Jews in France fear wave of attacks

By Lori Hinnant

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Oct. 8 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, said France's problems are similar to those elsewhere in Europe, but more notable because of the larger Jewish population.

"The only group of people, of citizens in Europe who go and pray under police protection are the Jews. The only group who sends its kids to a school under police protection are the Jews," he said. "That's a real question — why?"

Many French Jews say it's impossible to separate anti-Semitism from France's problems with its disaffected youth — up to 50 percent unemployment in some heavily immigrant housing projects — or from anger about Israel's conflict with the Palestinians. Only a small part of that anger translates into anti-Semitism: Young people also target symbols of the French government, most recently in the northern city of Amiens, where dozens of youths faced off against riot officers in August in a night of violence that ended with 17 officers injured, and a pre-school and public gym torched.

Sarcelles, a short train ride from central Paris, is relatively new by French standards, with most of its population of 60,000 living in high-rise apartment complexes dating to the 1970s.

Malka finds himself speaking Arabic to Muslims from his native Morocco, moving easily between the Jewish quarter that was attacked to the enormous open-air market across the street, where hundreds of stalls sell meat, clothes and knick-knacks and he can find the fruits and vegetables of his childhood.

Malka said the tensions in Sarcelles became progressively worse as the year progressed. First, anti-Israel posters from an unknown group went up during France's election campaign, followed by anti-Semitic graffiti, and then a young Jewish man was roughed up in July.

Muslim leaders have condemned the attacks. Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the umbrella group of Muslim organizations CFCM, said the group "assures the French Jewish community of its support and fraternal solidarity in the face of all attacks." The government also changed anti-terrorism laws to more severely punish anyone trained abroad who commits terrorism in France.

Hollande said authorities should show "intransigence" toward racism and anti-Semitism.

"Nothing will be tolerated. Nothing should happen," he said. "Any act, any remark, will be prosecuted with the greatest firmness."

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