Members of the Jewish community at the synagogue in Bordeaux, southwestern France. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One of the victims of an anti-Semitic attack in France has come out strongly against media reports that paint his attacker as mentally unstable.
On Monday, he told a local Jewish newspaper that he and two others were assaulted because they were visibly Jewish.
The victim, an orthodox rabbi, was attacked together with his 19-year- old son and one of his congregants outside of a synagogue in Marseilles on Shabbat morning. One of the victims was stabbed several times in the abdomen and is in serious but not life-threatening condition, French daily Le Figaro
Police arrested the assailant, who shouted anti-Semitic epithets at the victims and reportedly was drunk at the time of the attack. According to Le Figaro
, the assailant is known to local police and is considered mentally unstable.
Marseilles, in southern France, has some 80,000 Jews, making it the second- largest Jewish community in the country. Jews make up about 10 percent of the population in the port city, which has about 250,000 Muslims.
Speaking with the Actualité Juive
newspaper, the rabbi, who elected to remain anonymous, said that while he and his companions moved aside to allow their attacker to pass when they encountered each other in the street, the man punched him and his son in the chest, forcing them to the ground.
“His words are not clear, but he seemed to have uttered something that resembles 'Allahu Akbar,'” he said.
The congregant, attempting to protect the rabbi and his son, placed himself between them and the attacker and “took a knife stab to the stomach,” the rabbi recalled.
His thick leather jacket probably saved his life, he continued, stating that had the knife penetrated any deeper it could have hit his liver.
Despite being attacked next to a cafe, none of the patrons made any move to intervene, he said.
As for reports that the attacker was unbalanced, the rabbi turned caustic, saying he had been targeted due to his beard and hat.
His assailant “was not a fool” when he rushed them, he asserted.
It is unclear if there is any specific connection between Saturday’s attack and a recent rash of stabbings and terrorist attacks in Israel but over the past several years France has suffered from highly elevated rates of anti-Semitic violence during times of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
France last year experienced a 101-percent increase in anti-Semitic acts over 2013, including “numerous cases of physical violence against the Jewish community where individuals were targeted and beaten, and synagogues were firebombed,” according to a recent State Department report.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post several days before the latest attack, Robert Ejnes, executive director of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, said that while there has not yet been any increase in anti-Semitism linked to the current situation, French Jews are concerned.
“At the moment we are very worried about the ability of the French to duplicate what is happening in Israel, which they have always tried to do in some way like they did last year during the Gaza campaign,” he said.JTA contributed to this report.