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

Kurdish Party Pushes Political Gamble to Run in Turkey Poll

HDP announces it will run as political party instead of fielding independent candidates in June election, but faces tough 10 percent threshold More

Twitter Targets Islamic State

New research shows suspending Twitter accounts of Islamic State, its supporters has been effective; group, its backers are facing 'significant pressure,' says terrorism expert More

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

Majur Juac made the leap from being a refugee in Africa to a master chess champion in US, where he shares his expertise with students 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.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid