Wednesday, August 04, 2004


Le Monde's most unfortunately named reporter is questioning whether Sunday's assault in Villeurbanne was necessarily an anti-Semitic one.
LE MONDE | 03.08.04 | 13h34

Was the assault of the three young Jews necessarily anti-Semitic? By deciding somewhat hastily in the affirmative, the Rhône police aroused intense feelings in Villeurbanne on Monday, August 2, as well as confusion among investigators, community organizations and government officials.

Sunday evening, three youths aged 16 to 18 were walking between the cours Emile Zola and the cours de la République. One wore a kippa, another, a cap with Hebrew letters, leaving no doubt as to their religious persuasion. According to their version, they "happened upon" a group of "thirteen to fourteen" young men. They mention a provocative pass on a scooter, a trash can overturned, and being sized up "from foot to head" : the tension degenerates into a brawl. Two among them receive blows, requiring six days home from work.

Five of the alleged assailants, of whom four are minors, have been detained and placed under observation in at Villeurbanne police headquarters. "Some are of Maghreban origin, others are entirely European," said a magistrate, who regretted putting things in such terms. According to them, some among them were returning from the mosque where they had been paying homage to a friend killed on a motorcycle. "We looked at each other wrong," said one of the alleged assailants. He says that one of his friends "got carried away" because of the grief.


Neither the victims nor the assailants uttered a single anti-Semitic word during the clash, which reportedly involved ten persons directly. Monday morning, a statement released by the Rhône police announced that "fifteen youths accosted and assaulted three Jewish youths." The text expressed satisfaction at the police's rapid detention "of four of those responsible for this assault" and asserts that a meeting had been held last Friday, gathering police officials and "religious representatives" in order to "discuss the problem of the recrudescence of violence inspired by intolerance as well as intensifying the struggle against racism and anti-Semitism."

In 15 lines, the Villeurbanne assault and the proceedings mentioned echoed each other, as if each legitimized the other. At 12:37 pm, an AFP bulletin broadcast the news under the heading "Assault/Anti-Semitism" and the media machine went to work.

Crif Rhône-Alpes feels that the Jewish youths were assaulted "because they wore a kippa, because they were Jews." At the Lyon prosecutor's office, it is felt that the "the anti-Semitic nature of the acts has not been described." Interrogations revealed a preceding encounter that reportedly pitted the two rival groups against each other. Investigators concluded that there had been an emotional confrontation. The police statement transformed this into "an assault of the same type, though less violent, several days beforehand." The prosecutor's office foresees a judicial hearing for "aggravated gang violence." At a more leisurely pace.

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