French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux on Friday expressed “indignation” over an attack on two Jewish brothers earlier this week, and said all means will be used to find the perpetrators.
According to French paper Le Parisien, the brothers, 29 and 17 years old, who were wearing kippot (yarmulkes), were attacked in Bondy, a northeastern suburb of Paris.
They were driving in a car when they were drawn into an argument with the travelers of another car — reportedly a father and son — at a red light.
One of the occupants of the other vehicle yelled at them “I will kill you, you dirty Jew,” the victims said, according to French media reports.
They were forced to a stop outside a bar, where five or six others came to help their assailants, one of the brothers told Israel’s Channel 2 news.
Interviewed on Channel 2 on Friday, the elder of the brothers said one of the attackers “emerged with a saw” and “cut me in the hand with the saw.” He said he tried to get up to protect his younger brother, but that another of the attackers “held me to the floor.”
The attackers then surrounded the brothers, kicked and punched them repeatedly, and threatened them.
Several of the attackers “hit me in the face and the ribs,” the older brother said. “The man holding the saw intended to cut me in the head,” he added.
“Fortunately, my younger brother quickly jumped on him and got the weapon away from him.” But the attacker got the saw back, “and cut my brother’s hand. He simply wanted to murder us.”
He said his brother’s hand was gushing blood, and that his brother also suffered a dislocated shoulder.
The attackers then fled the scene, and the brothers were taken to hospital. The attackers are still being sought, Channel 2 reported. The brothers were released from hospital on Friday.
The brothers’ father, Armand Azoulay, a leader in the local Jewish community, said that “this has been an anti-Semitic attack by all means. Seeing the boys with the kippa in the car, they started driving in front of them and forcing them to slow down. They tried to force them to the side of the road in order to get them to go off over the shoulder.” Azoulay denied that one of the attackers tried to saw off the finger of one of the brothers.
A Jewish member of the French parliament, reacting to reports of the attack, said that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are “alive and kicking” in France, especially among the radical left.
Speaking with Israel Radio on Friday, lawmaker Meyer Habib said this “new anti-Semitism” is a hatred of Israel which is independent of anything that the Israeli government does and is now affecting more and more French citizens, including non-Jews.
“It comes from hatred of the West and everything to do with the West, and the Jews are always in the front line,” Habib said.
“If French Jews cannot live in France anymore, it is not a problem for the Jews, but a problem for France,” Habib warned.
“I, a member of parliament, only heard about it on Wednesday,” Habib said, lamenting the fact that the incident went widely unreported in France. It was reported by Israeli media outlets on Friday, three days after the event.
“There is a new racism against Jews and against white people,” Habib said, coming from a minority of Muslims in France who were “turning to jihadism.”
The lawmaker said the rise of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen could largely be attributed to the rise in anti-Semitic crimes, “because we don’t have a solution to the problem.”
Le Pen, leader of the National Front, is widely expected to win the first round of the French election in May and to lose in the second round. But the candidate is inching closer to the possibility of an upset victory by the day.
Habib is a member of UDI, a union of centrist and moderate right-wing parties. He is a personal friend of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and often facilitates communication between Netanyahu and the French government.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Friday that the French government “has created an important plan for combatting anti-Semitism and this led to a decline in violent incidents, but still, they should be tough against attackers and supportive of the French community.”
JTA contributed to this report.