With France still reeling from the Islamist terror attack that saw a schoolteacher beheaded on a suburban street in broad daylight for teaching about freedom of speech, a new story was reported:
A 39-year old homeless Georgian national was arrested in Paris on October11 after he scrawled around 20 swastikas in red paint on the columns of the arcade in the Rue de Rivoli, opposite the Louvre.
After his arrest he was taken for a psychiatric examination to the police infirmary before being charged with two offenses: refusing to submit to an identification process and damaging a listed historical building.
When he appeared in court three days later, he was remanded in custody pending a trial on November 18 in order to give him sufficient time to prepare his defense.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin expressed his abhorrence at the “despicable Nazi tags in the heart of Paris” on Twitter. The French Union of Jewish Students criticized the decision of the Paris Public Prosecutor’s office for not qualifying the offense as an act of antisemitism.
The Prosecutor’s Office replied that it was not legally possible to take into account the antisemitic nature of the offense as an aggravating factor, since the damage did not target a building associated with the Jewish community such as a synagogue, cemetery or store.
Earlier in October swastikas were painted on the floor, walls and tables of a kosher restaurant in the 19th district Paris.
A total of 687 antisemitic incidents were registered by French law enforcement in 2019, an increase of 27 percent compared to 2018, following a 74 percent jump between 2017 and 2018. In 2019, 154 anti-Islamic incidents were registered.
The fight against antisemitism rests first and foremost on the ability to identify it. It is inconceivable that just because an antisemitic attack doesn’t target something or someone that is Jewish, it cannot be recognized by the French government as antisemitic and prosecuted accordingly.
Following a period of Islamist terror attacks in France, many of which targeted Jews, antisemitic incidents — including an increasing number of physical attacks on Jews – skyrocketed.
These attacks prompted 300 French politicians and celebrities to sign a letter calling on the government and society to put a stop to antisemitism. It is a letter that resonates today amid the increasing number of antisemitic attacks and sentiments in the U.S. today:
“Antisemitism is not the business of the Jews,” the letter read. “It’s the business of all of us. The French, who have demonstrated their democratic maturity after each Islamist attack, are living through a tragic paradox. Their country has become the arena for murderous antisemitism.
“We demand that the fight against this democratic failure that is antisemitism becomes a national cause before it’s too late. Before France is no longer France.”
The letter noted that French Jews are 25 times more at risk of being attacked than their fellow Muslim citizens, and that about 50,000 Jews in Paris and its environs had been forced to move because they were no longer safe in certain neighborhoods, and it had become too dangerous for their children to attend public schools.
“Graffiti was spray-painted on Jewish-owned homes calling on the owners to ‘flee immediately’ if they want to live, and anonymous letters containing live bullets were sent to Jewish mailboxes,” wrote Dr. Guy Milliere, a lecturer at the University of Paris.
Many had already lost faith in the French system of justice with the 2017 antisemitic murder in Paris of Sarah Halimi, a Jewish physician. Halimi was targeted because of her faith as had her daughter several times before the attack that killed her mother. Over the next two years, between multiple unprecedented psychiatric evaluations of the murderer and other irregularities in his prosecution and trial, the Jewish community witnessed what most called a miscarriage of justice.
“It defies belief. But it corresponds to broader problems. Today I no longer have full confidence that anti-Semitic hate crimes in France are handled properly,” said Sammy Ghozlan, a former police commissioner in the Paris area, as reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
This recent case echoes this sentiment. Similarly, after a series of antisemitic attacks on the streets of New York beginning in late 2019 — that still continue today — where the perpetrators were arrested only to be immediately let out of jail and attacked again, faith will soon be lost in the system in the U.S. — if it hasn’t already been.
Leslie Shaw contributed the news report for this article.