Diaspora Jews feel Gaza backlash —again

The Abravanel synagogue in central Paris is under police guard after more than 100 youths tried to storm the building July 13, chanting "Israel murderer!" The incident—near Bastille Place, on the eve of Bastille Day—followed a march protesting the Israeli air-strikes on Gaza. After the demonstration, a large group headed to the synagogue, where some 150 people had gathered for a memorial service for three Israeli teenagers murdered in the West Bank. Witnesses said the protesters grabbed chairs from a cafe nearby and used them as weapons as they tried to break through a police barrier outside the synagogue, where worshippers remained trapped for several hours. Six police and two members of the Jewish community were reportedly injured, and six protesters arrested. Some protesters were said to be armed with axes and knives. A private security unit employed by the synagogue was also engaged in the fighting. One day earlier, in the Parisian suburb of Belleville, a protest demonstration reportedly featured chants of "Kill the Jews!" The day before that, July 11, a firebomb was thrown at the synagogue of Aulnay-sous-Bois, another Paris suburb, causing damage to the building's facade. The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism (BNVCA) reports that on July 8, a, 17-year-old Jewish girl was assaulted on a Paris street near the Gare du Nord train station by a man who blasted her face with pepper spray. The girl, identified by her initials, JL, wrote in her complaint to police that the man shouted: "Dirty Jewess, insh'allah you will die." (The Guardian, EJP, July 14; JTA, July 13)

The rabbi of the Jewish community in Casablanca, Morocco, was beaten on the night of Friday July 11 as he walked to synagogue for services, according to local media. Rabbi Moshe Ohayon suffered a broken nose and broken ribs. He reportedly pleaded with passers-by for help but was ignored. The attacker reportedly invoked the Israeli air-strikes on Gaza. Casablanca Jews have called on local authorities to increase security around synagogues and other Jewish institutions. (JTA, July 14)

We must call out the twin errors that are nearly ubiquitous in commentary on such incidents. One is to deny the context of the Gaza bombardment and portray such outbursts as mere arbitrary anti-Semitism. The other is to deny the anti-Semitic element, as if fire-bombing a synagogue were a legitimate way to protest Israeli atrocities. Leftists are the first to protest when the religion of Islam is painted with the brush of Islamist terrorism, yet are frequently undisturbed when the religion of Judaism, or Jewish ethnicity, are similarly painted with the brush of Zionist state terror. As we've said again and again and again and again and again: Ritual squawking that "anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism" is just that—an empty ritual bereft of meaning—if we don't call out real anti-Semitism. Use of the "anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism" mantra to excuse this ugliness is no better than the Zionists' bogus use of the charge of anti-Semitism to silence critics of Israel. In fact, it is exactly the same propaganda device.

We must also make the equally obvious point that we saw the same sorts of ugly outbursts during "Operation Cast Lead" in 2009 and during "Operation Defensive Shield" in 2002 —exposing the lie that Zionism is good for the Jews. While we vigorously protest the attack on the Abravanel synagogue, we do wish the congregants there had been decrying the loss of life on the Palestinian "side," not just the Jewish. A part of the pathology (as we have noted) is that for those on either side of the conflict, the outrage only goes one way…

  1. Jewish ‘vigilantes’ in Paris rampage

    The Daily Mail reports July 15 that some 150 Jewish Defense League militants brandishing iron bars and cans of pepper spray clashed with pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Paris. In a video posted to YouTube (link not provided), the militants can apparently be heard chanting "**** you Palestine" (sic) as they smash up chairs and metal tables pilfered from cafes to be used as missiles. The incident came as President Francois Hollande warned that he did not want to see "the Israeli-Palestinian conflict imported into France."

  2. France bans pro-Palestine protests?

    That's the startling claim in the Daily Mail, with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve citing a "threat to public order." It's also being played that way in Middle East Eye,  although the Wall Street Journal more cautiously reports that it is just one march planned for this weekend by the New Anti-capitalist Party that has been barred—for now, at least.

  3. France gets uglier… pathology spreads to Brooklyn

    For the third time in a week, pro-Palestinian activists clashed with Jews in Paris July 20. But this time rioters smashed the windows of Jewish-owned businesses to chants of "Gas the Jews!" The targeted shops were in the Sarcelles district, known as "Little Jerusalem." Manuel Valls, France's prime minister said: “What happened in Sarcelles is intolerable. An attack on a synagogue and on a kosher shop is simply anti-Semitism. Nothing in France can justify this violence.” There are chilling photos on HuffPo, although the report doesn't tell us if the rioters are Muslim immigrant youth or right-wing Franco-fascists. Not that it necessarily matters much.

