Fears that the conflict in Gaza could spark violence between Jews and Muslims in France have been heightened as three teenagers were arrested yesterday for an alleged anti-Semitic attack on a 15-year-old girl.
An inquiry was launched after the victim said she was insulted, knocked to the ground, kicked and punched by a gang of 10 youths as she left Leon Blum school in Villiers-le-Bel north of Paris.
Three of her alleged attackers – aged between 13 and 15 and all from her own school – were arrested on suspicion of ‘aggravated violence and anti-Semitic insults’, according to a police source.
The girl said they had told her they were seeking to avenge Palestinians in Gaza as they set upon her on Monday.
Although she escaped with only minor injuries, the incident has fuelled claims by Jewish community leaders that radical Muslims are seeking to ’import the Middle East conflict’.
Richard Prasquier, the chairman of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, said: ’All over France, people are reporting more and more anti-Semitic attacks. I am worried.’
The National Bureau of Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, said it had received about 100 reports of anti-Semitic insults and threats since the start of the conflict in Gaza. On Monday a stolen car was driven at high speed into the front gate of a synagogue in Toulouse, south west France, and set on fire.
Police said they were seeking three suspects in connection with the attack, which was denounced by Michele Alliot-Marie, the Interior Minister, as ’totally stupid and revolting.’ In a separate incident, anti-Semitic graffiti was scrawled onto a synagogue in Lingolsheim, eastern France.
A demonstration against the Israeli intervention in Gaza ended in clashes between police and protestors, who also ransacked shops in Paris on Saturday.
With 4 million Muslims, 700,000 Jews, tense relations between two communities and a long history of urban riots, France is the European country most exposed to an outbreak of violence linked to the Middle East, according to many observers.
Amid official concern that France’s tinderbox suburbs could explode as a result of Gaza, Mrs Alliot-Marie has ordered police chiefs to ’stop any attempt to transfer the Middle Eastern conflict to France.
’A certain number of facts…show that groups or individuals may try to exploit the situation,’ she told them in a letter this week. ’Everything must be done to avoid this risk and guarantee the principles which ensure national unity.’