Authorities in Paris are currently conducting an investigation into a series of incidents in which numerous buildings were defaced with Jewish symbols. This follows a recent surge in antisemitic actions following an attack by Hamas in southern Israel at the beginning of October.
Around 60 Star of David symbols were painted on walls in the 14th district of the city overnight, according to a statement from prosecutors to POLITICO. This led to an investigation into “property damage that was aggravated by the fact that it was motivated by origin, race, ethnicity, or religion.”
However, the Paris office warned that it is still unclear if the graffiti was meant to be hostile.
The prosecutors stated that it is not definitively proven that this star carries anti-Semitic connotations, but it should not be ignored. They also emphasized the importance of investigating the intention behind these tags, especially given the current geopolitical climate and its potential effect on the French community.
If determined to be instances of anti-Semitism, the violation can result in a maximum sentence of four years in prison and a €30,000 fine, according to their statement.
On X, previously known as Twitter, Mayor Carine Petit of the 14th district issued a statement denouncing what she referred to as “a branding strategy reminiscent of the tactics used in the 1930s and World War II that resulted in the genocide of millions of Jews.”
Local officials have reported similar instances of graffiti in neighboring cities such as Aubervilliers, Saint-Ouen, and various districts in Paris over the weekend.
France is home to the biggest Jewish community in Europe, with approximately 500,000 individuals. In the wake of the October 7 Hamas attack that resulted in the deaths of over 1,400 people, there has been a notable increase in antisemitic incidents in the country, as reported by Israeli authorities. France is also home to one of the largest Muslim populations in Europe, with several million individuals. According to French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, there has been a rise in anti-religious acts of various forms, including Islamophobia, anti-Christian sentiments, and antisemitism, in recent years.
When questioned by POLITICO, the French Interior Ministry was unable to promptly supply information on the reported instances of Islamophobic incidents in France during the ongoing Hamas-Israel conflict.
In the year 2000, Jean-Yves Camus, a specialist in extremism and nationalism from France, stated that the country has frequently experienced surges of anti-Semitic behavior during times of heightened tension in the Middle East.
The researcher stated that during the second Intifada, which were Palestinian protests against Israeli control, French television frequently aired footage. This resulted in a perception of the conflict being temporary, but it ultimately lasted much longer than expected.
The CRIF, a French organization representing Jewish individuals, strongly condemned these acts of antisemitism, stating that they were an affront to the values of the French Republic. The EJC, based in Brussels, also expressed their concern over the disturbing nature of the graffiti.
The European Jewish Congress stated on X that the individual responsible for this anti-Semitic campaign should be apprehended and face legal consequences to the maximum degree.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne addressed the National Assembly on Tuesday and condemned the tags as “heinous acts.” She promised that her government would take measures to safeguard all Jewish individuals in France.
The prime minister stated that the French authorities have received reports of over 850 antisemitic incidents in the past three weeks, following the Hamas attacks. This is a significant increase from the 436 incidents reported in all of 2022, resulting in over 430 arrests.
According to Camus, there has been a significant increase in the number of incidents, which he describes as “perfectly spectacular.” This has caused fear among the French Jewish community and has resulted in a significant psychological impact, particularly after the Hamas attacks.
In response to Hamas’ October assault, Israeli air attacks have resulted in the deaths of over 8,500 Palestinians, including numerous children and UN employees, as reported by health authorities in Gaza under Hamas control. Israel has also enforced a “total blockade” of Gaza, which was already under a comprehensive air, land, and sea blockade by Israel since 2007. This blockade strictly regulates and restricts the distribution of food, fuel, and medicine to the majority of the population of over two million civilians who were previously reliant on aid before the conflict.
The Israeli military has entered Gaza in a ground operation, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has avoided using the term “invasion”.
At present, France has prohibited demonstrations in support of Palestine and urging for a ceasefire. However, this has not deterred thousands of people from assembling across the nation.
The ongoing dispute has reignited worries about the security of Jewish communities beyond the borders of Israel.
On Monday, around 60 individuals were detained in the Dagestan region of Russia, which has a large Muslim population. They had entered an airport to demonstrate against the landing of a plane from Israel.
The Jewish population in France has faced numerous violent attacks by Islamist extremists in the last ten years. These include a 2012 shooting at a Jewish school that resulted in the deaths of four individuals. The perpetrator claimed to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda. In 2015, a kosher supermarket was attacked and four people were killed.