‘We’re shocked and worried’: France’s Jewish community in fear after anti-Semitic murder

There have been 11 anti-Semitic murders in France since 2000 but the killing of an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor in her Paris home which echoed that of another elderly Jewish woman in Paris, has left the community in France particularly shocked and scared.

'We're shocked and worried': France's Jewish community in fear after anti-Semitic murder
Photo: AFP
On Tuesday, two people were charged with the brutal murder of Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old French Jewish woman, who was repeatedly stabbed and whose body was then set alight in a crime being treated as anti-Semitic by French police.
Knoll, who managed to flee a mass roundup of Jews in Paris during World War II, was found dead Friday in her apartment in the east of the French capital, where she lived alone.
This violent murder which has echoes of a similar case from April 2017 in which Sarah Halimi was also killed in her own home in the same 11th arrondissement of Paris.
The murder of Knoll and Halimi has once again rocked France's Jewish community, which was the victim of terror attacks in 2012 and 2015.
“People are extremely shocked and very worried,” Marc Knobel, head of studies at France's Jewish umbrella organization CRIF told The Local. 
“There have been 11 anti-Semitic murders since 2000 and added to that there is all the everyday violence that the Jewish community goes through.”
Sarah Halimi and Mireille Knoll Photos: Screenshot/Jewish Community Twitter account and AFP
“I think people are more worried than angry because where can you direct you anger?” said Knobel.
Knobel went on to say that the difficulty of the recent murders of Knoll and Halimi is that they took place in their own homes, behind closed doors, where they should have been safe. 
“You can't protect everyone or put a policeman behind every door,” he said, adding that it used to be more common for anti-Semitic attacks to take place against young boys on their way to school or against people going to the Synagogue, that is to say “out in the open”.
“Now it's old ladies being killed in situations that are terrible which has resulted in a great feeling of fear and insecurity in the community,” he said. 
“But there is no miracle solution to the situation,” he said, adding that it's necessary to make sure schools are addressing the issue properly and that action is taken regarding the spread of anti-Semitic and racist ideas on the internet, which he described as the “world's bin”.
“However, let's not forget that we're not living in a Russian pogrom — many Jewish people live good lives in France,” he said. 
After the murder of Knoll, Jewish organisations in France and prominent members of the community took to social media to express their shock at the horrific crime. 
The Grand Rabbi of France wrote on Twitter: “Horrified by the tragic loss of Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, almost a year to the day after the murder of Sarah Halimi-Attal. The horror of crime and the violence of the murderers are identical and remind us of the negative side of humanity.”

Parisian rabbi Gabriel Farhi also took to Twitter, writing: “Less than a year after the assassination of #SarahHalimi, the foul beast is back. Anger joins with tears.”
And President of CRIF, Francis Kalifat also expressed his anger.

A vigil will be held in memory of Mireille Knoll on Wednesday at 6.30 pm at Place de la Nation in Paris. 
Anti-Semitic violence
The most recent figures available show that anti-Semitic violence increased by 26 percent last year in France and that criminal damage to Jewish places of worship and burials increased by 22 percent.
In January an eight-year-old boy wearing the Jewish skullcap was beaten up by two teenagers in the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles in what prosecutors said appeared to be attack motivated by the child's religion.   
A record 7,900 French Jews emigrated to Israel in 2015 following the deadly jihadist shooting at a Parisian kosher supermarket two days after the attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
That exodus has since slowed, but a spate of anti-Semitic attacks since have continued to frighten one of Europe's biggest Jewish communities, numbering an estimated half a million.


French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts

A French court has ordered Twitter to give activists full access to all its documents relating to efforts to combat racism, sexism and other forms of hate speech on the social network.

French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts
Photo: Alastair Pike | AFP

Six anti-discrimination groups had taken Twitter to court in France last year, accusing the US social media giant of “long-term and persistent” failures in blocking hateful comments from the site.

The Paris court ordered Twitter to grant the campaign groups full access to all documents relating to the company’s efforts to combat hate speech since May 2020. The ruling applies to Twitter’s global operation, not just France.

Twitter must hand over “all administrative, contractual, technical or commercial documents” detailing the resources it has assigned to fighting homophobic, racist and sexist discourse on the site, as well as “condoning crimes against humanity”.

The San Francisco-based company was given two months to comply with the ruling, which also said it must reveal how many moderators it employs in France to examine posts flagged as hateful, and data on the posts they process.

The ruling was welcomed by the Union of French Jewish Students (UEJF), one of the groups that had taken the social media giant to court.

“Twitter will finally have to take responsibility, stop equivocating and put ethics before profit and international expansion,” the UEJF said in a statement on its website.

Twitter’s hateful conduct policy bans users from promoting violence, or threatening or attacking people based on their race, religion, gender identity or disability, among other forms of discrimination.

Like other social media businesses it allows users to report posts they believe are hateful, and employs moderators to vet the content.

But anti-discrimination groups have long complained that holes in the policy allow hateful comments to stay online in many cases.

French prosecutors on Tuesday said they have opened an investigation into a wave of racist comments posted on Twitter aimed at members of the country’s national football team.

The comments, notably targeting Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, were posted after France was eliminated from the Euro 2020 tournament last week.

France has also been having a wider public debate over how to balance the right to free speech with preventing hate speech, in the wake of the controversial case of a teenager known as Mila.

The 18-year-old sparked a furore last year when her videos, criticising Islam in vulgar terms, went viral on social media.

Thirteen people are on trial accused of subjecting her to such vicious harassment that she was forced to leave school and was placed under police protection.

While President Emmanuel Macron is among those who have defended her right to blaspheme, left-wing critics say her original remarks amounted to hate speech against Muslims.