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A shadow of Gaza falls on France

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-01-14

More and more hate crimes are taking place in France as violence in Gaza escalates. According to a Jewish umbrella group (CRIF), 55 antisemitic acts have been committed since last month, compared with about 15 in the same period last year.

A rising number of hate crimes across France have sparked fears that anger over the recent Gaza attacks is starting to spill over into the country.

“There is no place in the republic for anti-Semites or Islamophobes," warned French President Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking to reporters in Orleans on Wednesday.

Tags were found scrawled across a synagogue in the eastern city of Mulhouse on Wednesday, according to an AFP photographer, who described messages such as “Death to Israel” and “Long live Palestine” among others.

During a briefing to parliament on the latest Middle East crisis, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also warned that there were risks of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being brought into France.

Home to both Europe's largest Muslim and Jewish communities, France has recorded about 55 anti-Semitic incidents since Israel launched its Gaza offensive last month, according to the representative council of the Jewish institutions of France, CRIF.

Politicians are fearful

Speaking to FRANCE 24 on Wednesday, Fadela Amara, Secretary of State for Urban Policies, who is responsible for France’s volatile immigrant-dominated suburbs, conceded that “there are tensions” within some communities and that the authorities needed “to be vigilant.”

“The French political classes and the media evidently think that there is a growing problem in France. Indeed the Senate cancelled its usual question time session on Wednesday to hold the Gaza debate,” said Melissa Bell, FRANCE 24’s political affairs expert.

Fears of escalation have grown since a huge number of supporters turned out at an anti-Israel demonstration held in Paris on Saturday.

Police said they had found a swastika painted near the door of the local synagogue in the northern city of Lille on Wednesday, next to the letters ZOG -- an acronym for "Zionist Occupation Government".

Three Jewish places of worship have been attacked in the past two weeks, with vandals throwing petrol bombs at two synagogues on Sunday while a car was rammed into the gates of a third last week.

Gaza is a “taboo” subject in the suburbs

The issue has put mixed communities on edge. In Paris suburbs such as Aubervilliers, Jews and Muslims tread carefully around the issue, anxious to keep the peace.

Jacques Salvatore, mayor of Aubervilliers, told the AFP that the Gaza conflict had become a taboo subject for many in the town, where Muslims of north African descent account for nearly a third of the 74,000 residents, and Jews for 10 percent.

"We just don't know how to tackle the issue. It is a conflict where even words can be deadly," said Salvatore, who runs a Palestinian support group, AuberPalestine, and has both Jewish and Muslim officials on his staff.


Date created : 2009-01-14