The Jews of France heaved a collective sigh of relief on Thursday afternoon when
news broke that Mohamed Merah, the man who claimed to have killed four people at
the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, died in a standoff with
But French Jewish leaders said that while the threat of another
attack against the community may have decreased with the violent death of Merah,
it had not disappeared.
“Security at Jewish institutions will have to be
heightened for the foreseeable future and we will ask the government to help
fund it,” said Richard Prasquier, president of CRIF, the country’s Jewish
Prasquier said he worried other Islamists in France might
try to follow Merah’s path but added that authorities had proven themselves
capable of dealing with such perils.
Moshe Kantor, president of the
European Jewish Congress, called on Paris to toughen its legislation on
anti-Semitic crimes to prevent similar events in the future.
greatest tribute that can be made for the victims and their families is to
significantly toughen measures against anti- Semitism and other hate crimes,”
Kantor said. “Authorities need to be given greater powers to act against any
form of hate and intolerance.”
The shooting at Ozar Hatorah on Monday
morning was the worst act of violence against the Jewish community in France
since 1982, when six people were killed in a grenade attack on a Jewish
restaurant in Paris.
Rabbi Yonatan Sandler, 30, his sons Aryeh, six, and
Gavriel, three, and the daughter of the school’s principal, eight-year-old
Miriam Monsonego, were shot dead in the attack in Toulouse.
linked the attack to two other recent shootings in the area in which three
French soldiers died. They launched a massive manhunt for the assailant that
reached its conclusion on Thursday.
Information about Merah that has come
to light over the past 48 hours seem to raise questions over whether authorities
should have apprehended him sooner.
The 24-year-old Frenchman of Algerian
descent was known to have ties to Islamists and had traveled to Afghanistan and
Nonetheless, it took security forces 10 days from the time the
first paratrooper was murdered on March 11 to track Merah down at his apartment
early on Wednesday morning.
But on Thursday, Toulouse Chief Rabbi Avraham
Weill had nothing but praise for the security forces and the way the government
handled the affair.
“Many people will vote for Sarkozy now,” Weill said
over the phone from Paris, referring to the presidential election next month.
“He did what he had to do. I spoke to him personally and was impressed by how he
managed events. He proved his worth.”
Prasquier said that the fact that
this generation of French Jews had not witnessed an attack by Islamists on the
community until now – despite the country’s sizable Muslim population – was in
itself evidence of the efficiency of French law enforcement.
considered by security forces around the world as being among the most
professional, and in fact to think France has not had a killing spree like in
Spain and the UK and other places [is significant],” he said.
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