French Jewish leaders slam weekend assaults on three Jews

French Jewish leaders denounced Monday as anti-Semitic three weekend attacks in the rough suburbs around Paris where the torture and murder of a young Jew last month caused outrage. The Paris Consistory, the main Jewish religious body in the capital, said the attacks in which three young Jews were beaten up and insulted were part of a spiral of violence that must be stopped immediately.

„The Paris Consistory is concerned about this worrisome series of anti-Semitic attacks,” it said in a statement that urged officials to judge and punish the culprits quickly. Police said attackers broke the nose of a rabbi’s son and stole a mobile phone from his friend in the first attack on Friday evening. On Saturday evening, another Jew suffered a dislocated shoulder when four youths assaulted him. Police guards and video surveillance have now been stepped up at synagogues in the Sarcelles area north of Paris where the attacks took place, French radio said. A shocking murder last month stoked fears that anti-Semitism was again on the rise in France, which saw a wave of attacks on Jews and their property earlier this decade. Ilan Halimi, 23, was found naked and tortured on February 13 after three weeks of captivity and died shortly afterwards. Youssef Fofana, suspected leader of the group that kidnapped Halimi, was returned to France on Saturday from Ivory Coast, where he told a journalist the gang had seized Halimi to get a ransom and denied doing this out of anti-Semitism. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has said the kidnappers acted for anti-Semitic motives because they thought all Jews were rich enough to pay ransoms. Halimi was killed after his family told kidnappers it could not pay. The Halimi killing and subsequent assaults on Jews have revived public debate about anti-Semitism in France, where police and officials say it is often hard to distinguish between anti-Semitic and other criminal motives for some acts. „Anti-Semitism is rising in our country and it would be wrong to not want to see this,” said Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a former finance minister and parliamentary deputy from Sarcelles. France has Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim minorities and relations between the 600,000-strong Jewish community and the country’s five million Muslims have been strained since the outbreak of the intifada.