Anti-Jewish attacks in France reach epidemic proportions

Last Saturday, 10 men wielding iron rods and hammers attacked three young Jews wearing skullcaps in a town near Lyon, sending two of the victims to the hospital, one with head injuries and the other with neck wounds.  The attackers are said to be a gang of North African Muslims, who punctuated their vicious assaults with cries of "dirty Jews."

Last March 19, a Muslim radical, Mohammed Merah, killed three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Bad as these brutal attacks against Jews are, they are but the tip of what has become an all-too evident pattern of ever more frequent attacks against Jews in France.  And not too put too fine a point on them, many of these attacks are perpetrated by Muslim hoodlums.

According to a report issued Monday by the French Jewish community protection service, the March massacre in Toulouse "triggered an explosion" of anti-Semitic attacks.  In the 10 days following  the deadly massacre, there were no fewer than 90 anti-Semitic incidents.

Data compiled by the French Interior Ministry show that there were 148 anti-Semitic incidents in March and April, including 43 classified as violent -- a huge jump over the 14 violent attacks recorded in the same period last year.

Along with violent attacks, there were 69 instances of anti-Semitic intimidation and threats in March and  36 such incidents in April.

On April 30, the last day covered by the report, a Jewish man and his friend were assaulted by people who openly flaunted their pro-Palestinian sentiments and promised to "exterminate" the Jews.  The Jewish man suffered internal bleeding.

French government officials decry the rise in anti-Jewish attacks as going counter to France's most basic values and pledge to take measures against anti-Semitism.  But one is left to wonder whether they are prepared to go to the root of the problem when French Prime Minister Jean-Marie Ayrault could summon only a plaint that the violent attack in Villeneuve was a "serious case" of "unexplained violence."

Sadly for France's Jews, such violence could be readily explained if authorities only deigned to open their eyes.  By not doing so, Jews in France are left totally defenseless.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers

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