Vanity Fair has some explaining to do. Its August edition includes an article by Marie Brenner, titled, “The Troubling Question in the French Jewish Community: Is It Time to Leave?” that uses as evidence of anti-semitism a controversial incident from the streets of Paris during the height of Israeli slaughter in Gaza last summer: hostilities that broke out near a synagogue on July 13, 2014. The fracas caused French President Francois Hollande to ban all further pro-Palestinian demonstrations in France, while reports of this violence as “anti-semitic” spread on social media, and were quickly picked up and parroted by the mainstream press. Those accounts were immediately countered by conflicting reports. An investigations ensued.
Peter Allen and James Rothwell’s excellent coverage of the case in The Telegraph asks “Was Paris’s Chief Rabbi rescued from an axe-wielding Nazi mob?” They demolish Brenner’s narrative:
Police and Jewish authorities in Paris say Vanity Fair’s article about alleged anti-Semitic attack “has nothing to do with reality”
Thus far Vanity Fair is sticking by their story and not a peep out of Brenner.
Videos published at the time on French media provide evidence that the Jewish Defense League (JDL), which is classified as a terrorist organization in the U.S., provoked pro-Palestinian demonstrators that day. You can see them throwing chairs and projectiles at the protesters. Back then, we reported the story: “Violence outside Paris synagogue falsely attributed to anti-Semitism.”
The only mention of the Jewish Defense League in Marie Brenner’s article is by its French name: “Ligue de Défense Juive.” She characterizes the group respectfully:
members of a special security patrol and a dozen members of the self-trained Ligue de Défense Juive began chasing off the demonstrators with chairs and tables from nearby cafés, working with a small unit from the security force. Together, it took them three hours to disperse the crowd and safely evacuate the synagogue.
Brenner interviews Sammy Ghozlan, overseer of France’s National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism ( B.N.V.C.A.). His story is of a pogrom aimed at Jews:
[T]exts and messages did not stop. It was Bastille Day weekend, and, on Sunday, July 13, he tracked the hundreds of protesters who rushed into the Marais, Paris’s historic Jewish quarter, stopping briefly at an empty synagogue on the Rue des Tournelles, near the Place des Vosges, and then racing, reportedly with iron bars, axes, and flags, toward the Rue de la Roquette, a boutique-and-café-lined street a few blocks from the apartment of Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Their destination was the Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue.
That’s not exactly a lie, it’s just that the “protesters” in this case were not the pro-Palestinian demonstrators, they were the Jewish Defense League.
Michèle Sibony, Vice President of the French Jewish Union for Peace (UJFP), who marched in the pro Palestine demonstration that day, testified that “on the Boulevard Beaumarchais, at the height of the crossing Chemin Vert, four or five types of the Jewish Defense League perched on a bench, surrounded by CRS [riot control of French National Police], throwing projectiles and insulted the protesters’ “.
Here is the Jewish Defense League waiting for the police to arrive and chanting racist slogans.
Peter Allen’s July 15, 2014 report for the UK’s Daily Mail includes video and screenshots from that day that tell the same story: “Shocking scenes as 150 Jewish men go on rampage in Paris streets and clash with pro-Palestinian demonstrators.” He quotes a French member of parliament, Alexis Bachelay, alleging a “media manipulation” about the real victims in the case. Writes Allen:
A group of 150 Jewish men were seen brandishing iron bars and cans of pepper spray as they clashed with Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Paris.
Video footage of the clashes show the group chanting racist slogans as they roamed the streets.
The men are armed with gas canisters, pepper spray, metal bars and wooden sticks and some wear crash helmets.
The video shows the men running towards pro-Palestinian demonstrators, before skirmishes break out…….
Alexis Bachelay, a Paris MP for the ruling Socialist party, said: ‘There has evidently been a media manipulation about who really got assaulted.
‘These are extremely serious facts that need to be investigated thoroughly by the police. It is not the first time that young French people of Muslim origin are stigmatised by the media.
‘French people of Muslim origin should be protected by the law when demonstrating. They should not be attacked by radical groups like the LDJ’.
A day later, French media ITélé reported, “Incidents Rue de la Roquette, two opposing versions“, which was an analysis of events and their trajectory on social media. This piece also highlighted the violence of the JDL and says the JDL called for a rally at the synagogue [still on JDL website]:
Conflicting evidence implicate the Jewish Defense League
Shortly after the end of the clashes near the synagogue in Rue de la Roquette, many were the messages we received on our official social networks, citing contradictory testimony and versions that differ from that reported by the media as those mentioned above. Screenshots come to us, having people in connection with the JDL actually calling for a rally at 17:30 “before the syna”, especially since a Twitter account: israel_mon_pays. But you will not find this Twitter account, since it was removed. It has been recreated by the nickname IsraelKahane, but the account was also deleted by its author, having just published these particular tweets.
The night of the actual events, July 13, the French news website Lob’s Rue89 was the first media to discuss the involvement of the JDL. It reported clashes broke out at “around 18 hrs”, coincidentally half an hour after the JDL had called for a rally in support of Israel in front of the synagogue and that members of the JDL had been tweeting their preparation for “tough confrontations” the day before the event.
(Google translation from French)
The Jewish Defense League (JDL) had indeed called for a rally to “support for Israel” to this synagogue on Sunday at 17:30. On Twitter, the day before, some of its members were preparing with some enthusiasm in a tough confrontation against “palos” as they say.
Directly following the event the French news station LCI interviewed Michele Sibony (UJFP). She said:
“We are facing a situation of colonial repression and the French Government is the only one in the world to want to ban the protests”
ITélé reports that on July 10th, 3 days before the event the JDL had planned the attack:
In this video, this member of the security staff at the event evokes a first gathering last Wednesday, July 10, when the JDL would burst into another event to attack a number of pro-Palestinian demonstrators. An action that had been published on the Facebook page of the JDL, where the small group states that “now they come every pro-Palestinian demonstration to accompany their way pro-Palestinian demonstrators.”
Yep, Vanity Fair has some explaining to do. Our memories are just not that short. We covered this at the time, as did many other bloggers and the mainstream media in France.
Thanks to Nabila Ramdani