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Rioting French Muslims' violence may "remind us of the intifada," but anti-Semitism does not appear to be playing a key part in the current riots, according to Yves Azeroual, editor of the Tribune Juive.
He added that an attack on a synagogue in Pierrefitte outside Paris was simply part of general rioting.
"This isn't connected to anti-Semitism. No one has brought up the Jews as an issue, so for now, it's not an issue for Jews," said Azeroual, who arrived Sunday and witnessed the violence in the Paris suburbs.
While admitting that the French government had refused to admit anti-Semitic motivation behind attacks in 2000, "in the past two years, with the new government, the situation has improved. Now there is an agreement between the Interior Ministry and the Jewish community over the number and nature of the attacks, and that number has definitely gone down."
Azeroual, who was in Aulnay-sous-Bois, Clichy and other sites of recent rioting, said he wasn't surprised by the outbreak of violence, which he said had been brewing for years but was fomented by a rise in radical Islam in France.
"It's been going on for more than 20 years," he said. "There are the suburbs and the poverty, the difficulty Muslims are having with being absorbed into France... Now there's a rise in radical Islamist ideology in these areas. These kids have no place to go, no job, so they go to the mosque. There, the radical imams tell them that they have different values, that even after three generations they haven't managed to integrate into French society, and that they should also follow their Muslim values... Instead of telling these kids they're Frenchmen, they tell them they're Muslims."
"Unemployment has reached 30 to 40 percent in the suburbs," he explained. "There's no family structure. The older generation can't control the young anymore."
Azeroual said he witnessed the burning of cars of neighborhood residents by the rioters, who he claimed are spurred on by the underworld, mainly by drug dealers. "They want to turn these neighborhoods into places where the police are afraid to go, and they use the youth to distract the police, so that their activities can continue undisturbed," he said.
The drug dealers, or ka'ids, as they are known, also have a territorial demand and "want to create a space outside the Republic, and to institute their own law," he said.
Asked whether France fears terrorism will arise out of the rioting, Azeroual said: "It's true that there's radical Islam in France, and that they caught several members of al-Qaida who are Muslim Frenchmen, but unlike what went on in Britain and Spain [before the terror attacks in those countries], the secret services in France have penetrated these organizations."
He predicted Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy "will adopt a policy of cracking down and won't make excuses for them... The solution is to break up the ghetto and the black market, to build new buildings, to give these people jobs, to send companies into these neighborhoods."
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