Antisemitic Attack in Marseilles Highlights Need for Action Against Extremism

New York CityHuman Rights First is deeply alarmed by the latest violence yesterday in Marseilles, where three individuals reportedly attacked a Jewish man. A veiled Muslim woman was also attacked at a metro station in the city. The organization notes that the U.S. government should work with French authorities to disrupt the violence that stems from antisemitism and extremism.

“This cycle of violence must be broken and that must begin with individuals viewing each other with tolerance, not hatred,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke. “The need for tolerance should have been a lesson learned from the terrorist violence that killed at least 129 people in Paris on Friday. Instead today we see a disturbing trend that is all too common; violence leads to more violence. Jews are disproportionately victims of hate crimes, and the acts by Islamic State terrorists place the wider Muslim and immigrant community in danger. The terrorists want French and other societies to tear themselves apart.”

Yesterday, a Jewish school teacher who was wearing a kippa was stabbed by three individuals who first confirmed that he was Jewish. The attackers purportedly praised the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during the incident. One man is even reported to have been wearing a shirt that was emblazoned with the ISIL logo.  Another man apparently showed on his phone photos of Mohamed Merah, the man who attacked a Jewish school in 2012 in Toulouse.  Marseilles police say the victim is expected to recover fully and are calling the attack an antisemitic hate crime.  The suspects have not been caught and police are still out searching for them or clues to their whereabouts.

Human Rights First research shows that this is unfortunately not unusual. High profile violence sparks copycat attacks, and recorded incidents increase dramatically in the immediate aftermath terror attack or well-publicized hate crime. This trend is true whether the victims are Jewish or Muslim.

Corke has been working on a report about how the rise of the far-right, Muslim extremism, and antisemitism are converging to fuel intolerance and violence in France. Human Rights First has released preliminary recommendations that stem from her ongoing research and recent trip to Paris, including recommendations for how the United States can best support France and provide the sort of solidarity that ensures, as Obama said, that our “values are going to endure far beyond any act of terrorism.”

Human Rights First’s recommendations include:

  • Combating hatred and violent extremism should not only occur through military, intelligence, and police measures. Governments should see this tragedy as a call to strengthen the transatlantic security institutions based on democratic principles.
  • A commitment to upholding human rights and the rule of law must be at the heart of counterterrorism measures. The United States and France, with participation from civil society, should share experiences around advancing human rights to build more cooperative relationships with communities affected by terrorism and violent extremism.
  • Many of the refugees who have fled Syria to Europe are fleeing terrible violence, in many cases at the hands of the same group of people that share responsibility for the Paris massacre and other extremist groups. They deserve a Europe-wide inclusive solution to the current crisis; they should not be a focus of exclusion, hatred or violence.
  • Public statements from U.S. officials should be sensitive to the current marginalization of many Muslims in France. In France, the Muslim community is diverse and also suffering from hate crimes, discrimination and social and economic marginalization. How U.S. officials speak about this tragedy should avoid fueling a “clash of civilization” narrative and instead urge tolerance and inclusion.
  • Better information is needed to understand the root causes of extremism, antisemitism, and intolerance in France. The United States should work in partnership with France to boost capacity for data collection on hate crimes, victimization surveys, and the factors driving radicalization.
  • The United States should support the strengthening of civil society cooperation to build partnerships and exchange of experiences to develop strategies to combat intolerance – particularly the interrelated forces of extremism and antisemitism. This should include funding exchanges, educational opportunities, and grants to collaborative civil society initiatives.
  • A joint task force including government officials, civil society, youth, and religious leaders should be created to look at concrete and tangible areas where collaborative effort could yield outcomes such as combating hatred on the Internet.

For more information see Human Rights First’s fact sheet on extremist violence in France.


Published on November 19, 2015


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