Paris’ 19th Arrondissement: ‘Gang Wars’ or Anti-Semitic Attacks?

Paris’ 19th Arrondissement: ‘Gang Wars’ or Anti-Semitic Attacks?

PARIS -- After a 17-year-old Jewish boy wearing a yarmulke was brutally beaten by a gang of teenagers in Paris's 19th arrondissement late last month, the reactions of both the French news media and French authorities were notably ambiguous. The boy, known only as "Rudy" in the French reports,was not only punched and kicked during the attack, but also beaten with what has been variously identified as an "iron bar" or a "crutch." The beating occurred on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, in a neighborhood with a large orthodox Jewish population. It appears to have continued even after Rudy lost consciousness and it only came to a stop when a local resident intervened and chased away the teenage assailants. According to French cable news channel iTELE, the boy was left with multiple skull fractures and broken ribs. Sammy Ghozlan of the Office for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism relates that when the boy first emerged from a coma on the following Sunday night, he began screaming "They're going to kill me! They're going to kill me!"

"Was the young man the victim of an anti-Semite attack?" the daily Le Figaro asked (French link) two days after the incident, and without hesitating answered its own question: "Yes, but on the background of clashes between neighborhood gangs pertaining to different communities. . . . Investigators are connecting the attack to an increasing spiral of violence." According to Le Figaro, this "spiral of violence" opposed black and North African youngsters, on the one hand, and Jewish youngsters, on the other. Le Figaro added to the plausibility of the "gang wars" hypothesis by reporting that Rudy had himself been picked up by the police last December after fights broke out between Jewish youngsters and North African youngsters at Paris's Parc de Bercy. Rudy had been attending a vigil there for the three Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah. According to Le Figaro, police had found "Rudy and his friends" to be in possession of brass knuckles. According to a subsequent report in Le Monde, Rudy appears rather to have sought to defend himself with a motorcycle helmet (serving as an "improvised weapon," in the nomenclature of the French police). Le Figaro even published a report according to which the 17-year-old boy -- described in the headline as an "orthodox and militant Jew" -- was supposed to be "close" to Jewish self-defense groups. The report appeared on the Figaro Web site the day after the incident. It was quickly denied by the boy's mother.

In announcing the opening of a formal criminal investigation for attempted murder three days after the attack, Paris District Attorney Jean-Claude Marin likewise endorsed the "gang wars"/"spiral of violence" scenario. While Marin identified anti-Semitism as an "aggravating factor" in the crime, he strongly relativized the charge by speaking merely of an "incidental anti-Semitism" (antisémitisme par incidence). Marin said the beating of Rudy was the last in a string of three incidents that occurred on that same Saturday in or around the Parc de Buttes-Chaumont. The incidents allegedly opposed, as Marin described them, "African" or "black" gangs and "Jewish gangs." "We do not find an intention to attack a person of Jewish origin in particular," Marin said, "but rather a member of this gang of young Jews." While Marin acknowledged that the assailants who attacked Rudy shouted anti-Semitic insults, he again relativized the importance of this finding. "Anti-Semitic insults were tossed around, just as racist insults are tossed around in other brawls," he said. (Source: AFP)

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