But Tihlah, a 29-year-old Muslim with a history of petty crime, was not after the Jews. Based on his own confession after the crime and a letter he wrote before him, he decided to target the police. Tihlah crashed his cars into two of them on the outskirts of Combes, seriously injuring one.
French police and anti-Semitism activists said the attack was the latest example of an emerging trend in France in which anti-Semites have come to see the police and other security services as extensions of ” Jewish power ”- a theme often discussed in the conspiracy theories that inspire and justify such attacks.
Allegations of police brutality, inspired by protests in the United States following the death of George Floyd, “only poured oil on this fire,” said Sammy Ghozlan, former Paris police commissioner and founder of the National Office for Vigilance Against Antisemitism, or BNVCA.
“The anti-Semitic equation between cops and Jews is a new development born out of conspiracy theories, and it already incites violence and bloodshed,” Ghozlan said. “It is dangerous not only for the Jews, but also for the rule of law in France.”
On June 13, in the center of Paris, during a demonstration against the police racism perceived in France stimulated by the murder of Floyd, several demonstrators shouted “dirty Jews” at the counter-demonstrators who had deployed a banner on which was inscribed “Justice for victims of anti-white crimes”. Not only were the counter-demonstrators not Jewish, they were part of a far-right movement, Generation Identitaire, which faced allegations of anti-Semitism.
The same rally also featured banners accusing Israel of teaching French police to oppress minorities (also touching on an issue that has also sparked debate in the United States).
Ghozlan said that “the phenomenon of targeting Jews and security forces, making them interchangeable” was first seen “on a large scale” during the 2012 attacks in Toulouse when a jihadist, Mohammed Merah, attacked shot dead three soldiers near this town before assassinating four Jews in Toulouse. a school there two days later. Merah also cited the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as his motivation.
Amedy Coulibaly, another Muslim extremist who murdered four Jews at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket on the outskirts of Paris on January 9, 2015, had killed a black policeman the day before. He too cited his desire to “defend the Palestinians” as the reason for his attacks.
In 2018, in Saint-Quentin, a town 113 km northeast of Paris, a man who was later arrested and sentenced to four months in prison overpowered a policeman in a residential building. He forced the officer to kiss his legs and said, according to the officer, “We’re going to shoot the AK-47 at you and throw you in the dungeon like the Jew Halimi.” It was a reference to the anti-Semitic torture and murder of Ilan Halimi in 2006 near Paris.
Michel Thooris, a Jewish police officer and activist for the Southern France Police Union, also said joint targeting of police officers and Jews is “particularly common”. He said he had not personally suffered anti-Semitic abuse in the course of his work for the national police, but noted that many of his non-Jewish colleagues did.
According to him, the phenomenon has made the streets more dangerous for the police.
“The word ‘Jewish’ is an insult in immigrant neighborhoods today, which is why it is used as a curse,” Thooris said, referring to French suburbs with predominantly Muslim populations who have problems with crime and radicalization. “But he also owes to the multitude of conspiracy theories in which the Jews and Israel rule the world, and France, with its police as a puppet.”
The same trend is emerging elsewhere in Western Europe, including the Netherlands. In 2017, Turkish demonstrators revolted and shouted “cancer Jews” to police after learning that authorities had refused entry of a Turkish minister into the country.
This worldview is reinforced by the fact that “soldiers, police and other security forces across Western Europe” are now ubiquitous around synagogues and other Jewish institutions, said Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, chairman of the conference. of European rabbis.
Protection is needed because of the risk of violent attacks, “but for anti-Semites, that’s all the visual confirmation they need for their narrative in which Jews are the police and vice versa,” Goldschmidt told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
“For some Muslims, Jews are not even humans, unclean beasts or vermin,” said Thooris, a supporter of the far-right Marine Le Pen party, which has its own complicated history of anti-Semitism. “When this is extended to the police, it justifies and invites brutal violence.”
Ghozlan, who had served in the police force for decades before his retirement in the 1990s, had never experienced anti-Semitic abuse of force and said it was a new development.
During this time, French Jews did not hesitate to support the police. At rallies, they often sing “La Marseillaise”, the French national anthem, to honor the police for having protected their institutions. Large Jewish groups like the BNVCA and the CRIF coordination group often make statements expressing their gratitude and solidarity with the police, especially when security service personnel are injured in the line of duty.
During a dinner in 2017 with President Emmanuel Macron, CRIF President Francis Kalifat spoke about his father, who was a proud police officer.
“French, Jewish – I know he found something that deeply linked these two identities: dedication to the law, love of justice and the assertion of freedom,” Kalifat said.
CRIF unreservedly supported the police at the height of a debate on police brutality in France in 2016 following the death of Adama Traoré, a young black man who died in police custody. Several commissions of inquiry have cleared the officers who made the arrest, but the incident sparked riots. Protests against Traore have resumed with the murder of George Floyd this year – including at the June 13 rally in which protesters shouted “dirty Jews.”
In 2016, the CRIF organized a rally in solidarity with officers injured in the line of duty. That same year, he also published a publication called “The Golden Book,” which features “messages to the police and military that protect us,” with praising quotes from members of the grassroots community alongside. more important personalities.
Gil Taieb, vice-president of CRIF, defended French police in a June 5 statement after the Floyd incident 10 days earlier sparked protests in France.
“No, the police are not racist,” Taieb wrote, “but some police officers are and have nothing to do with this pillar of justice and order.”
Anne Sinclair, one of France’s best-known journalists and a prominent member of the Jewish community, generally shares this view. But during a Zoom event Monday on her new book on the Holocaust, “The Transport of Celebrities,” she recalled a painful moment in the relationship between French Jews and the police: World War II, when police took actually collaborated with the Nazis in the deportation of Jews and the theft of their property.
“It was not so long ago, when French Jews were very afraid of the police who now protect them,” she said at the conference organized by the European Center for Judaism in Paris. “There has been a reversal in this regard.”