A call for harmony in riot-hit ‘Little Jerusalem’ Paris suburb
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Religious leaders gathered for an interfaith service in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles a day after Jewish-owned businesses and a synagogue were attacked during Sunday’s banned demonstration against the Israeli offensive in Gaza.
As residents of Sarcelles, a multi-religious suburb north of Paris with a vibrant Jewish community, emerged from their homes on Monday to take stock of the situation, many broke down in tears at the scenes of vandalism.
“We called our town 'Little Jerusalem' because we felt at home here,” said Laetitia, a longtime Sarcelles resident, between sobs. “We were safe, there were never any problems. And I just wasn't expecting anything like this. We are very shocked, really very shocked."
US carriers Delta Air Lines and United Airlines said Tuesday they were suspending service between the US and Israel indefinitely. US Airways scrapped its Tel Aviv service Tuesday and said it is monitoring the situation in regards to future flights. The announcements came after a Delta flight from New York headed for Tel Aviv was diverted to Paris following reports of a rocket attack near Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport.
Air France, Dutch airline KLM, and Lufthansa also announced Tuesday that they have suspended flights to Tel Aviv.
Outside a line of burned down shops and a bank office with its windows smashed, a woman in a pink Islamic veil consoled her sobbing Jewish neighbour.
At an interfaith service Monday evening at a Sarcelles synagogue, senior religious leaders – including Haim Korsia, the chief rabbi of France, and Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy – denounced anti-Semitism and called for inter-communal harmony.
The prayer meeting came a day after a banned demonstration against the Israeli offensive in Gaza turned violent when a fringe group of protesters attacked Jewish business and a synagogue in Sarcelles.
French officials defend protest ban
It was the second pro-Palestinian demonstration to descend into violence in France over the weekend following a government ban on protests in Paris against the Gaza offensive.
Protesters clashed with police at a demonstration in the northern Barbès neighbourhood of Paris on Saturday following attempts by security officials to contain the banned gathering.
French authorities issued a ban on two Gaza demonstrations (Saturday's protest in Barbés and Sunday's demonstration in Sarcelles) in the capital following violent scenes in Paris last week when demonstrators tried to storm two synagogues.
Amid mounting anger over the latest Israeli offensive in Gaza, which has claimed more than 500 Palestinian lives, most of them civilians, French officials have authorised pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris and several other cities on Wednesday.
Despite criticism in some quarters over the government’s decision to ban the weekend’s protests, Prime Minister Manuel Valls defended the decision to stop the Paris protest, saying the violence that unfolded "justifies all the more the brave choice by the interior ministry to ban a demonstration."
Speaking to reporters in front of the Sarcelles synagogue on Monday evening, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve also defended the protest ban, noting that while it was "legitimate" to express a position on the events in Gaza, engaging in violence and vandalism was "unacceptable".
But the decision to ban the protests sparked fury as they took place anyway and turned violent, while authorised ones elsewhere in the country, as well as in other cities across Europe, were peaceful.
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