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France’s Soaring Antisemitism Brings Out the Jewish Defense League

The Ligue de Defense Juive (LDJ) is doing what Rabbi Kahane did in New York City more than 40 years ago – making antisemites think twice before attacking.
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The Ligue de Defense Juive (LDJ) is doing what Rabbi Kahane did in New York City more than 40 years ago – making antisemites think twice before attacking.

The Ligue de Defense Juive (LDJ) is doing what Rabbi Kahane did in New York City more than 40 years ago – making antisemites think twice before attacking.
Photo Credit: LDJ

By Cnaan Liphshiz

With scooter helmets in hand, Yohan and six buddies stroll around Paris’ 20th Arrondissement looking much like a typical group of French students — until they locate a group of Arab men they suspect of perpetrating an antisemitic attack the previous day.

Using their helmets as bludgeons, members of France’s Jewish Defense League, or LDJ, set upon the Arabs and beat them. Several of the Arabs attempt to escape in a blue sedan, but the LDJ members pursue the vehicle, causing it to crash into a stone wall.

The attack last August, filmed by a television crew shooting a documentary on LDJ, was one of at least 115 violent incidents that critics attribute to the group since its registration in France in 2001 — a year after the eruption of the second intifada in Israel and the sevenfold increase in antisemitic incidents in the 12 years that followed.

“Now they know the price of Jewish blood,” said Yohan—the nom de guerre of Joseph Ayache, one of LDJ’s young leaders.

An offshoot of the American Jewish Defense League, which was founded in New York by the Rabbi Meir Kahane, LDJ engages in sometimes violent reprisals to antisemitic attacks.

The group, which numbers about 300 members, is now on a collision course with France’s Jewish establishment, which has condemned its activities and threatened a lawsuit.

LDJ is ratcheting up its deterrent potential by showcasing its activities following the murder of Jewish school children in Toulouse last year by the a Muslim.

LDJ traditionally shied away from media attention. But in the weeks after the Toulouse killings, which were then followed by a 58 percent increase in attacks on Jews in France, LDJ for the first time allowed a television crew to tag along on a number of guerrilla operations.

In addition to the helmet assault, Ayache was filmed calling for revenge killings in posters he and his group posted around central Paris. When a police car came by, Ayache told officers that he and his friends were working on an art project. The police officers wished him a pleasant evening and drove away.

Ayache also was filmed attempting to storm a performance of the antisemitic comedian Dieudonne.

“Since when is it illegal to run?” Ayache told the police after they detained him.

Another sequence shows Ayache firing a pistol at a shooting range.

“We’ve noticed the Muslim community believes LDJ is some vast machine that operates with impunity and gets help from Mossad,” said an LDJ spokesman who goes by the alias Amnon Cohen. “It’s not true, but it’s not a bad thing if they are scared. It’ll make them think twice.”

LDJ’s growing assertiveness has further strained the group’s already tense relationship with the CRIF, the umbrella body of French Jewish communities.

In April, CRIF’s former president, Richard Prasquier, said he would sue LDJ for defamation for posting a photograph on its website depicting him with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The caption accuses Prasquier of “pardoning [a] killer”:

Richard Prasquier + Abass

LDJ, meanwhile, has accused CRIF of being undemocratic, obsolete and ineffective.

“We operate outside and independently, and that creates opposition within the establishment, which is run by men and women who mean well but don’t know the painful reality of the Jewish rank and file in Paris’ suburbs and poor neighborhoods,” Cohen said.

“There are hundreds of French and Belgian Muslims fighting in the Syrian civil war. When they return, do you think they will be scared of a couple guards trained by the community?”

CRIF declined to comment.

Earlier this month, LDJ announced that its “soldiers” had put a young Arab in the hospital in a coma, “a rapid and effective response” to the man’s attack on Jews at Saint-Mande, just east of Paris.

The announcement drew calls to ban LDJ. As criticism mounted, LDJ retracted the statement and denied any involvement in the violence.

Cohen told JTA the person who published the “false statement” had been removed from the group and that the violence actually resulted from a drug deal gone sour. A spokesperson for the Saint-Mande municipality confirmed that account.

Still, the events at Saint-Mande resulted in a public row between LDJ and CRIF, which on June 4 blamed LDJ for the violence at Saint Mande and for subsequent calls “to take revenge against the Jews.”

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22 Responses to “France’s Soaring Antisemitism Brings Out the Jewish Defense League”

  1. David Baden says:

    I fully agree that a defense league is needed, but please be very careful that whatever you do can be justfied.

  2. David Baden says:

    I fully agree that a defense league is needed, but please be very careful that whatever you do can be justfied.

  3. David Baden says:

    I fully agree that a defense league is needed, but please be very careful that whatever you do can be justfied.

  4. I have mixed feelings about the use of violence.

  5. Alan Kardon says:

    Tell that to the people who are attacking Jews.

  6. Jews have to be strong I fully agree the defence league don't worry wat they thing they are all losers

  7. Surrender is not an option. Resist force with force.

  8. I absolutely agree with you. Remember the Varsow ghetto . That's the only thing these Muslims understand FORCE. I will pray for them.

  9. Why are jews in France, France is one of the most anti-sememitical country, french jews go to Israel we need you here.

  10. The anti -Semites must know that they cannot act with impunity. HOWEVER, unless they are reacting to an immediate occurrence, in defence of Jewish people or property, if the perpetrators of hatred can be identified, they should turn the matter over to, and assist, the authorities. Should the authorities fail to act, then all bets are off.

  11. Dan Silagi says:

    Once upon a time I was a strong supporter of the JDL and Kahane. That was once upon a time. Now I regard them and the JDO as a bunch of vigilantes.

  12. Mitchell Pak says:

    Only Jews would be blind enough to due a Jewish group that's trying to defend them.

  13. The French will never defend us. We must, therefore, defend ourselves. Kahane was right. G-d bless the LDJ.

  14. The French will never defend us. We must, therefore, defend ourselves. Kahane was right. G-d bless the LDJ.

  15. I find this sort of violence deplorable. The fact that Jews are doing it doesn't make it any better.

  16. i agree sadly it's necessary

  17. Anonymous says:

    LDJ! :)

  18. God bless all jews, and I am an effing atheist.

  19. God bless all jews, and I am an effing atheist.

  20. I think Jews should leave France, and no, I see nothing wrong with being armed and prepared to kill your attacker. You must not pay the slightest attention to the rest of the news from France, where the French population does not call the police even if they hear the screams and tortured cries of a Jewish hostage being beaten, raped, burned with cigarettes all over his body, for weeks on end. He was then set on fire, and his body dumped nearby. That is why your ghetto attitude is offensive to me, I suppose.

  21. Jenni Jenx says:

    why is it the second diaspora in the world then? instead of speaking about what you don't you should shut up!

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