French anti-Semitism is an issue in Sunday's presidential vote

Incident in Bordeaux, in which a Maghrebian man reportedly went into a synagogue with a knife, is second in a week.

segolene royal 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
segolene royal 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Anti-Semitism has been addressed by both candidates in Sunday's French presidential runoff, conservative former interior minister Nicholas Sarkozy and Socialist lawmaker Segolene Royal, and was one of the main issues for most of the candidates in last week's first round. Centrist candidate and former education minister Francois Bayrou, who came in third place in the first round, was very outspoken on the matter, saying that "in France, if someone hurts a Jew, he hurts the Republic." After last week's vote, Sarkozy told reporters in Paris, "I would like to say to all the French people who are afraid of the future that I will protect them against violence and delinquency." Sarkozy has taken a strong stance on violence, especially when it originates from immigrant communities, and has told the public that Royal would be soft on such issues. The issue returned to the headlines on Thursday, when a 22-year-old Jewish woman was the victim of an anti-Semitic attack by two men of "Middle Eastern" appearance in the parking lot of a train station in Marseilles's La Rose neighborhood, which is heavily populated by both Arab immigrants and French Jews. Audrey Brachelle, whose mother is Israeli, told police the incident began as a robbery, but that anti-Semitism came into play when the assailants noticed her necklace, which bore a Jewish "chai" pendant. The attackers then began hitting her in the head, Brachelle said. One of them pulled out a knife, cut a lock of her hair, and slashed open her shirt, she said. The two men then drew a swastika on her chest and fled the scene. Local police told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday they were still searching for the assailants. Brachelle's parents said she was unable to discuss the attack with anyone and that she wanted to be left alone. "For the moment, the only thing I want is for my daughter to regain her composure," her mother said. "This was an isolated act, and an act that I hope does not happen again in Marseilles." While the Marseilles police and Jewish organizations were waiting for the investigation to confirm the attack was anti-Semitic, Isadore Aragones, president of CRIF (Conseil repr sentatif des institutions juives de France) Marseilles-Provence, said the attackers must be punished. "I condemn this act, and I want to show our determination to fight against these kinds of acts. This was not an act by an organized group, but nonetheless, it will have to be sanctioned with appropriate measures." David Roche, the head of the Jewish Agency in France, said the level of anti-Semitism in France was worrying and urgently needed to be addressed. "We had another incident last night in Bordeaux, where a Maghrebian man went into a synagogue with a knife, but thankfully nothing happened," he told the Post. "It doesn't matter if it is in Paris or in Marseilles, it [anti-Semitism] is a problem." Roche said the Marseilles attack was the worst anti-Semitic attack in France since the torture/murder of Ilan Halimi by a gang of Muslim youths in February 2006. Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski said in a statement it was ironic that during the largest display of democracy France has known in many years, the presidential election campaign, "this barbaric act" was carried out. "We are doing our utmost so that the issue of the fight against anti-Semitism will top the agenda of the candidates for the presidency and of the candidate who is elected," he said.