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.