PARIS — France is facing a “new form of anti-Semitism” marked by violence, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Wednesday, deploring an assault this week in a Paris suburb on an 8-year-old Jewish boy wearing a skullcap.
President Emmanuel Macron denounced the attack Monday in Sarcelles, a northern suburb with a large Jewish population, as “heinous.”
French media have described the attackers as teenagers who ran away after tripping and kicking the boy to the ground. Police were investigating but there have been no arrests.
Speaking before lawmakers, Philippe noted the emergence of a new kind of anti-Semitism in France, which has the largest Jewish population in western Europe.
To fight something, one must have “the courage to put a name on it … to acknowledge that, yes, there is a new form of anti-Semitism, violent and brutal, emerging more and more openly in our land,” Philippe said.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb and Jewish leaders say the number of anti-Semitic acts in France has risen this month after a drop in previous years.
An annual national count of racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-Christian acts — mainly threats — dipped in 2017 compared to the year before. However, the count, released Wednesday by the Interior Ministry, shows that violent racist acts in France increased overall, and notably anti-Semitic acts went up 20 percent, from 77 in 2016 to 97 last year.
Collomb told Jewish leaders last week that such acts are “an attack on the principles that unify our nation.”
Macron tweeted: “Each time a citizen is attacked because of his age, appearance or religion, it is the whole nation that is attacked.”
Local prosecutors said two youths attacked the boy while he was on his way to after-school tutoring on Tuesday, pushing him to the ground and then beating him. According to the victim, the assailants were about 15 years old.
On January 10, a 15-year-old girl had her faced slashed by an unidentified assailant, also in Sarcelles.
She was wearing the uniform of her private Jewish school, Merkaz-Hatorah, when the attack happened during lunch break. She was able to walk home and arrived bleeding and “shocked,” her mother told Le Parisien.
The assailant ran away immediately after the assault, the girl said. She did not see his face. The assailant did not say anything before, during or immediately after the assault.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.