‘It won’t happen here’: French Interior Minister attempts to reassure Jewish community over pogrom fears

According to figures from the French interior ministry, 819 antisemitic incidents have been registered since the Hamas assault, almost double the entirety of last year’s incidents.

By Ben Cohen, The Algemeiner

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has offered reassurances to his country’s Jewish community after new data published on Monday revealed that more than 800 antisemitic acts had been recorded since the Hamas atrocities in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

France was putting “very significant resources into protecting French people of the Jewish faith,” Darmanin said in a television interview on Monday. According to figures from the interior ministry, 819 antisemitic incidents have been registered since the Hamas assault — almost double the 436 acts recorded during the entirety of 2022.

Asked about fears in the Jewish community of pogroms in light of the violent demonstrations on Sunday that accompanied the arrival of a plane from Israel at Makhachkala Airport in the Russian Republic of Dagestan, Darmanin responded, “It won’t happen here.”

“I understand the fear of French people of Jewish faith, but I also want to tell them that they are protected by the Republic,” Darmanin declared, noting that more than 414 alleged antisemitic offenders had been arrested so far, and that 11,000 police officers had been mobilized for the express purpose of protecting Jewish institutions.

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Media interviews with French Jews during the last week suggest a widespread fear of renewed antisemitic violence, based on recent memories of terrorist attacks on a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 and a Paris kosher supermarket in 2015, as well as the antisemitic murders of several French Jews, including 65-year-old Sarah Halimi in 2017 and 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll the following year.

“People are demoralized, they are afraid to go out to do their shopping,” 67-year-old Jacques Isaac Azeroual, who runs a kosher butcher in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, told broadcaster TV5 on Monday.

Azeroual said that since the Hamas attacks, the number of customers visiting his store had dwindled. He added that while he wears a kippah in his store, “when I go out, I take it off.”

A Jewish woman shopping in the store who chose to remain anonymous said that she was no longer venturing outside after 5.30 pm for fear of attack.

“We are not reassured, we are scared that they will come back like deranged people, that they shoot us, that they kill us,” she said.

In a separate interview with BFMTV, a Jewish woman identified as “Alice” said that she had told her children to remove their Star of David jewelry since the Hamas atrocities.

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“Today, in France, in 2023, I am French, Jewish, and I am not afraid to say that I am afraid,” Alice said. She expressed concern that French Jews were experiencing “very dark hours in our history,” pointing to the profusion of Nazi-style antisemitic tags on the homes of Jewish families — most recently in the suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, where houses apparently owned by Jews were marked with a Star of David.

The disproportionate representation of members of the Muslim community among antisemitic offenders has also set off a sharp debate in France.

On Tuesday morning, an interview with a commentator on a breakfast TV show resulted in a furor, with left-wing members of parliament protesting his alleged racism and Islamophobia.

“More recently, sorry to express it in a perhaps somewhat brutal way, but there is a ‘couscous antisemitism’ which is linked to the fact that there is a historical conflict with the Jew since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and today,” columnist Pascal Perri told the morning show “6/9.”

Perri’s use of the term “couscous antisemitism” to describe Jew-hatred among North African immigrants in France triggered ire on the part of parliamentarians from the far-left La France Insoumise (LFI — “France Rising”) coalition and the Green Party.

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“Cassoulet racism,” responded LFI MP Manuel Bompard, invoking a traditional French dish, while Melanie Vogel of the Green Party denounced what she called Perri’s “caviar racism.”