Calls mount to ban France’s ‘violent’ Jewish Defence League
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Pressure is mounting on France to ban a far-right Jewish group, described as violent and extreme by critics, following its involvement in clashes at a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris and the jailing of two of its supporters over a bomb plot.
The Jewish Defence League, an international organisation dedicated to protecting Jews from anti-Semitism by “whatever means necessary”, has a long history of controversy and alleged acts of terrorism and has been outlawed in both the US and Israel.
But the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip – and the passions it has stirred in support of both sides in France in recent weeks – has cast a new spotlight on the French division of the group, known as the Ligue de Défense Juive (LDJ).
An ‘extremist and racist association’
On July 13th, members of the group clashed with pro-Palestinian protesters outside a synagogue at a demonstration in Paris, sparking outrage in France and fears of a resurgence in anti-Semitism in France.
But witnesses later accused the LDJ of having provoked the violence.
The former head of France’s France-Palestine Solidarity (AFPS), Bernard Ravenel, told FRANCE 24 earlier this month that the “ LDJ were largely responsible” for the clashes.
“They turned up with the sole intention of provoking the crowd and the authorities interpreted this, sadly, as an anti-Semitic march. This is simply not true.”
On Monday, Abdallah Zekri, head of the National Observatory of Islamophobia, condemned the LDJ’s role in the violence as well as the French government for failing to take action against it.
“The LDJ is banned in Israel and the United States, it creates a lot of problems, including racist attacks … but the authorities do not denounce it with any force,’ he told the AFP news agency.
“I demand its dissolution. It is an extremist and racist association that practises violence. Organisations that practise violence, wherever they come from, must be dissolved.”
Supporters jailed over bomb attack
Later on Monday, it emerged that two LDJ supporters had been sentenced to prison in June for targeting the car of a Jewish man with a homemade bomb, prompting the victim’s lawyer to also demand the banning of the group.
The attack took place overnight on September 13, 2012, when a bomb made from a plastic bottle exploded near a car belonging to Jonathan Moadab, co-founder of the blog "Cercle des Volontaires (Circle of Volunteers)", though it failed to cause any damage.
Earlier that year, Moadab’s blog had attacked the “French Zionist nebula” in one of its articles, AFP reported.
The letters “LDJ" and a Star of David were found written on the vehicle after the attack in the town of Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, around 30km southwest of Paris.
Moadab also reported receiving anonymous phone calls threatening to “kill you, your mother, your father and your brothers".
Moadab’s lawyer, Dominique Cochain, accused the LDJ of not wanting to hear “Jewish voices diverging from unconditional support for Israeli policy”.
She compared the movement to a "militia", which should be “banned”.
‘Strength, force and violence’
The French government has so far resisted calls for the group to be outlawed, despite comments by Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve earlier this week in which he accused the organisation of being “excessive” and of “reprehensible acts that should be condemned”.
Founded in 1968 by a rabbi from New York, Meir Kahane, the Jewish Defence League lists among its five ruling principles what it calls “Barzel” or “iron” – defined as “the need to both move to help Jews everywhere and to change the Jewish image through sacrifice and all necessary means – even strength, force and violence”.
It was listed as a terrorist organisation in the United States by the FBI in 2001, following the arrest of two of its members for conspiring to bomb a mosque in California as well as the offices of a congressman.
Its sister movements, Kach and Kahane Chai, were both outlawed in Israel in 1994 as terrorist organisations and deemed to pose a threat to national security.
The French branch, established in 2000, has also been involved in numerous controversies, including allegations of harassment and threats and of staging violent protests.
Frequent calls for it to be outlawed have been made in the past, including from political parties and anti-racism groups.
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