The Jewish community of France on Saturday called for a “world war against the monstrosity of jihadist fanaticism,” following a series of coordinated terrorist attacks across Paris the previous evening that killed at least 130 people.
Islamic State took responsibility in a video posted online.
Such a fight must become the top priority for the world’s democratic nations, the Jewish umbrella group Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF) said.
Police at scene of Paris attack
“No words can describe the horror that befell France. Our country is bleeding. All those innocent lives cut short by the bullets of these new barbarians.
“We must fight mercilessly and tirelessly for its defeat,” CRIF added, echoing President François Hollande’s statement that “France will be merciless toward these barbarians from Daesh [the Arabic acronym for ISIS].”
Sources close to the investigation said one of the dead gunmen was French with ties to Islamist terrorists. Syrian and Egyptian passports were found near the remains of two of the suicide bombers.
In the worst attack, a Paris Municipality official said four gunmen systematically slaughtered at least 88 young people at a rock concert at the Bataclan Club before anti-terrorist commandos launched an assault on the building. Dozens of survivors were rescued, and bodies were still being recovered on Saturday morning.
Some 42 more people were killed in five other attacks in the Paris region, the official said, including an apparent double suicide bombing outside the Stade de France national stadium, where Hollande and the German foreign minister were watching their respective national soccer teams play an exhibition match.
While no Jewish sites, such as synagogues or schools, were targeted, French media speculated that the Bataclan Club may have been targeted due to its Jewish connections.
According to a report in Le Point
, the hall had been threatened several times because of its former Jewish ownership. In 2011 the Jaish al-Islam terrorist group reportedly threatened to attack the site. Several protests had been held there previously due to the club’s frequent use by Jewish organizations, including pro-Israel ones.
Speaking to Israel’s Channel 2 on Saturday evening, its former owner recalled receiving a telephone call from the club on Friday evening and hearing shooting.
Such events may spur further French aliya to Israel, he mused.
The Anti-Defamation League likewise speculated that the club’s Jewish connections may have played a part in its selection.
“While the investigation continues and the terrorists’ motivations are still unclear, we are deeply concerned at reports that the Bataclan has long been a locus of anti-Zionist groups.
We hope the French authorities will investigate the possibility that virulent anti-Semitism was a motive in the attack,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said.
“Earlier this year, Paris endured the brutality of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, an assault on free expression. We also saw the violent killing committed at Hyper Cacher, a heinous act of anti-Semitism directed squarely against the Jewish community, one of a series of murderous acts in recent years intended to terrorize French Jews. As happened after these incidents, we know that the City of Light will rise again from the darkness and prevail over those who would seek to use terror as a blunt instrument against freedom and democracy. In the aftermath of this attack we must all rise up and say, ‘Je suis français!’” Greenblatt continued.
Local security watchdog SPCJ (Service de Protection de la Communauté Juive) issued guidelines for Jewish communities on Saturday morning, recommending that French Jews “break their routines” so as not to make easy targets and that they carry small bags in order to decrease the time necessary for security checks outside institutions under police protection.
“The bloody attacks last night in France create a very great concern,” the group said, adding that security around Jewish institutions is being increased by police and military authorities.
Representatives of CRIF told BuzzFeed that they are “ready at maximum security, but local Jews expressed worry over the attacks.
"We are experiencing what you in Israel know unfortunately very well,” French-Jewish mathematician Valerie Zvili told the Post
, expressing anxiety about returning to Paris for work on Monday.
Yehonaton Hafetz, a representative of the Hashomer Hatza’ir youth movement in France on behalf of the Jewish Agency, found himself at a metro station on the Avenue de la Republique in central Paris where at least four people were shot to death Friday.
Returning from a Shabbat dinner in a Parisian suburb, he recalled being evacuated from the metro and instead of the usual weekend sounds of a European capital, hearing “helicopters, shooting and sirens.”
His house, he said, was only 800 meters from the attack.
He said that, unlike previous attacks, such as January’s standoff at eastern Paris’s Hyper Cacher kosher market, these attacks were seemingly at random and were reminiscent of the mass casualty attacks in Jerusalem during the second intifada.
“It’s just young French people going out on a Friday night. That’s why more than during the attacks on [satirical French magazine] Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher, people are shocked and it’s hard on everyone,” he said.
“We all are France, we all are Paris,” CRIF vice president Giles Taieb told the Post
on Saturday during a visit to Israel.
“Our reaction is a Jewish and a [French] one... As citizens we are shocked... we are concerned as French citizens by the biggest attack committed in France... as Jews we stand in solidarity with the national community,” he said.
He added that it is important that no differentiation be made between “good and bad terrorists,” calling for world unity against global terrorism.
Concerning the Jewish community, Taieb explained that since Friday night special security measures have been taken by the CRIF in collaboration with the government, and people living near the Bataclan were asked to remain indoors.
“We must remain careful, remembering that the attack against Charlie Hebdo was followed by an attack against Jews at the Hyper Cacher.”
In a letter to Hollande on Saturday, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder called for the world to unite against ISIS and compared this weekend’s carnage to the September 11, 2001, attacks.
“Just as the September 2001 attacks were deliberately targeted at New York’s Twin Towers, it was no coincidence that Paris, the City of Light, was chosen by the IS terrorists as the place of this latest bloodbath,” he wrote.
“I have no doubt that you and your government will contend with this menace in the appropriate way. Rest assured that in this endeavor you have the support of the Jewish people and the entire free world. Our common values are stronger than those of the terrorists. Our common values will prevail.”
The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain also condemned the attack, calling on Paris to “act with determination and responsibility by using all the resources that the rule of law offers to end Islamist terrorism and barbarism and reaffirm our principles of freedom and justice.”Reuters contributed to this report.