When four Jews were killed in an apparent terrorist attack in Toulouse, France, in March, interest in the story quickly evaporated when the shooter turned out to be a Muslim extremist rather than a neo-Nazi, as it was first believed. But though the international press hasn’t done much follow up about the connection between the current wave of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment sweeping over Europe and violence against Jews, it appears the problem continues to grow. As the Times of Israel reports today, attacks on French Jews are becoming more frequent.
The beating of three Jewish men in Villeurbanne, outside of Lyon, by ten assailants believed to be of North African extraction is just the latest incident alarming 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. “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, called the atmosphere “unbearable.”
“These incidents are becoming more and more frequent, so much so, alas, as to make one take them for granted,” he said.
While French authorities talked about a crackdown on Muslim extremists after Toulouse, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) told Le Figaro that incidents such as the one in Villeurbanne are becoming commonplace, noting that in the month after the incident, more than 140 attacks on Jews were perpetrated. But the problem is not just the scale of these 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 notion that there is a clean distinction between street violence and the effort to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist and defend itself cannot be sustained. European intellectuals may think they operate on a different level from street thugs. But the logical next step from the hounding of Jews on the editorial pages and in academia is clear. So long as Israel is singled out for unfair treatment and economic and academic boycotts of the Jewish state are treated as “human rights” causes, we should not be surprised that violence against Jews is on the upsurge.