On Wednesday July 4th, a 17-year old yeshiva student was traveling on a train from Toulouse to Lyon to visit with family, when two 18-year old youths of North African descent began verbally taunting him as he boarded the train. Wearing a Star of David necklace around his neck, the young man was immediately identified as Jewish by his attackers and was then physically assaulted in a ruthless fashion.
According to a source in the French Interior Ministry, “During the ride, the victim rose to use one of the bathrooms on board the train. The two attackers waited for him to exit the lavatory and severely beat him all over his body. Only after a fellow passenger and train ushers intervened did the violent attack against the youth stop.”
After being identified by security personnel from the SNCF train company, the suspected attackers were arrested at an army enlistment center in Lyon last Thursday morning. Vowing to doggedly pursue perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks, the French Interior Ministry condemned the brutal beating, saying it “contradicts the values of the Republic.”
Addressing the dramatic escalation of anti-Semitic attacks throughout Europe, the European Jewish Congress last week demanded a more decisive response. “While we appreciate the strong condemnation and quick reaction by the French Interior Minsitry after this attack, we call on authorities to take a more proactive approach so there will be no reason for statements of regret and denunciation,” said Dr. Moshe Kantor, the EJC president. Issuing an oblique warning against governmental indifference to the burgeoning phenomenon of anti-Semitism in France, Dr. Kantor added, “All of these smaller attacks remind me of smaller tremors before a massive earthquake. The Jewish community cannot afford to be subject to an earthquake and the authorities cannot say that the writing was not on the wall.”
In order to confront any attempt at the expansion of terrorist and violent activities against Jewish communities throughout Europe, the EJC has called for serious steps, including legislative measures, which they feel, need to be implemented by all European states. “In the past, pogroms were perpetrated to strike fear and terror among the Jewish communities,” EJC Secretary-General Serge Cwajgenbaum said. “These attacks feel like mini-pogroms because they are instilling a fear in some communities of Europe that Jews have not known for many years. The period of tolerance for anti-Semitism needs to end now,” he declared.
Amos Hermon, who heads the Jewish Agency task force on anti-Semitism said, “In recent days, we have witnessed a surge in anti-Semitic incidents, primarily in Western Europe.” Describing the nature of the offenses, Mr. Hermon added, “The incidents generally involve hateful graffiti targeting Jews, but some have also included violence. The Jewish Agency will continue to work with Jewish communities to combat anti-Semitic and anti-Israel phenomena around the world.”
In an incident last weekend, yet another egregious manifestation of Jew hatred was seen as anti-Semitic graffiti was sprayed on the building which houses the Jewish Agency delegation in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Along with the scrawling of swastikas, the words, “All of you – to Buchenwald” appeared in massive lettering on a neighboring building.
Specifically noting recent anti-Semitic incidents in Europe, Mr. Hermon spoke of a protest rally of hundreds of ultra-nationalists against Holocaust commemoration during a Holocaust remembrance event at the Great Synagogue in Riga, Latvia. He also mentioned the recent beating of a French rabbi who heads a Jewish educational network in the Paris Metro by three men; a yeshiva student who was beaten by four men in London and synagogues that were desecrated in Germany.
Another hot button issue that has sparked Jewish outrage was the recent ruling by a district court of Cologne, Germany which said that neither the right of parents nor the constitutional freedom of religion can justify the intervention of brit milah, or Jewish ritual circumcision. A legal ban has been placed on such practice there.