France considers ban on radical Jewish group

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The French government is considering banning a radical Jewish group which has been blamed for deepening tensions in France during the conflict in Gaza.

The interior ministry said that it was “analysing” its legal options against the Ligue de Défense Juive, which has been accused of provoking pro-Palestinain demonstrators in the Paris area in recent days.

The LDJ, thought to have around 250 members in their early 20s, is a French off-shoot of the American Jewish Defence League, which was placed on the FBI list of terrorist groups 13 years ago. Its website proclaims that it “rejects the myth of the existence of a Palestinian people”.

Violence has broken out at three pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris and in the northern Paris suburbs in the last two weeks. Another large pro-Gaza demonstration in central Paris and several marches in other French towns have passed off peacefully.

The violence – including attacks on synagogues and the looting of a Jewish-owned supermarket in Sarcelles in the north Paris suburbs – was carried out by a minority of youths of north African or African origin. Some claimed to have been provoked by members of the LDJ.

The only clear evidence of an LDJ presence was at a march in Paris on 13 July when there were scuffles between pro-Palestinian and young Jewish radicals close to a synagogue in eastern Paris. The LDJ has, however, been accused of a number of attacks on “Arab” targets in France in recent years.

An unnamed LDJ spokesman told Le Monde that the possible ban on its activities was a “message to the (700,000 strong) Jewish community that its future lies in Israel not in France.”

“This is the first time since the [collaborationist] Vichy regime [of 1940-44] that a Jewish organisation will have been dissolved in France,” the LDJ said.

Moderate Jewish groups rejected the methods and ideology of the LDJ but asked yesterday why the French government was not also banning radical pro-Palestinian groups allegedly responsible for anti-Jewish violence and chanting in recent weeks. They called, in particular, for a ban on a group called “Gaza Firm”, which is said to be influenced by the anti-semitic French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala.

The umbrella body for Jewish groups in France, CRIF, was last night organising a pro-Israeli demonstration in central Paris in response to the pro-Palestinian marches of recent weeks.