A young Jewish woman was brutalized by two Muslim Arabs in France Thursday.
Audrey Brachelle, 22, was attacked in the French city of Marseilles Thursday evening. The attack began as she walked back from her job as an accountant at a textile factory toward the metro station in the La Rose neighborhood of the city, which is home to many Jews.
Two Arab men followed her and attempted to steal her cell phone. After they grabbed it, the attackers noticed the Jewish ornament on the woman’s necklace, at which point she says they realized she was Jewish and began focusing on brutalizing her rather than stealing her phone.
The men then punched her in the face, sliced her dress with a knife and carved at least one Nazi swastika into her chest. They also cut off a clump of her hair.
Despite the swastikas and epithets expressed by the attackers, the French government is hesitating to admit that the attack was an anti-Jewish one. French Jews say the government is hesitant to admit the attack was anti-Semitic as that would have political ramifications and sway the upcoming presidential elections set to take place May 6.
France is home to a huge community of Muslim Arabs, who have enjoyed the nation’s liberal immigration policies but brought with them the anti-Semitism of their nations of origin.
Violence and anti-Semitism of French Arabs has been a cause espoused by candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, who has accused his left-wing opponent Segolene Royal of being lenient in dealing with the phenomena.
Local Marseilles Arabs have been quoted in the left-wing press in France and elsewhere positing that the attack was staged in order to score votes for Sarkozy. They point to a case in 2004 where a woman with similar claims, including that swastikas were carved into her body, later admitted to have made the story up. As it turned out, she was not even Jewish.
The Jews of France are still reeling from the events of last year. In February, 2006, the murder of Ilan Halimi shocked the French Jewish community. Halimi was kidnapped by French Muslims and brutally tortured to death.
Just last week, Rabbi Elie Dahan, rabbi of Nord-Pas-de-Calais in northern France, was violently attacked by a man who yelled “dirty Jew” at him while pummeling him in the face at the Paris North train station.
In a step reminiscent of pre-Holocaust times, the Chief Rabbis of France and Norway have called on Jews in those countries not to go outside with obvious Jewish symbols.