In France, July 16 was the 70th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup and deportation to Auschwitz of 13,152 Jewish men, women and children.
But instead of commerating a declining number of Jewish survivors of such death camps, signs of resurgent anti-Semitism have officials in big cities such as Lyon concerned.
Authorities in France say much of the threats and violence are coming from disaffected “French youths of North African origin” as the police euphemistically label them, according to French News On-line.
Marianne magazine (Issue 792 23-29 June 2012 printed version only) sent two reporters to interview communities and officials in Lyon following recent horrific attacks on Jewish school pupils. Their report is highly critical and warns that anti-Semitism is poisoning relations between religious communities in Lyon and its outlying suburbs.
The incidents that prompted the magazine investigation involved a group of eleven thugs who attacked three people as they left the Beit Menachem Jewish school in Villeurbanne, Lyon on Saturday June 2, beating them with iron bars, according to L’Express newspaper.
Two of the Jewish victims were hospitalized and five of the attackers were jailed. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls claimed the assailants attacked the Jews with a hammer and an iron bar. Both victims wore Jewish skullcaps.
Valls said the assault was an attack on the French Republic and pledged police would hunt down all suspects. The agency said the attackers shouted anti-Semitic insults at the victims before attacking them.
An estimated half a million Jewish people live in France and there are some 5 million Muslim immigrants with more pouring across the border every week.
Israeli and European Jewish media have published concerns for the safety of Jews in France and elsewhere in Europe, particularly when they are linked to their faith in any identifiable manner.
Location map of Montauban and Toulouse, two towns in region Midi-Pyrénées, France. In pink, the area covored by the Scarlet Vigipirate level.
Marianne’s report, printed in the wake of the beating of the Jewish youngsters in Villeurbanne, has heightened alarm among French Jews.
“Joël Mergui, president of the Central Consistory, an umbrella organization working to coordinate local Jewish communities, said the country’s Jews were under constant attack, according to Commentary magazine as reported at the time of the bludgeoning.
“Not a week passes without anti-Semitic assaults in France. I refuse to believe Jews will be forced to choose between security and their Jewish identity.”
The chief rabbi of the Grand Synagogue in Lyon, Richard Wertenschlag, said the situation has become “unbearable. These incidents are becoming more and more frequent, so much so, alas, as to make one take them for granted,” he said.
French authorities have talked about implementing a crackdown on Muslim extremists after the March 2011 Toulouse shootings (where an Islamist gunman murdered three Jewish children and one of their fathers in a shooting spree outside a Jewish school). But the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) told Le Figaro that incidents such as the one in Villeurbanne were common. CRIF officials said there were more than 140 attacks on Jews since Villeurbanne.
The problem, according to Commentary magazine, is not just the scale of the assaults but also the unwillingness of many to confront the source of the problem.
“Though attacks against Jews in Western Europe seem to be the province of Muslim immigrants, it is a mistake to view this violence as solely the result of the importation of Middle Eastern attitudes. The flow of raw hate speech against Jews from Cairo and Tehran and other Arab and Muslim capitals is not to be underestimated, but the willingness of European intellectuals to lend their support to the demonization of the Jewish state has given these sentiments a patina of undeserved legitimacy…”, the magazine wrote.