French Jews fear repercussions of Mali incursion

Community security official says military deployment causing ‘agitation’ in the country’s Islamic circles

French legionnaires exit a military plane at Bamako airport, Mali (photo credit: AP/Jeremy Lempin)
French legionnaires exit a military plane at Bamako airport, Mali (photo credit: AP/Jeremy Lempin)

JTA — France’s military involvement in Mali “significantly increases” the threat facing French Jews, the country’s Jewish communal security service said.

“The situation requires we raise the level of protection around our community and double the level of vigilance around synagogues, Jewish schools, community centers and gathering places,” said a communiqué by SPCJ, which often determines its level of preparedness based on consultations with French authorities.

French ground forces deployed to the capital Bamako last week and began advancing northward on Jan. 15 to engage Islamist rebels. French President Francois Hollande says the rebels are “terrorists.”

The incursion caused “agitation” in Islamic circles in France, SPCJ said.

SPCJ also listed four anti-Semitic incidents which took place over the past four weeks.

On Jan. 11, a bearded man wearing military-style gear intimidated school children visiting Paris’ main Holocaust memorial. Wielding a knife, he shouted at the children “to leave Palestine alone,” the report said. Police patrols were called to the area but arrived after the man had left.

A similar incident occurred on Dec. 20, SPCJ reported, when a tall, bearded man in his 40s interrupted a memorial service for a deceased Jewish man and shouted at the 30 people present: “You are on my land and you are going to pay.” The man, who also shouted “Allah hu akbar,” was arrested and released shortly after questioning. He was identified as Traore Issa, SPCJ said.

On Jan. 5, “Child killers – Jews to the gas – long live Hitler” was spray-painted on a building in the French capital’s 12th arrondissement.

Three days earlier, anti-Semitic slogans, death threats against Jews and a swastika were spray-painted on a building in Toulouse.

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