," president of the Alsace region Philippe Richert told AFP, describing how Jewish steles, stone or wooden slabs often used for commemorative purposes, were knocked down and even some slabs at the gravesites had been lifted.
  • January 9th, 2015: Gunman Amedy Coulibaly storms into a Jewish supermarket at Porte de Vincennes, in south east Paris, killing four customers and employees and taking numerous others hostage. Coulibaly, who had links to the Charlie Hebdo gunmen Said and Cherif Kouachi, was later killed when police commandos raided the store. Following the attack Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu urged France’s Jews to “come home” to Israel.

(Hostages flee after police storm the a Jewish store in Paris on January 9th. Photo: AFP)

  • December 1st, 2014: A couple is kidnapped at their home in Creteil to the south of Paris, by three men. The woman is raped and some of the couple’s belongings are stolen. France’s interior minister said the attackers "started with the idea that being Jewish means having money." Hollande said the assault showed that "evil sweeps through our societies".  The attackers were later arrested.
  • March 19th, 2012: A Rabbi and three pupils are shot dead at a Jewish school, in Toulouse by self-proclaimed Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah. Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30; his children Gabriel, 6, and Aryeh,3; and Miriam Monsonego, 8, were killed when Merah pulled up outside the school on a scooter and began firing indiscriminately. Merah was later tracked down by the police and killed in a police assault at his apartment.
  • January 27th, 2010: Around 30 tombs at the Jewish cemetery of Cronenbourg, near Strasbourg in Eastern France are defaced with swastikas. The vandalism occurred as the world marked the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

(Vandalised Jewish graves at the Cronenbourg cemetery. Photo: AFP)

  • July 22nd, 2010:  The Etz Haïm synagogue in Melun, to the south east of Paris is desecrated with anti-Semitic tags and swastikas. After the event a local prosecutor in Melun said: "The fight against this type of phenomenon is a priority". Jewish groups urged authorities to impose tough sentences on those behind the attack.
  • January 21st, 2006: France was left shocked when a 23-year-old Jewish man named Ilan Halimi is kidnapped and tortured by a gang known as the 'Gang des Barbares' (Barbarian Gang in English), led by a Frenchman Youssouf Fofana. The victim was dumped on train tracks at a station to the South of Paris three weeks later. He died on his way to the hospital. Fofana was sentenced to life in prison and another 27 people were implicated in the murder.

(Ilan Halimi, a Jewish man who was kidnapped and tortured by the "barbarian gang". Photo: AFP)

  • May 10th, 1990: Around 34 Jewish tombs are defaced with swastikas and obscenities at the Jewish cemetery in Carpentras, southern France. A recently buried body was also dug up and mutilated. The act prompted tens of thousands of people, including President Francois Mitterrand and survivors of the Holocaust, to march silently through Paris in protest at anti-Semitism. It was the first time since the end of World War Two that a French president had joined a public protest. The then French PM Michel Rocard said he wanted to help show the world that France's "true image" was one of tolerance.
Story continues below…

(President François Mitterrand joins marchers after a Jewish graves are vandalised. Photo:AFP)

  • May 24th, 1988:  Around 60 Jewish tombs are knocked over at the Sarre-Union cemetery in Alsace, north-eastern France.
  • August 9th, 1982:  A group of men enter Goldenberg, a restaurant in Rue des Rosiers, in the traditional Jewish quarter in central Paris, and open fire. They also launch a hand grenade. Six people are killed and 22 are injured. The men managed to escape and were never arrested by the police. At the time a spokesman for the Israeli embassy said: ''These murderous attacks are encouraged by a certain climate of hostile propaganda that is very often clearly anti-Semitic.''
  • October 3rd, 1980: A bomb explodes in front of the synagogue on Rue Copernic, to the west of Paris, killing four people, and injuring more than 40, in what is the first deadly anti-Semitic attack in France since the end of the war. At the time the synagogue’s rabbi, Dr. Michael William on Englishman, asked people to remain indoors. He said that he feared a possible ambush outside the synagogue. Following the attack there were angry protests when Jewish demonstrators tried storm the Elysée Palance and there were also mass street rallies when tens of thousands of non-Jews, joined the Jewish demonstrators. In 2014, Hassan Diab, a Canadian-Lebanese man was charged over the bombing after being extradited from Canada.

(Devestation after the bomb attack on the synagogue at Rue Copernic. Photo: AFP)

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