The event brought together between 10,000 and 30,000 people -- not surprising in a country where "leftist" and Islamist organizations are strong.
The demonstrators shouted hateful and violent slogans against Israel and held Israeli flags on which swastikas replaced the Star of David -- also not surprising. Events organized by "leftists" and by Islamists usually carry such gear.
The demonstrators also shouted purely anti-Semitic slogans; the call for "Death to Jews" was picked up by the crowd. This was the first time since the end of World War II that explicitly anti-Semitic chants were shouted by a large crowd in Paris (During a demonstration in January, protesters shouted, "Jews, France does not belong to you").
Demonstrators shouted, "Hamas will win," in support of the jihadist terrorist organization. This was also the first time that slogans openly favoring a jihadist terrorist organization were shouted by a large crowd in Paris (During earlier demonstrations, protesters shouted "Palestine will win," but did not point to Hamas).
Demonstrators also shouted slogans in favor of a man who had murdered Jewish children: "We are all Mohamed Merah." Merah shot and killed a rabbi and three Jewish children at close range in a schoolyard in Toulouse in 2012; it was the one of the most serious anti-Semitic acts committed in France since the Vichy regime. This was the first time in France that a large crowd proudly identified with a murderer of Jewish children.
The demonstration started in the 18th Arrondissement of Paris (metro station Barbès Rochechouart), close to where Islamic preachers organized street prayers a few months ago; it ended near Place de la Bastille. Dozens of windows of Jewish shops and restaurants along the route were broken and covered with yellow labels saying, "boycott Israel". This was the first time that so many Jewish shops and restaurants were attacked during a demonstration in Paris.
In addition, several hundred protesters armed with iron bars, machetes, axes and firebombs, arriving Place de la Bastille, marched to the nearby Don Isaac Abravanel Synagogue on rue de la Roquette. They shouted, "Let's slay the Jews," "Hitler was right," and "Allahu Akbar".
Only six police officers were on hand, who were quickly overwhelmed. Members of Jewish defense organizations protected the 200 Jews present inside the synagogue. Even after police reinforcements arrived, the synagogue was besieged for nearly two hours. The Jews, prisoners of a potentially lethal horde, were locked inside.
|An "anti-Israel" mob attempts to smash through the front gate of the Don Isaac Abravanel Synagogue in Paris, July 13, 2014.|
This was the first time since World War II that an anti-Semitic pogrom took place in France.
In an attempt to address the distress of the Jewish community, the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, denounced anti-Semitism in general terms. He said he would strengthen the protection of "places of worship," synagogues and mosques -- although no mosque was attacked.
Although the government banned the next demonstration, scheduled for July 19, it took place anyway, and soon turned into a riot.
When thousands of protesters gathered again at the Barbès Rochechouart metro station, the presence of significant police forces prevented protesters from crossing Paris. Organized groups then attacked the police by throwing stones, Molotov cocktails and by using iron bars. Shops were looted. Garbage cans were burned. Bus stations, dozens of them, and billboards were destroyed. Protesters came with pickaxes and ripped the pavement on several streets to throw chunks of asphalt.
Demonstrators tried to burn down the largest textile store in Paris, near Barbès Rochechouart, because it carries a Jewish name, Dreyfus-Marché Saint Pierre. Clashes with police near this store were particularly violent.
Witnesses spoke of the atmosphere of a civil war, and photographers spoke of a "French intifada".
The slogans shouted by the rioters were the same as the previous week: "Death to Jews" mingled with "Death to Israel" and "Long live Hamas." Many who threw stones and Molotov cocktails shouted, "Allahu Akbar," just as the attackers of the synagogue on July 13 had done.
Even though there were no synagogues or Jews nearby, and no protester shouted, "Let's slay the Jews" or "Hitler was right," what happened in Paris on July 19 was as frightful as what had happened the week before.
This was also not the first time that a district of a French city was immersed in an atmosphere of civil war. In October 2005, entire neighborhoods in the suburbs of several major cities were set on fire. In 2010, two districts of Grenoble, in southeast France, were on fire for several days. In May 2013, the Trocadéro area in Paris was ransacked, and two months later, the city of Trappes, near Versailles, experienced hours of insurrection. Dozens of cars and shops were burned. The police precinct was attacked and under siege for hours.
The riots this month were, however, the first time that demonstrations resembling a civil war were carried by people who showed an explicit hatred of Jews and who said they identified with jihadi terrorists. This was the first time that riots in France looked like an Islamic uprising.
Although the events of July 13 and 19 had the support of "leftists" organizations, the vast majority of demonstrators and rioters were Muslims. The majority of the women wore Islamic headscarves. Most men wore a keffiyeh, the checkered Arab scarf, and used it to hide their faces the way Islamists do in the Middle East.
Many protesters on July 13 and 19 came with Palestinian flags, but the flags of Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda and Islamic State [IS], also present, were proudly waved.
The day after the riots, July 20, Prime Minister Manuel Valls again denounced the "danger of anti-Semitism". July 20th was also the anniversary of the "Vel d'Hiv Round-up" -- the mass arrest of Jews in Paris in 1942 by the French police under the supervision of the Nazis. But Valls said nothing about the anti-Semitic and jihadist dimension of the riots. Some conservative politicians criticized the lack of firmness of the government. Leaders of the rightist National Front said that the government was responsible for the violence and had undermined "freedom of expression."
