France is experiencing a surge in anti-Semitism following the outbreak of war between Hamas and Israel.
Since October 7, 857 anti-Semitic acts have been recorded across the country, double the total number of incidents documented throughout the entire year of 2022.
The increase has prompted serious concerns among France’s Jewish community, the biggest in Europe.
It has also resulted in government calls for a harsh crackdown on the incidents and those behind them.
“I want to tell our fellow citizens of the Jewish faith that if they have marks, graffiti on their businesses, on their properties, they should call the police,” said interior minister Gérald Darmanin, who revealed the figures on October 31.
“The Republic will protect them and be very firm.”
The acts of hatred have manifested in various ways, from swastikas daubed on public spaces to offensive graffiti targeting individuals. Schools with Jewish associations have received bomb threats and even, during protests, chants of “Death to the Jews” and calls for intifada, anti-Jewish action, have been heard.
The situation escalated further recently when hateful and anti-Semitic remarks were captured on video in the Paris subway.
One of the worst incidents lately involved 60 large, blue Stars of David being stencilled onto the homes of Jewish people in Paris. The vandals are reported to have been Moldovan and have apparently been deported.
The French Government’s response to the crisis has so far been swift and uncompromising.
More than 430 people have been arrested, and “more than 230 investigations are ongoing”, said Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne.
Furthermore, 956 sites are now being monitored by gendarmes and military personnel participating in what has been dubbed “Operation Sentinel”.
The surge in anti-Semitic action has raised concerns about the broader social and political climate in France.
President of the Union of Jewish Students of France (UEJF) Samuel Lejoyeux said the perpetrators clearly had “a desire to terrorise”.
He added that some students have identified a growing atmosphere of anti-Semitism on university campuses involving “a lot of low-intensity attacks on people: insults, threats …”
In universities, the UEJF said the “atmosphere of anti-Semitism” was “clearly pushed by extreme Left circles”.
“We have students so bad[ly concerned] that they ask us for certificates to not go to class,” said Lejoyeux.
“They are all the more terrified because these are no longer just ‘Dirty Jews’ tags in the toilets, but acts targeting specific people. I have a friend in Strasbourg who has just found her door … [scrawled] with ‘Death to the Jews’.”
The situation has prompted calls for legislative measures to combat anti-Semitism and, what some consider its ideological extension, anti-Zionism. A proposed law seeks to criminalise anti-Zionism, aiming to hold those promoting such views accountable.
The war between Israel and Hamas has caused tensions to flare across Europe.
Following Hamas’ initial attack on Israel on October 7, many European Union countries and institutions declared support for Israel.
Shortly afterwards, some EU Member States, including Spain and Ireland, denounced that stance.
After the October summit of the European Council, the bloc’s position is now more centred on calling for ceasefires and humanitarian aid for the densely populated Gaza Strip.
Many European capitals have seen huge demonstrations, particularly by their Muslim populations. Some, such as those in Brussels have been largely peaceful but others, including in London, broke down into anti-Semitic acts, while elsewhere they ended up in violent rioting.
In a recent piece for Brussels Signal, commentator Ralph Schoellhammer asked what the current situation means in the long-term for Jewish people in Europe, and whether the acceptance of the Jewish way of life in Europe may be at risk.
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) November 1, 2023