Elham Asaad Buaras
Media reports that French Muslims and pro-Palestinian supporters surrounded then attacked the Synagogue de la Roquette in Paris on July 13 while worshippers cowered inside have proved to be fabricated.
TV footage and eyewitness testimony including that from the Synagogue’s President has since belied the initial uncorroborated coverage, including as that of the US-based Catholic weekly The Tablet which quoted anonymous accounts describing how “Parisians from Arab countries” used an axe and even firearms in their attempts to break into the Synagogue.
Among the many media outlets to incorrectly report on the incident is the UK’s The Independent. Its Parisian correspondent, who was not at the scene, reported that “Worshippers barricaded themselves inside the Synagogue de la Roquette as demonstrators tried to storm the building with bats and chairs.”
The Tablet has since removed the article but The Independent has yet to correct its coverage.
Coverage of the incident even drew a stern rebuke from French President, Francois Hollande. “There cannot be disturbances and disruptions, intrusions or attempted intrusions in places of worship,” Hollande said the next day.
Embarrassingly for Hollande, the President of the Synagogue, Serge Benhaïm, categorically denied there had been any attack on the Synagogue, or any attempts to storm it. In fact, he insisted that “no protestor had reached within 150 metres of the Synagogue.”
TV coverage has since emerged showing members of the Ligue de Défense Juive (LDJ) aka the Jewish Defence League, a far-right Zionist group, marching then attacking pro-Palestinian protesters near Bastille.
Freelance journalist Nabila Ramdani, who was actually in rue de la Roquette as events unfolded said, “The LDJ stormed away from the synagogue towards a largely peaceful protest in Place de la Bastille. Armed with metal batons, gas canisters and café chairs and tables, they initiated street fights with their enemies while chanting ‘F#@k Palestine’. ”
President of the Synagogue, Benhaïm called for the French authorities to follow their US counter-parts and ban the LDJ “if it cannot be controlled”.