Why are synagogues being bombed in France

01:00 Wed 03rd Apr 2002 |

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There has been a wave of attacks on synagogues and Jewish-owned property in France since the Easter weekend. A synagogue in Marseilles was destroyed by fire, stolen cars were rammed through the main gates of Lyon's La Duchere synagogue then set alight, the doors and facade of another synagogue in Strasbourg were badly damaged in another arson attack, a gunman opened fire on a kosher butcher's shop in Toulouse, a Jewish school was broken into in Sarcelles north of Paris, and a Jewish couple were beaten up by five youths in the Rhone region.

As a result, more than 1,100 police have now been deployed to protect synagogues and Jewish communities.

Q. Why the anti-semitic violence
It's been brewing for months according to Jewish leaders who have been asking politicians to pay more attention to attacks on Jews.

Experts say the attacks are linked to the rise in Arab-Israeli violence in the Middle East, which has started to spread into Europe. A book just published by the anti-racist organisation SOS Racisme and UEJF, the Union of Jewish Students in France, describes 405 acts of anti-semitic violence reported in France between September 2000 and January 2002. There was a noticeable increase after the September 11 attacks and� the consequent outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

The current situation with the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat appears to have triggered the latest attacks.

Q. What do the French say
The French President Jacques Chirac called for 'dialogue, respect and tolerance' and urged the government to use its powers to track down and punish the perpetrators.

The French government warned that Europe ran the risk of becoming a battleground where Jews and Muslims re-enact the bloody violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The newspaper Le Figaro expressed concern about the rising tension between France's Jewish community - Europe's largest at 700,000 - and its four to five million Muslims, suggesting the country could become 'an annex of the battleground in the Middle East'.

Q. What do the French Jews say
Alain Jakubowicz, president of the Jewish community in Lyon, said, 'We are living through a new and deeply dangerous period of anti-semitism, of increasingly violent commando operations carried out against Jews and Jewish interests.'

The central consistory of French Jews compared the violence to the Nazi-led Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, in Germany in November 1938.

Q. Is it only happening in France
No. Belgian police said minor damage was caused to a synagogue in the Brussels district of Anderlecht when a petrol bomb was thrown through a window. And a young Jewish couple was beaten up as they entered a synagogue in Berlin.

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