At the exact moment Manuel Valls spoke, rioters started to ransack the suburb with the largest Jewish population on the outskirts of Paris: Sarcelles. All the Jewish stores and many cars were wrecked or set on fire. A group shouting "Allahu Akbar" again tried to burn the town's synagogue. Again, most rioters were Muslim. Again, most shouted, "Death to the Jews."
All French politicians are ready to condemn anti-Semitism in general terms (except members of the National Front); none are ready to call the anti-Semitism that is exploding in France today by its name: Islamic anti-Semitism.
All French politicians, left or right (except members of the National Front), have the same attitude about what happened on July 13, 19 and 20. This attitude can be summed up in one sentence, used by the French President, François Hollande: "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot import itself into France." No French politician would dare say that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is already present in France, and that, among Muslim populations, Islamic anti-Semitism is inextricably mixed with an absolute hatred of Israel and Jews.
Almost all French politicians adopt an attitude of appeasement toward the enemies of Israel and Jews. They never define Hamas as an Islamic terrorist organization. They close their eyes to the anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish hate speech disseminated by the enemies of Israel in the Middle East, and to the irony that France finances that speech. They act as if they did not see that the hate speech France finances in the Middle East is now spreading throughout France.
The major French media have not said a word about the anti-Semitism and jihadism that permeated the protest of July 13 and the riots of July 19 and 20. All major French television reports of these events presented the protesters and rioters as people who had just wanted to support the "liberation of the Palestinian people". All reports major French television reports on Israel's war against Hamas are made from the point of view of Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. No report speaks of Hamas's genocidal Jew hatred or of the use of Arab women and children as human shields. Journalists from major French media outlets act as if they did not know that by adopting a watered-down vision of the protesters and rioters in France, and by describing the war from the point of view of Hamas or the Palestinian Authority, they are playing a dangerous game that could lead to more pogroms and even civil war.
The attitude of French politicians reflects the sorry state of French society. All the riots that erupted in France during the last decade were the result of minor incidents, but showed that France is on the verge of a large-scale explosion. French politicians want to avoid a large-scale explosion. They are scared and paralyzed.
French politicians also know that France's Muslim population now amounts to 15% of its total population and that radical Islamist organizations are particularly well established. The Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF), the French branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, is the main French Muslim organization; it attracts tens of thousands of people in each of its annual meetings and openly lends political support to Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. French politicians do not want a confrontation with the UOIF.
French politicians also know that more than 750 neighborhoods in France are considered "no go zones" by the police, and that the authorities have lost control of them.
They also know that 70% of all inmates in the French prison system are Muslim , and that self-proclaimed imams and gang leaders have taken over many prisons. They know that these prisons have been transformed into recruiting centers for jihadists, and that regaining control of these prisons is an almost impossible task. Mohamed Merah and Mehdi Nemmouche, the Brussels Jewish Museum killer, became jihadists while in French prisons.
French politicians know, as well, that more than 800 French Muslims are being trained in the Islamic State, in Iraq and Syria.
They know that Muslims vote. Eight million Muslims clearly have greater political weight than do four hundred thousand Jews.
The major French media are also scared and paralyzed. Criticizing radical Islam on French television is now almost impossible. Organizations fighting "Islamophobia" are extremely vigilant and extremely well funded.
Defending Israel on French television is also almost impossible. Members of the Israeli government are never interviewed on French television. Representatives of Palestinian and "pro-Palestinian" organizations are regularly invited and can lie without ever being contradicted.
Reports on right-wing anti-Semitism are abundant. Reports on Islamic Jew-hatred are non-existent.
The Global Anti-Semitism Index recently published by the Anti Defamation League shows that 37% of the French population can be considered anti-Semitic. It is likely that the proportion of anti-Semites among French Muslims is far higher.
A poll for the BBC in 2012 showed that 75% of the French have a negative view of Israel. It is likely that the proportion among French Muslims is, again, far higher.
The prevalent sentiment among French Jews is that a page has been turned. The French Jewish philosopher Shmuel Trigano wrote on July 16th that what is happening is a sign that Jews must leave France, fast. "Recent events are likely to play the role that such events have played in the past for the Jews in many countries: a strong symbolic event gives the signal that the Jews have no future in the country that was theirs".
The prevalent sentiment among French people in general was described by a survey published in January 2014: 74% of the French declared themselves "pessimistic" or "very pessimistic" about the future of the country. 63% said they believe that Islam is "not compatible with the values of a democratic society." 78% said they "distrust" all politicians. 77% said they consider that the information provided by the media is "unreliable."
The words of most of the French politicians could not have strengthened the confidence the French have in their politicians.
The behavior of most French journalists could not have increased the credibility the French have in their media.
And the events that took place in Paris on July 13, 19 and 20 could not have made the French less pessimistic and more confident about the compatibility of Islam with the values of democracy.
Most recently, on July 23, an anti-Israeli protest was organized in Paris. This time, the protest was not banned. It brought together 10,000-20,000 people. 15,000 police officers were present. Thirty socialist MPs were present among the protesters. The media said it was a "peaceful protest." People shouted, "Hamas, Jihad, Resistance." Nazi-era anti-Semitic cartoons appeared on large panels. Again, groups of protesters finished their day at the rue des Rosiers and attacked Jewish shops. Some "peaceful protest".
On July 21, Meyer Habib, a MP representing French citizens living in Israel, said that "an atmosphere of Kristallnacht" spreads over the country. Many French Jews agree.