A suspected arson attack on a French kosher grocery store revived fears of anti-Semitism on Tuesday, three years to the day since a deadly assault on a Jewish supermarket by an Islamist gunman.
Prosecutors said the Promo & Destock store in the southern Paris suburb of Creteil caught fire overnight, days after it was hit by anti-Semitic graffiti.
“The damage is believed to be very severe,” Creteil prosecutor Laure Beccuau told AFP, adding that investigators do not believe the fire was accidental. She said that an investigation into the incident has been opened by the judicial police of the Val-de-Marne department.
The fire spread to the adjacent local branch of the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket chain, which was also vandalized last week, according to the prosecutor.
The incident occurred exactly three years after French jihadist Amedy Coulibaly took hostages at the Porte de Vincennes branch of Hyper Cacher in eastern Paris on January 9, 2015, killing five people before elite police raided the premises and shot him dead. Despite the timing, a source close to the investigation warned that “it is too early to discuss motivations for this act.”
Israel’s ambassador to France, Aliza Bin Noun, called the fire a “shameful provocation.”
The prosecutor’s office in the Parisian suburb of Creteil said that a fire was reported between 4 and 5 a.m. at the Promo & Destock store. “Preliminary information suggests there is very significant damage,” Beccuau told AFP.
On January 3, authorities said a total of five swastikas were daubed with red paint on the shuttered blinds of Promo & Destock and the local Hyper Cacher branch. JTA reported at the time that “there are no suspects.”
French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said in a statement after the swastikas were discovered that he “firmly condemns” the incidents, vowing to bring those responsible to justice and calling their actions an attack against the entire Jewish community of France, Le Parisien reported.
The 2015 attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket triggered deep concern among France’s large Jewish community over growing anti-Semitism.
That year, a record 7,900 French Jews emigrated to Israel, many of them citing increased fears over anti-Semitism.
Though the exodus has since slowed, a string of anti-Semitic crimes have continued to worry France’s large Jewish community.
In April 2017, a Jewish woman was murdered, pushed from a third-floor window by a Muslim neighbour, while a Jewish family was beaten, held hostage and robbed in what rights groups said was a hate crime.
Former French prime minister Manuel Valls told Europe 1 radio last Wednesday that more needed to be done to tackle anti-Semitism, which he said had become “deeply rooted” in France.
“What has changed over the past three years is the awareness of this level of anti-Semitism,” he said.
Valls added that French society as a whole had failed to mobilize in support of Jews following anti-Semitic attacks such as the 2012 Islamist shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse in which four people were killed, including three children.
“These are crimes that must be prosecuted and condemned, we need to do more,” he said.
JTA contributed to this report.