A YouTube video showing events preceding a well publicized stand off in front a Paris synagogue that shows the violent encounter was provoked by members of the Jewish Defense League.
Mondoweiss’ story has been confirmed by the President of the Synagogue de la Roquette.
Incidents rue de la Roquette: Serge Benhaïm dément toute attaque de la synagogue – 18/07/2014 à 19h00
In an interview broadcast Friday on the 24-hour news channel i-Télé, Serge Benhaïm said that there was “not a single projectile thrown at the synagogue” and that “at no moment, were we ever physically in danger.” (“Pas un seul projectile lancé sur la synagogue”. “A aucun moment, nous n’avons été physiquement en danger.”)
While Benhaïm did not describe the street fight outside as resulting from a JDL “provocation”, he did say that the extremist group smashed up a cafe on Rue de la Roquette (“le président de la synagogue de la rue de la Roquette confirme également que la LDJ a ‘cassé des chaises et des tables’) in order to confront pro-Palestinian demonstrators (“pour aller livrer ce face-à-face”). He added that he did not condone the action, and described the JDL as having a “bad reputation” using a French phrase — “une renommée un peu sulfureuse” — that is not done justice by a literal translation.
Benhaïm added that he believes rumors of an attack on the synagogue were spread due to “‘confusion’ between the events that happened near a synagogue at Aulnay-sous-Bois” — a reference to a firebomb thrown at a synagogue in the northeast suburb two days prior to the July 13 demonstration.
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the front of the synagogue was attacked. No one was hurt and the building only suffered “minor damage.”
It was not, however, something that could be effortlessly and shamelessly linked to thousands of people in the street showing solidarity with the 1.8 million inhabitants of an open-air prison who are currently being bombed by one of the world’s most powerful states.
From multiple expulsions in the Medieval era to L’Affaire Dreyfuss and Vichy collaborationism, French Jews have every reason to be wary of antisemitism. And, sadly, despite the fact that 89 percent of French citizens this year reported having a favorable opinion of Jews, antisemitism appears to be on the rise in the Fifth Republic.
But a violent incident that took place in Paris on Sunday widely described as antisemitic, using this narrative as the background, was actually a street fight between pro-Palestinian demonstrators and the Jewish Defense League; one that appears to have been started by the extremist latter in support of Israel’s ongoing bombing campaign that has thus far claimed the lives of almost 200 Palestinians – 80% of them civilians.
That hasn’t stopped powerful anti-Palestinian voices in the U.S. from using Twitter to appropriate the incident for their cause. On the same day he declared there to be a causal relationship between the mass killing of Palestinians by the IDF and the existence of Jews around the world, former Iraq War salesman David Frum highlighted the alleged attack amid his stream of sabre-rattling consciousness. Former IDF Prison Guard and admitted beater of Palestinian detainees Jeffrey Goldberg characterized the violence as “Jews Trapped by Rioters in Paris Synagogue” and questioned whether or not the incident was cause for migration. Dan Gainor, a “nondenominational Chrsitian” and waterboy for a right-wing media watch dog called “Media Research Center” declared, in a refreshingly honest fashion for a bigot, that “France shows what happens after lots of #Muslim immigration: Jewish synagogue attacked, besieged.” Avi Mayer, the social media guru for the Zionist NGO, the Jewish Agency of Israel, declared the incident to be an “anti-Semitic riot, which masqueraded as an anti-Israel rally.” Yair Rosenberg, a writer for Tablet Magazine and employee of the Israeli State Archives, posted a video of the incident, describing the clip as capturing “anti-Israel protesters beseiging [sic] it and rioting outside” (it shows pitched battles in the street, filmed from inside the synagogue):
He then used his inaccurate description of the 25 second video to effortlessly justify both Israeli ethnic cleansing and the IDF’s most recent massacre of Palestinians. “With European anti-Semitic attacks spiking during Israel’s operation,” he declared, “starting to get feeling that some anti-Zionists might not like Jews.” And J-Street, the “pro-Israel, pro-Peace” lobbying group that falsely portrays the ongoing subjugation of Palestinians in as a conflict between equal factions, decried the incident, describing it as “our brothers and sisters in Paris trapped inside a synagogue on Shabbat, pelted with rocks, surrounded by crowds with sticks and chairs and calling for Jewish blood.”