    Meanwhile New York's Jews for Racial & Economic Justice protests an incident in which  "a car of men bearing Israeli flags, honking horns, and using sirens and flashing lights, drove many times around the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, a local mosque with a large Palestinian membership. The men screamed anti-Arab slurs at worshipers who had gathered for Ramadan prayers at 4 am."

    1. Palestine protesters implicated in Brooklyn attack —unfairly?

      The Forward has given prominent play to the disturbing case of an "attack on Jewish leader Leonard Petlakh during a demonstration after a Nets basketball game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn" on Oct. 9. Except if you keep reading, it turns out the attack happened after the protest, which was called in response to the Nets holding an exhibition game fundraiser with Israeli team Maccabi Tel Aviv, the proceeds going to Friends of the IDF. Pam Sporn of Jewish Voice for Peace denounced the attack and told The Forward: "If something happened after the game, which would have been several hours after the protest ended, it had nothing to do with us or the demonstration." Yet that was not reflected in the story's lede… 

      World War 4 Report sources indicate that attendees of the benefit were extremely hostile and belligerent towards the protesters, which also included Adalah New York and Direct Action Front for Palestine. Petlakh of the American Zionist Movement says he was attacked by demonstrators holding Palestinian flags as he walked out of the arena with his young sons and a group of friends.

      1. Another anti-Semitic attack in Brooklyn

        Dozens of teens gathered outside the Jewish-owned Gourmet Butcher in Brooklyn's Crown Heights Oct. 11 before several rushed into the store and knocked over shelves and pushed products to the floor, a video posted on CrownHeights.info shows. The store's owner, Yanki Klein, told CBS News the vandalism took place hours after he reopened his store following the Jewish holiday Sukkot. He also said one of the teens also assaulted his 23-year-old brother. The assaulted man, who was punched in the head, declined medical attention at the scene, police said. (Daily News, Oct. 14)

      2. Palestine protesters absolved in Brooklyn attack?

        Electronic Intifada reports that on Oct. 16, the man suspected of attacking Petlakh, 25-year-old Shawn Schraeder, was arrested in St. Louis, Missouri, and brought back to New York. However, by the time Schraeder appeared before a Brooklyn court, the NYPD Hate Crimes Unit had announced that they had completed their investigation and concluded that there was no evidence of anti-Semitism involved in the incident. Schraeder was charged with misdemeanor assault, not a felony "hate crime."

        But as Petlakh’s story and face appeared in the news in the days following his attack, protesters Nerdeen Kiswani recognized him from an attack she sustained that night as well. Her assault received scant media attention and was not investigated by the police. Kiswani, a Palestinian-American student at the City University of New York, had been punched in the stomach after someone snatched her Palestinian flag from her hands after the Maccabi-Nets game.

        On Oct. 21, Kiswani and her lawyer, Lamis Deek, held a press conference on the steps of the Brooklyn Borough Hall to publicize their complaint to the NYPD, requesting that it investigate the attack on Kiswani. Petlakh, Kiswani alleges, was one of the men in the group who harassed and assailed her. “It appears that Petlakh and his friends had staged the assault in fact and were taping and plotting their attack on Ms. Kiswani,” a press release states.

  4. MondoWeiss challenges portrayal of Paris synagogue attack

    We can't quite follow this, but MondoWeiss has a post challenging the portrayal of the July 13 attack on the Abravanel synagogue, in their usual problematic terms. First, the headline, "Violence outside Paris synagogue falsely attributed to anti-Semitism." C'mon, no matter what the facts are, denying anti-Semitism in an attack on a synagogue? Give us a break, MondoWeiss, willya? The somewhat garbled write-up seems to imply the JDL had a role in inciting the violence. It also quotes the president of the synagoge, Serge Benhaïm, telling a French reporter that there was "not a single projectile thrown at the synagogue" and that "at no moment, were we ever physically in danger." Well, the original accounts did not say projectiles were thrown at the synagogue, but at the police phalanx guarding it. And if the congregants were not "physically in danger," it seems to be because the protesters failed to break through the phalanx. We wonder how Benhaïm feels about his words being used in this context. We also wonder why MondoWeiss and their ilk think they are helping the Palestinians by denying anti-Semitism.

    1. More denialism on Paris synagogue attack

      Here we go again. Middle East Monitor is the latest to cast doubt on the Paris synagogue attack, under the headline "False reports on Roquette Synagogue 'attack' should be rectified." Yes, "attack" in quote marks. (And yes, the Abravanel and Roquette synagogue are one and the same.) The writer, Nabila Ramdani, claims to have been on the scene, and states: "Such reports are pure fabrication. Nobody attacked the synagogue, nobody was trapped inside, no worshippers were hurt and there were no missiles thrown at it. Comparisons with the kind of demonic crimes committed against European Jews in the pre-war years, and during the Occupation of Paris, are profoundly wicked." She again claims provocation by the Jewish Defense League (which we have no particular reason to doubt), and again cites Serge Benhaïm, president of the synagogue, as having "confirmed categorically that there had been no attack on his place of worship, and no damage caused to it or those inside." We already deconstructed these claims in the post immediately above, after they were raised by MondoWeiss. The video Ramdani provides from French TV news is touted as "exposing the falsehoods about the alleged attack on the Roquette Synagogue." In fact, it is impossible to tell whether it is JDL thugs or anti-Semitic thugs who are seen raiding a cafe for chair legs and such to use as weapons. The account of a putative Jewish witness to the attack, identified as "Aurélie A." and writing in The Tablet, is summarily dismissed as lies. Indeed, Mlle. A's rhetoric is overheated, and her claim that at least one attacker had an ax has not been seen elsewhere, but Ramdani comes across as hardly more objective. I am not seeing much reason for comfort here.

      Quite to the contrary, in fact. Even if (for the sake of argument) what happened at the  Abravanel synagogue has been exaggerated, it was but one such incident among a great many in Europe since the Gaza bombardment began. In the face of this, acknowledgement of "profoundly wicked" anti-Semitic attacks 60 years ago is the most repugnant form of condescending lip service. So-called "progressives" peddling this kind of denialism will only drive more Jews into the arms of the Zionist right. No thanks, Middle East Monitor.

  5. Clashes at banned pro-Palestinian Paris protest

    French police arrested 70 people at a banned pro-Palestinian protest in central Paris on July 26 that degenerated into clashes between demonstrators and armor-clad riot squads. The interior ministry said that rally drew 4,000 people to the capital's Place de la Republique, while organizers put the turnout at 10,000. (AFP)

  6. Italy joins Gaza backlash ugliness

    A disturbing July 29 report on Daily Beast notes that a memorial plaque along Rome's Via Lungara, marking the spot where the city's Jews were held in 1943 befoer being transferred in to Auschwitz, was defaced with a swastika. Over the past few nights, more than 70 hate messages were scrawled with black and red paint on Jewish businesses across Rome, and especially throughout the former Jewish Ghetto around the city’s main synagogue. Slogans like "Anne Frank Was A Liar," "Dirty Jews," "Jews your end is near," and "Israel executioner" were written alongside Celtic crosses and swastikas. "It's like 1933," Riccardo Pacifici, the head of Rome's Jewish community, told reporters. "This morning Rome woke up in the worst possible way. Its walls have been defaced by dozens of graffiti praising neo-Nazi hatred towards Jews."

    Maybe MondoWeiss will find some way to dismiss this as well…

    1. Islamophobes reap Italian windfall

      Well, some idiots in Rome provide propaganda fodder for the vile Pamela Geller, wheat-pasting anti-Semitic posters on the city's walls. Under the banner "Boycott Israel" (a message I support) is the admonishment "Don't buy from Jews," with a list of Jewish-owned businesses. These hateful twits are not doing the legitimate BDS movement any favors. Depressing as hell.

      Of course Geller wants us to assume this was the work of Muslim immigrants, but it strikes us as more likely to be that of native Italian neo-fascists.

  7. Peace rally in Paris unites Jews and Muslims

    Several hundred people gathered in the centre of Paris on Aug. 3 to demonstrate for peace. The rally was supported by several organisations including the French Union of Jewish Students who joined Muslim groups for the march. (RFI)

  8. Anti-Semitism mainstreamed in Europe

    An Aug. 7 overview in The Guardian, "Antisemitism on rise across Europe 'in worst times since the Nazis,'" provides a grim overview of recent events that have failed to make much news. The "worst times" quote is from Dieter Graumann, president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, who adedd: "On the streets, you hear things like 'the Jews should be gassed', 'the Jews should be burned'—we haven't had that in Germany for decades."

    A few details: In Germany last month, Molotov cocktails were lobbed into the Bergische synagogue in Wuppertal—previously destroyed on Kristallnacht.

    In several cities, chants at Gaza protests compared Israel's actions to the Holocaust; other slogans included: "Jew, coward pig, come out and fight alone," and "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas."

    The attacks on Jewish shops in Rome is noted, and we are told that Abd al-Barr al-Rawdhi, an imam from the northeastern town of San Donà di Piave, is to be deported after being video-recorded giving a sermon calling for the extermination of the Jews.

    In Belgium, a woman was reportedly turned away from a shop with the words: "We don't currently sell to Jews."

    In Spain, the small Jewish community is planning action against El Mundo after the daily paper published a column by 83-year-old playwright Antonio Gala questioning Jews' ability to live peacefully with others: "It's not strange they have been so frequently expelled."

    A couple of the listed incidents actually contained some link to Israel. For instance, an Amsterdam rabbi, Binjamin Jacobs, had his front door stoned, and two Jewish women were attacked—one beaten, the other the victim of arson—after they hung Israeli flags from their balconies. In such cases, there is a little bit of deniability, but it is hard to believe they are free from taint of anti-Semitism.

    A few other cases from Belgium were overlooked by The Guardian. JTA reported July 16 that the leader of one Gaza protest in Antwerp used his loudspeaker to start a chant in Arabic: "Slaughter the Jews.” The Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism filed a complaint for incitement to violence against the organizers of the demonstration

    Receiving no coverage in English are the comments by an official in the Antwerp city government, Hassan Aarab—with North-African roots, but from mainstream Christian Democratic Party. He wrote on his Facebook page: "The Germans did not exterminate all Jews on purpose, but left some to live, so today, we still can realize why he [Hitler, presumably] started his extermination campaign." (De Telegraaf, De Standaard, Aug. 7)

  9. ISIS flags at Dutch protest against Gaza bombardment?

    JTA reports that a Gaza protest in The Hague, that was approved by the Dutch government, was crashed by "hundreds of ISIS supporters," who waved the black ISIS flag while chanting "Death to Jews!" 

    We can be sure that the reaction of "progressives" to this outburst will be either to ignore it or (if they can find some plausible means) attempt to debunk it. Leaving it to be exploited by right-wing outlets like Breitbart and Algemeiner.

    What is wrong with this picture? Quite a lot.

  10. Serbian football fans mix anti-Semitism and misogyny

    How perfectly charming. From Haaretz, Sept. 19:

    The Union of European Football Associations is investigating the display of a large anti-Semitic banner on Thursday night during a match between Partizan Belgrade and the United Kingdom's Tottenham Hotspur, the Guardian reported.

    Held aloft by Serbian fans, the banner read: "Only Jews and Pussies" — believed to be a reference to the TV comedy "Only Fools and Horses."

    The banner was strongly criticized by Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino who called it "unacceptable" and "disrespectful." The match between the two teams ended in a goalless draw.

    Tottenham, a club with a traditionally strong Jewish support base, is expected to file an official complaint within the next 48 hours

  11. French Muslims repudiate ISIS

    Hundreds of people gathered in Paris on Sept. 26 answering a call by Muslim leaders to denounce the "barbarism" of ISIS, as flags across France flew at half mast after the beheading of a French national by militants in Algeria. The killing followed a call by ISIS to kill Americans and Europeans, particularly the “dirty French.”

    "This gathering is the strong and vibrant expression of our desire for national unity and of our unwavering will to live together," Dalil Boubakeur, head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith told the gathering outside Paris' main mosque. "Islam is a religion of peace", he said, adding it "orders respect for life".

    The rector of the Lyon mosque, Kamel Kabtane, wrote an open letter entitled "We are dirty French too,” published on newspaper Le Figaro’s website and signed by 19 prominent French Muslims. “These savages have no right to claim to be Muslim and to speak in our name,” the letter read.

    Meanwhile, the #notinmyname Twitter campaign that began in Britain earlier this month, has hit France, with 56,000 tweets in the past five days.The campaign, which began after a British hostage was murdered in Syria, involves individual Muslims posting photos or videos and holding signs saying “notinmyname,” to disassociate themselves from ISIS. (Bloomberg, Expatica)

  12. France: ‘open season’ on Jews?

    YNet reports that Jewish woman was raped in an apparent anti-Semitic attack in the Paris suburb of Créteil. Assailants broke into her home and made repeated anti-Semitic insults while raping her, restraining her boyfriend, and robbing the residence. Invoking the case of Ilan HalimiEuropean Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor said: "Unfortunately, it appears that it is 'open season' on Jews in France following so many recent violent attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions going all the way back to the brutal torture and murder of Ilan Halimi. We call for the issue of anti-Semitic attacks to be placed at the forefront of the French government’s agenda and it requires an immediate response and plan of action to rid France of this scourge and allow Jews to feel safe once again."