Tuesday, 30 September 2008

« Zionists should move to Arizona! »

The first ‘Jerusalem Day’ to be held in Paris was banned by police on Saturday, following alerts on possible altercations and incitement.
Several anti-Israeli groups led by the Islamic Zahra Center were planning a joint rally next to the Eiffel tower to protest against “Zionism and imperialism”.

“We wanted to organise here in France Jerusalem Day, the event that was launched by Khomeini, but Zionist groups and media pressured authorities and police who banned the event at the last minute,” Zahra Center leader Yahia Gouasmi told me.

In a video posted on the organisation’s web site, Gouasmi says “Zionism is evil” and condemns the peace process in the Middle East.

“What right do they have to share Palestine? It’s not negotiable.” He says referring to the Palestinian Authority. “The Zionists won’t get a grain of sand. Let’s liberate our country! [...] Zionists, you still have time to leave. Move to Arizona!"

Palestinian officials in Paris gave no support to the initiative and have taken their distances in the past from various anti-Zionist groups, such as the Euro-Palestine list that ran for the European Parliamentary elections.

Actor and anti-Israeli militant Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a former member of the Euro-Palestine list, participated in Saturday’s initiative. M’bala M’bala, who used to be the partner of Jewish comedian Eli Semoun, hosted a press conference in his theatre.

Zahra Center leaders stressed they were strongly endorsed by “anti-Zionist rabbis such as Shmiel Modche Borreman from Brussels.”

But police forces were particularly alerted by the presence of an extremist group M.D.I which had been banned by French authorities twice. The faction led by Stellio Capo Chichi, known as ‘Kemi Seba’, has been disbanded in 2006 because of its anti-Semitic actions and incitement. It has since reformed twice using different names. Meanwhile, its members have multiplied.

“The police knows that whenever we participate in a rally there’s action. That’s why they cancelled the protest,” an MDI militant told one of his friends at the location of the rally Saturday.

The MDI (the Movement of those who are Damned by Imperialism) accuses ‘Zionists’ of “being responsible for injustice and imperialism throughout the world”. French courts have ruled that Kemi Seba’s repeated attacks on ‘Zionists’ are ill-disguised incitements against Jews.
Kemi Seba and his militants threatened Jews on various occasions. One such attack in the Jewish quarter of the Marais (central Paris) led to the ban of the group by then-President Jacques Chirac.

Kemi Seba managed to grow stronger ever since. Once the leader of a small, exclusively black faction, he opened doors to other militants and his movement now comprises an ‘African faction’ and an ‘Arab faction’. He also developed contacts with white nationalist groups.
According to Le Monde newspaper, Kemi Seba is lobbying the youth in various suburbs and in Paris’s 19th quarter where ethnic tensions rose in recent months.

Jerusalem Day organisers told me they were planning a major reaction on Wednesday.

Monday, 8 September 2008

"Suspected" anti-Semitism?

Three Jewish adolescents aged 16 to 18 were attacked on Saturday afternoon as they were returning home from the Synagogue in Paris’s troubled northern 19th quarter, where anti-Semitic incidents have increased over the past few years.
The beating took place only meters away from where young Rudy Haddad had been assaulted in June by a group of black and Arab youths and young men, among them a soldier.

The three youths, who were all wearing skullcaps, passed by a group of six young men, when one of them was hit with a small rock in the head. K. turned around and asked his attackers if there was a problem.

Challenged to a fight, he declined and was then beaten with his friends by the group, joined by nine other people.
The beating stopped when other residents approached the area.
All three youths were wounded and filed a complaint at police headquarters. On Monday they started identifying their aggressors.

Interior Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie said she was appalled by the “anti-Semitic attack on three Jewish adolescents on their way to the synagogue”, as did the mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoe.

But Police investigators stressed they were not certain the assault was indeed anti-Semitic, arguing that "no anti-Jewish hate slogan was pronounced during the attack".
The press reported on the attack, saying it was a case of “suspected anti-Semitism”.

“There is no need for anti-Semitic slurs to identify the crime as anti-Semitic, just as there is no need for anti-Muslim slogans in order to define an assault on a veiled woman as a hate crime,” Sammy Ghozlan of the Vigilance Bureau against anti-Semitism told me. “The police are just trying to quiet things down to avoid a greater flare-up.”

The Jewish umbrella organisation CRIF agreed the assault was “obviously anti-Semitic”, and the Jewish student organisation UEJF pointed out that the three victims were serious quiet students, who had no prior experience of violence.

UEJF was referring to the case of Rudy Haddad, the boy beaten to a coma in June, who had participated in a previous street fight between Jewish and multi-racial gangs. Because of his past experience, Rudy’s attack was considered by many as a simple street battle and not a hate crime.

However they might be defined, racial hatred and increasing violence have exasperated residents of the neighbourhood. They feel the city is not doing anything to solve the problem, and many parents ask their children to stay at home to avoid trouble.