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By Dr Shimon Samuels, Director for International Relations

Paris, 3 August 2023

In the years following the terrorist bombing of the Paris Copernic Synagogue, the French Jewish community was galvanized to create Jewish radio stations and training courses for the protection of Jewish religious and cultural institutions.

On Succoth, 30 October 1980, I accompanied Aliza Shagrir, who had just arrived from Israel, to the corner of rue Copernic. While I continued walking straight ahead, she turned to meet her death outside the synagogue at the hands of a terrorist who has since been identified and is still at large.

In those days, attacks on Jews were imported from the Middle East conflict.

As time passed, the perpetrators came from migrant families and were indoctrinated by antisemitic agitators in certain mosques, some even clandestine.

Since 9/11, a number of young Muslims were coopted into Daesh, then ISIS, to wage war against the West... Some left for Syria or Iraq, others remained in Europe, to kill Jews in the name of Allah or “Palestine”.

In a conversation with French Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin, he promised to close down Jihadi mosques and affiliated Islamist schools. To date, the Minister is keeping his word.

Besides the radical left and Islamist ring surrounding Paris, there is a high level of antisemitic propaganda or violence, also in other major cities, such as Toulouse, Marseille, Avignon or Lyon.

This takes us back to Copernic:
- We assisted a former police officer and jazz player, to create a 24/7 SOS telephone line for victims of antisemitism. This later became the BNVCA, with which we have continued working;
- Jewish radio stations have become professional and are a reference for the community, often providing information that mainstream media ignores;
- Self-defence classes for Jews are growing, providing heightened self-reliance for young and adults alike;
- We have proposed our own vigilance and educational programmes.

In view of only last month’s assault on a 13-year-old boy who was wearing a kippa, we return to the Copernic idea of now devising new instruments – such as a hidden SOS system, or connected smart devices – for potential victims to alert, in real time, both the police and a dedicated Jewish station...

The growth of native-born Islamists in France recalls the words of the Passover Haggadah: “The Lord took us out of Egypt with a clenched fist and an outstretched hand.”

This also means more outreach initiatives connecting young Jews and Muslims. Through multifaith dialogue, the latter will better understand the danger that Islamism represents for themselves. To quote Simon Wiesenthal, “What begins with the Jews does not end with the Jews!”

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