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

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora