Wednesday, January 27, 2016

France: Jews fear a new strain of ISIS-inspired anti-Semitism (NYT)

The New York Times reports from Marseille:

The attack’s bloodthirsty undertones — the deadly blade, the will to decapitate,
the coldness of the would-be killer — continued to stir unease.

It was the heavy leather-bound volume of the Torah he was carrying that shielded Benjamin Amsellem from the machete blows.

His attacker, a teenage fanatic who the police say was inspired by the Islamic State, was trying to decapitate Mr. Amsellem, a teacher at a local Jewish school. But Mr. Amsellem used the Torah — the only defense at hand — to deflect the blade and save himself.

It was the third such knife attack since October on a Jew in Marseille, where the Jewish population, around 70,000, is the second largest in France after Paris. And it was the latest example of how France is confronting both the general threat of terrorism, especially after two large-scale attacks in Paris last year, and a particular strain of anti-Semitism that has left many French Jews deeply unnerved.

“This was something claimed by an individual who invoked Daesh, who wanted to kill a Jew. It is extremely serious,” said Marseille’s top police official, Laurent Nunez, in an interview. “Daesh” is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Among Jews here, the attack on Mr. Amsellem, 35, has been met with a mix of anger and resignation, a response conditioned by the history of anti-Semitism in France, along with the recognition that global jihadism has made French Jews choice targets. [...]

In the wake of the attack on Mr. Amsellem, a top community official here called on Jews to stop wearing skullcaps in public, provoking a furious backlash from other community leaders in Paris. “It was my duty,” said the official, Zvi Ammar, who was startled by the outcry. “My only goal was to preserve human life.”
The teenager being held for the attack hardly fits the conventional profile of a radical Islamist: He is a Turkish Kurd, a group at war with the Islamic State.

The suspect — whose name is being withheld because of his age — has “very good marks in school,” said Mr. Amsellem’s lawyer, Fabrice Labi, and lives with his immigrant family in well-maintained if drab apartments north of the city center. His father, who brought the family to France five years ago, is a tile-setter with a solid income.  [...]

“It doesn’t shock us that much,” said Michele Allouche, who lives in the old downtown neighborhood near the 19th-century synagogue. “We’re waiting for it. There’s huge anti-Semitism in France.”

But the attack’s bloodthirsty undertones — the deadly blade, the will to decapitate, the coldness of the would-be killer — continued to stir unease.

“The machete, that evokes something barbarous,” said Hagay Sobol, a prominent doctor here. 

“And this boy, he’s the opposite of any image one might have of the terrorist. He’s not marginalized. And that tells us any boy could do this.”
Read more.
Also on this topic: Muslim attacker of Jewish teacher inspired by Palestinian terrorists (update)

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