Friday, July 18, 2014

'Paris feels like Tunis all over again'

The view from inside the Don Abravanel synagogue in rue de la Roquette

On 12 and 13 July a pogrom by antisemitic demonstrators against Jewish worshippers and wedding guests at synagogues in Paris was narrowly averted; the French authorities have now banned further demonstrations. One Tunisian-born Jewish eyewitness was shocked by the sheer Arab hatred of Jews, which he had not experienced since the torching of the Great Synagogue in Tunis in 1967. Michel Gurfinkiel writes in Commentary (with thanks: Veronique):

On July 13, Bernard Abouaf, a French Jewish journalist, posted on his Facebook wall: “I just passed through one of the truest moments in my life.” A bit earlier, he had been an eyewitness to a pogrom attempt.

About one hundred Muslim thugs had gathered in front of the Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue in Central Paris, a few blocks away from Place de la Bastille (Bastille Circle), and threatened to storm it. Two to three hundred worshipers, who had gathered for a pro-Israel religious service, were locked inside. There were five police officers to protect them–and two dozen Jewish youths trained in martial arts who were members of the Jewish community sponsored Security Organization or of the more militant Jewish Defense League.

For Abouaf, whose family is of Tunisian Jewish descent, the whole scene looked like a reenactment of the storming and torching of the Great Synagogue in Tunis during the Six-Day War in 1967: a traumatic event that accelerated the flight of Tunisian Jews to France or to Israel.

“What I have seen today,” he remarked, “is Arab hatred against Jews. Pure hatred. Right in the middle of Paris. Don’t try to ‘explain’ or ‘understand’, it was hatred, period.” Irving Kristol famously said that a neoconservative was a liberal mugged by reality. Something similar was befalling Abouaf. This was the “truth” he was so eager to share.

The Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue was not stormed. Its bunker-like shape (it was built in 1962) and its strong, straight, iron gates were probably helpful. Even more effective were the young Jewish defenders*, who did not shy away from confronting the Muslim rioters. Older Jewish men and women, some in their late forties or early fifties, fought back as well. “The whole thing looked like street guerilla (warfare),” one witness said. At least two of the synagogue’s defenders–including a young Chabad chassid–were severely wounded and rushed to a nearby hospital.

Read article in full 

Report on the disturbances by Veronique Chemla (French)

The Tablet: :it reminded my father of Algeria (with thanks:Michelle)

*The UK Daily Mail has published a perverse account of these events, misleading readers into believing that these young defenders were attacking the keffiyah-clad mob, and not the other way around.

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