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...