Serge Ben Haim, one of the leaders of the Jewish community in Paris, told IDF Radio Monday morning about the attack on a Paris synagogue by a pro-Palestinian mob on Sunday.
Ben Haim told his interviewer that the event was a watershed occurrence. “What existed in the past can no longer continue. We could have had something like Kristallnacht,” he said, referring to the infamous “night of broken glass” in 1938, when Nazis swept through Jewish towns and neighborhoods throughout Germany and Austria, murdering some 500 Jews, burning homes and synagogues, and destroying shops.
The Paris riot began with a demonstration by pro-Palestinian activists not far from a synagogue in which many Jews had gathered Sunday.
“They decided to advance in large numbers toward the synagogue, and that was where they met our youths who volunteer to protect Jewish places, and then the police.”
Ben Haim stressed that the pro-Palestinians were armed, unlike the Jewish youths. “The Palestinians had rocks, glass, axes, knives... they were armed and I made sure that no one would leave the synagogue, in order to protect the lives of our people.”
Police lost control over the pro-Palestinian riot, he added. “The event lasted over three hours. Security forces accompanied the pro-Palestinian's demonstration; they thought they had things under control, but the groups there dispersed and one of them got away and reached the synagogue. They started to bring [police] forces from all directions but that did not prevent the initial contact [between pro-Palestinians and Jews].”
"On our side there are five lightly injured, three of them from being struck by the French police,” he summed up. “We skirted a true catastrophe yesterday. Today is not yesterday. We must analyze what happened – there are some very red lights going on lately.”
French anti-Semitism has received a boost in recent years from anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiment that is often found among the country's Muslim immigrant population, mostly from North Africa, who make up a growing minority in France. The attack on Jewish targets in the course of a major Israeli counterterrorist operation is thus not entirely surprising.
A wave of anti-Semitic violence has rocked French Jewry in recent weeks. In June, a gang of 20 attackers reportedly assaulted visibly Jewish students wearing kippot (yarmulkes) at a local library in the capital city of Paris.
The assailants, described by reports as being of North African descent, approached the Jewish students from two directions in the library, pouncing on them and beating them until they were bloody.
The Jewish students ran from the scene, and in the process two students were stabbed, leaving them with light wounds.
Anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala - who made headlines again in France recently for comments mocking the brutal murder of French Jew Ilan Halimi - has also been blamed for helping to stoke anti-Jewish incitement.
Dieudonne notoriously invented the inverted Nazi salute known as the "quenelle", which has since been adopted by a diverse range of anti-Semites and extremists worldwide.