French authorities are fighting a growing tide of anti-Semitic attacks apparently prompted by Israel's military operations in the West Bank. French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin ordered 1,100 police officers to guard Jewish sites and said he stands in solidarity with the country's 600,000 Jews.
The tightened security comes after a fire, thought to be arson, at the Or Aviv Synagogue March 31 in Marseille. The fire destroyed the 20-year-old building, including its Torah scrolls.
Among other attacks, on March 30 arsonists set fire to a synagogue in Strasbourg, damaging its façade. On the same night, hooded vandals crashed two cars into a synagogue in Lyon. Others opened fire on a kosher butcher shop near Toulouse.
Johan Candelin, executive director of the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission, told Christianity Today, "The attacks in France show, once again, how near the surface and how strong the hate against Jews is in some countries in Europe, and how easily it shows its ugly face."
Candelin says events in the Middle East feed a secular mindset that religion leads to violence. And he predicts more hostility: "This will lead to a stronger demand for the state to control religion, which is a dangerous thing for religious freedom in the future."
Related news coverage includes:
Damaged synagogue begins clean-up — BBC (May 1, 2002)
Europe shaken by anti-Jewish attacks — BBC (April 30, 2002)
Jews warn of rising anti-Semitism — BBC (April 23, 2002)
Anti-Semitic Attacks Increase in Europe — The Washington Post (April 6, 2002)
Anti-Semitic Violence Erupts in France, Amid Mideast Conflict — ABC News (April 6, 2002)
Synagogue burnt down in Marseilles — BBC (April 1, 2002)
Anti-Semitic violence jolts France ...