Unfortunately for the aforementioned hawks and the reporters upon which they relied, the incident was far from an antisemitic attack – a fact laid bare by readily available information.
One of the loudest voices denouncing this false characterization belongs to a Jewish woman named Michèle Sibony, a member of the Union Juive Francaise pour Le Paix – The French Jewish Union for Peace. Sibony, incensed by what she described as an Islamophobic report of the demonstration on a Nouvel Observateur blog, penned an open letter to its editor. Posted on the UJFP website, her side of the story in question, as interpreted by Mondoweiss, is as follows:
“Protester thugs tried to attack the Synagogue de la Roquette? You cite, without flinching, a ‘testimony of the JDL.’ The announcement of the JDL assembly you mention, in support of Israel before the Synagogue de la Roquette, was organized with the eloquent title ‘Keep Calm and Kill Hamas.’ Curiously, when a rally for war crimes takes place in front of or inside a Synagogue, the injection of religion in politics does not shock you, nor does it even register. It requires no commentary from you. It is sufficient to insinuate that the [pro-Palestinian] demonstration was antisemitic. You need that for your cause: silence about crimes in Gaza, of which you say nothing.
So I’ll tell you what I, a poor Jewish infidel, saw…at this protest:on the Boulevard Beaumarchais, right near the Chemin Vert Métro stop, four or five JDL types perched on a bench, completely surrounded and protected by two rows of riot cops, threw projectiles and insults at the crowd. Cops and officials begged the crowd to not lose its cool and respond to provocations – what they were waiting for. Of course, as crowds dispersed, there were fights at the entrance of the Synagogue de la Roquette, as expected, I dare say.”
Sibony also makes no apology for Islamist rebels, declaring that Palestinians have the right to resist Israel’s occupation on their own terms:
The [Israeli] army has occupied and stolen their lands, and they refuse to submit. They’re fighting for liberty, for national liberation, and the independence of Palestine, and against eradication, pure and simple, declared by Israel, for resisting! Yes, Hamas and Jihad militants are resisting the occupation, as all Palestinian political groups are, and even if my heart is to the left, I respect them. Especially when the agenda is their dehumanization, their demonization, and their eradication at all cost. Wouldn’t anyone – white Christians, atheists on the left, or the right wing limousine set – have a title as beautiful as resistance fighter?
But whether or not one disagrees with Sibony’s characterizations of Hamas, which have been applied to many others combating occupation without controversy, a video of the incident on Rue de la Roquette lends credence to her story:
The video, posted on Monday by a user whose library doesn’t appear to include any other video on Israel or Palestine (unlike the anti-Palestinian YouTube user who posted the video shared by Rosenberg), is titled “Pro-Israelis who break everything in front of the Synagogue on Rue de la Roquette” (“Des pro-israéliens qui cassent tout devant la synagogue de la rue de la Roquette”).
As promised, the video shows extremist Zionists (who had said the day before that they would appear outside of the Synagogue “to support Israel, where the population lives under the rhythm of sirens”) smashing chairs and tables to make weapons. The group forms barricades before pursuing pro-Palestinian demonstrators while yelling “Palestine, we fuck you” (“Palestine, on t’encule”) and throwing missiles. The JDL members pursue the demonstrators, but stop at the nearest intersection. A stand-off ensues, until pro-Palestinian demonstrators themselves respond with militancy and charge, bearing a hastily-cobbled together armory of their own. The JDL members, minus a few comrades who were attacked, retreat behind a line of riot police, and take refuge near the synagogue – without a hint of irony, in light of cynical accusations that Hamas has been employing “human shields” in one of the most densely populated strips of land on earth. The pro-Palestinian combatants withdraw soon after, closely watched by police.
Nowhere does this violence appear to be motivated by hatred of Judaism. But that hasn’t led any of the previously mentioned journalists, flack or their sources to issue corrections.
This is not to say that antisemitic attacks don’t occur in France. Also on Sunday, for example, not far from the Synagogue de la Roquette, the Synagogue de la rue des Tournelles was targeted by a few individuals in an attack that lead to several arrests. Yet, unlike the vivid images captured outside the Synagogue de la Roquette, the rue des Tournelles incident didn’t fuel wild rumors of a mob siege depicting a sizable part of the pro-Palestinian march as antisemitic — an extremely powerful, but ultimately false, tale in these combustible times.