Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Chilling hatred in snowy France

Temperatures haven't sunk so low in Paris for the past 3 decades. The streets are beautiful in the snow in the trendiest and loveliest neighbourhoods as well as in my own popular 20th quarter.
But you know what? Forget about the freezing wind. We get a much greater shiver these days when we hear about the Middle East, see Hamas flags in uptown Paris rallies, and hear about desecrated synagogues and assaulted men.

A burning car crashed into the gates of a synagogue in Toulouse, in the south east of France last night, in what appears to be the latest attack in a recent wave of anti-Semitism.

Rabbi Jonathan Guez was lecturing some members of his congregation when a stolen car was rammed into the front gate, setting it on fire.
A second car was about to be crashed into the synagogue but the attackers abandoned the vehicle with the motor running and fled the area when a security alarm was set off. Police found Molotov cocktails in the cars and is searching for three suspects who were seen running away.

The attack is the latest in a wave of incidents targeting the French Jewish community over the past week which Jewish officials have linked to the unrest in the Middle East.

A 29-year old Jewish man was beaten up in a Paris underground station by 20 young men shouting “Palestine will prevail” following a pro-Palestinian rally in front of the capital's Opera Garnier.
A car with a giant menorah was vandalized and other vehicles were set alight in front of a synagogue in the Paris area. Meanwhile, the Jewish community is following closely the investigation over an attempted murder that left a Jewish doctor in a critical condition on Friday.
70-year-old Dr Desire Amsalem had been shot in the back.
In another symbolic incident, vandals damaged the “Wall of Peace” created by Jewish artist Clara Halter who pleads for peace in the Middle East.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is desperately trying to broker a truce between Hamas and Israel, warned against a contagion of the Mideast conflict and called on France’s communities to remain calm.
French newspapers qualify his attempt to reach a settlement "Mission Impossible" but the public seems to appreciate his efforts in the general international apathy.
Sarkozy's defreeze with Syria - Bachar el Assad's visit in France last summer and his invitation to the prestigious July 14 Bastille Day parade - is even praised in newspapers as a clairvoyant move.

Sarkozy's Interior minister Michele Alliot-Marie gathered Muslim and Jewish officials on Monday, moments ahead of the attack on the synagogue, to discuss the recent tensions and anti-Semitic slogans in rallies against the Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip.

“The conflict should by no means spread to France,” said Richard Prasquier, the head of the Jewish umbrella organization CRIF. Prasquier invited his Muslim counterpart Mohamed Moussaoui to “overcome together” the current difficulties but stressed that certain religious leaders had incited against the Jewish community.

Moussaoui, who heads the Muslim umbrella organization CFCM, condemned all violence and said he was “determined to strengthen relations with the Jewish community in these difficult times.”
Both organizations launched on November 24 common efforts to battle jointly against ant-Semitism and Islamophobia.

However the events may turn in our lovely city, one cannot ignore a strange coincidence.
Yesterday, the day a synagogue was attacked in Toulouse, was also the first day of a major trial, the trial of the three suspects in the attack against the synagogue of Djerba - one of the oldest synagogues in the world. In this al-Qaeda-sponsored attack a Muslim man crashed his explosive-loaded truck into the gates of the ancient temple - killing 21 people. It all happened on April 11, 2002. The accused deny any kind of involvement.

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