News / Europe

France Mulls Banning Radical Jewish Group

Supporters of Israel’s Gaza offensive wave Israeli and French flags at a demonstration in Marseille, France, July 27, 2014. The radical Jewish Defense League, not shown, uses strong-arm tactics to fight anti-Semitism.
Supporters of Israel’s Gaza offensive wave Israeli and French flags at a demonstration in Marseille, France, July 27, 2014. The radical Jewish Defense League, not shown, uses strong-arm tactics to fight anti-Semitism.
Lisa Bryant

The conflict in Gaza is unleashing strong and sometimes violent passions in France, home to Europe's largest communities of Jews and Muslims. It is also feeding fringe groups such as the small, radical Jewish Defense League.

As French authorities consider banning the movement, its strong tactics are earning praise from some Jews, who feel embattled in their own country.

It’s a summer of unrest in the Middle East – and in France, where tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters have taken to the streets.

Not all the protests have been peaceful. Demonstrators have clashed with police and, in the Paris area, some have attacked Jewish businesses and synagogues.

But the aggression goes two ways.

A group of tough young Jews is fighting back. They call themselves the Jewish Defense League, taking their name – and inspiration – from outlawed movements in Israel and the United States, where the FBI says the U.S. group has engaged in terrorist activity.

In France, the decade-old LDJ has a Facebook page and website. It uses the emblem of Israel's banned far-right Kach party: a raised fist inside a black Star of David. One posted video pans from Hamas activists to pro-Palestinian protesters, with a tagline: "France under the influence."

Fighting anti-Semitism?

The league did not respond to VOA’s interview requests. But in a January interview with Israeli TV posted on YouTube, one member said French police were incapable of protecting the Jewish community from anti-Semitic attacks. That, he said, is why the league exists.

Many do not agree. Critics claim LDJ members beat up young Muslims and attack Jews critical of Israel.

Among those petitioning to abolish the group is Abdallah Zekri, head of the Observatory Against Islamophobia, a branch of France's Muslim Council. He said the league preaches hatred and insults Islam, on its website, as a religion of violence and of killers. He called that kind of rhetoric unacceptable.

Jews are also critical.  French Jewish Union for Peace member Richard Wagman, who joined recent pro-Palestinian rallies, described the LDJ as a far-right, racist group.

"The Jewish Defense League doesn't defend too many people and certainly not the Jews,” Wagman said. “So we don't have anything to do with that group, and they don't have much to do with the Jewish people.”

Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, dismisses the league as a marginal group with only a few hundred members, at most.

"Their methods do not apply to a community like ours, which needs moderate people at its head,” Cukierman said. “We don't want to enter into that kind of situation."

Quiet support for league

But some Jews quietly cheer on the league on. The last decade has witnessed a spike in anti-Semitic attacks in France, coupled with an equally worrying rise of radical Islam. The gang killing of a young Jewish man outside Paris in 2006, the 2012 shooting deaths of four Jews in Toulouse, and May's attack on a Brussels Jewish Museum have cemented feelings among some Jews that they are no longer safe in France.

Those views were on display last week at a pro-Israel demonstration in Paris. Under tight police protection, several thousand Jews waved French and Israeli flags and sang the two national anthems.

Business owner Marc Ben Attar, who joined the rally, said he is no fan of militia groups. He said the Jewish Defense League acts in unconventional and illegal ways. But in France, young [Jewish] people are attacked every day and the community needs to defend itself.

Jean-Yves Camus, an expert on far-right groups, said Jews also remain haunted by the Holocaust.

"Since 1945, there is a feeling among the Jews in the diaspora that had Jews been united and able to set up a self-defense organization …maybe the genocide would have taken place, but more youth could have been saved," Camus said.

Authorities consider bans

The situation is very different today, but the need for self-defense remains strong. Still, while the LDJ's popularity is growing, Camus said it remains nasty, strident – and small.  

As the Gaza conflict simmers, other fringe groups are gaining traction in France. Some call themselves peaceful. Other protesters have brandished banners embracing radical Islam.

French authorities are considering whether to ban the LDJ and other groups viewed to be "problematic." For years, the government has warned against the risk of importing the Middle East conflict to France, but, in some ways, that may have already happened.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: ryan from: philippines
August 07, 2014 12:14 AM
soon France will be Europe's first Islamic State...stupid french they always import something that would destroy them...and so will be the rest of Europe...soon Islam will be build upon the heap of their trampled civilization and erase what glorious history they used to have...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid