Only two days after the world marked the first anniversary of a terrorist attack on a Parisian kosher grocery, two French Jews were physically attacked in unrelated incidents in Marseilles and Puttgarden, Germany.
The first victim was targeted outside a synagogue by a French minor wielding a machete in Marseilles on Monday morning, police sources told French TV station BFMTV.
The victim, who was wearing a kippa during the incident, was only lightly wounded, and his assailant, who media reports indicate may have been mentally unstable, was arrested 10 minutes after fleeing the scene.
The ninth arrondissement of Marseilles is known for having a large concentration of Jewish residents and Jewish-owned shops and restaurants.
The motive of the attack remains unclear, although Marseilles has been the target of several anti-Semitic attacks last year.
In November, a teacher at a Jewish school in the city was stabbed by three people professing support for Islamic State.
Saturday marked the first anniversary of an attack on the French capital’s Hyper Cacher supermarket by Islamic gunman Amedy Coulibaly in which four people were killed.
Following that attack French President Manuel Valls announced that the government was initiating a €100 million plan to battle anti-Semitism intended to regularly monitor racism and anti-Semitism in order to generate data, protect Jewish and Muslim houses of worship and communal institutions and push back against discrimination.
While statistics for French anti-Semitism since the unveiling of that plan have not yet been published, Robert Ejnes, executive director of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF), the umbrella body encompassing much of the organized French Jewish community, recently told The Jerusalem Post the organization knows the number of anti-Semitic acts have been around the same number as the previous year.
“The full effects have yet to be analyzed, but no doubt that the prime minister and the government have done the job,” he said.
While the plan was generally well received, some experts, including the late Dr. Robert Wistrich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Joel Rubinfeld of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, have said they did not believe that the initiative would yield significant returns.
“To fight a disease, you have to name causes, and generally in Western Europe most of the anti-Semitic attacks are from young Muslim people,” Rubinfeld told the Post after the plan was unveiled last April.
He added that those seeking to mitigate anti-Semitic violence generally do not approach the root causes head on.
“A few days after the commemoration of the attacks in January 2015, CRIF notes with dismay that anti-Semitic acts continue tirelessly against the Jews of France, collectively immersed in a spiral of hatred that never seems to stop,” the CRIF said. “CRIF believes that beyond the necessary enforcement measures, it is urgent to address the root causes of this scourge and those within the Islamo-fascist sphere, which grows especially on the Internet.”
Speaking to the Post on Monday, Ejnes stated that the Jewish community is “shocked, since this is not the first time this happens in Marseille,” adding that the local prosecutor is pursuing the case as an anti-Semitic terrorist incident. “In many previous cases, the first comments from legal authorities had mentioned that the aggressor was déséquilibré (a disordered person).
This young aggressor has explained this attack by anti-Semitic and pro-ISIS motives,” he said.
In a second, unrelated, attack on Monday, two migrants from Syria and Afghanistan attacked a French Jew at a ferry terminal in Puttgarden, Germany.
According to German newspaper Bild, they approached the man, who was wearing a kippa, verbally identified him as a Yahud (Arabic for Jew) and knocked him down before kicking and robbing him.
While the German-Jewish community has been largely in favor of absorbing Middle Eastern migrants, its leadership has also cautioned that the influx could also prove a catalyst for increased anti-Semitic activity.
In November, Josef Schuster of the Central Council of Jews in Germany called on Berlin to impose limitations on the number of migrants being granted asylum in the country, telling Die Welt that quotas are necessary in light of the fact that many of the refugees expected to arrive in Germany this year “come from places where hatred of Jews and intolerance are an integral part of the culture.”
A month earlier a delegation of Jewish leaders warned Chancellor Angela Merkel that “many refugees come from countries where Israel is an enemy; their resentment is often transferred to Jews in general.”
Suspicion of migrants has been on the rise in Germany after a series of attacks on women in Cologne and other German cities on New Year’s Eve, with police suspicion resting largely on asylum seekers.
Commenting that the Puttgarden victim had been wearing a kippa, a Berlin resident and hassidic who declined to be named out of concern for his personal security told the Post that “people are not showing their Jewishness too openly” and certainly “less than before.”
Rubinfeld of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism told the Post that this is precisely the kind of incidents the organization feared following the massive arrival of refugees from countries where, according the recent ADL poll on anti-Semitism, around 90 percent of the population harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.
“With the refugees crisis, we are facing a huge dilemma: on one side, we can not remain insensitive to the situation of those people who are experiencing a tragic situation in Syria. On the other side, European governments’ primary task should be to protect their population from foreseeable threats.”
While for the most part things have been calm, security is tight at communal institutions such as synagogues and schools and tensions show themselves in forums such as social media.
Many people, Rubinfeld continued, are worried about the prospect of young men without prospects who are “bored” and on the streets.
Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League applauded Germany’s leadership and commitment to provide asylum to refugees, but also raised concerns directly with Merkel about the anti-Semitism refugees may bring with them, inculcated in them in their home countries.
“One attacker is reportedly from Syria. While Syria was not surveyed in our Global 100 poll of anti-Semitic attitudes, its neighbors, Iraq and Jordan, scored 92% and 81% respectively, and attitudes in Syria are unlikely to differ substantially. Given Germany’s special responsibility to combat anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic crimes should be included in any policy of deporting asylum-seekers who commit crimes.”
Jerusalem Post staff and Reuters contributed to this report.