Jewish vigilantes brandishing iron bars and cans of pepper spray took to the streets of Paris to attack pro-Palestinian demonstrators, it emerged today. (Tuesday)
Shocking images shot in the French capital at the weekend show around 150 mainly young men chanting racist slogans as they went on the rampage.
It came as President Francois Hollande warned that he did not want to see ‘the Israeli-Palestinian conflict imported into France.’
French Jewish groups have complained about an increase in anti-Semitism in recent months, with many accusing Muslim youths of targeting them.
But a video shot close to the Place de la Bastille on Sunday, and verified by police before being posted on YouTube, suggests that the pro-Israel groups are in fact taking the law into their own hands.
It will cause concern in moderate Jewish communities around Europe, especially in Britain, where the Israeli bombardments of Palestinians in Gaza have come in for huge criticism.
While security guards are regularly used to defend synagogues and other Jewish sites in cities like London, vigilante groups would be banned.
In Paris, CRS riot police do not make a single arrest among the Jewish gang, thought to be linked to the extremist Jewish Defence League (LDJ), despite them openly fighting in broad daylight.
Members can be heard chanting ‘****-you Palestine’ as they smash up chairs and metal tables to be used as missiles.
Gas canisters, pepper spray, metal bars and wooden sticks are used by the vigilantes, some of whom are wearing crash helmets.
They run through the streets towards pro-Palestinian demonstrators, and skirmishes break out while the police stand by.
When the gang runs back towards police lines, there is no attempt to arrest any of them.
In contrast, pro-Palestinian demonstrators were later accused of trying to break into synagogues, and six of them were arrested.
Alexis Bachelay, a Paris MP for the ruling Socialist party, said: ‘There has evidently been a media manipulation about who really got assaulted.
‘These are extremely serious facts that need to be investigated thoroughly by the police. It is not the first time that young French people of Muslim origin are stigmatised by the media.
‘French people of Muslim origin should be protected by the law when demonstrating. They should not be attacked by radical groups like the LDJ’.
In turn, local Jewish community leader Joel Mergei, accused anti-Israel protestors of reaching a ‘new low’.
An LDJ source insisted that the gang members pictured were ‘defending’ the Jewish community in Paris.
Report by Peter Allen, Paris