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France Opens Investigation Into ‘despicable’ Antisemitic Graffiti In Paris

French prosecutors have opened several investigations into the painting of dozens of Stars of David on buildings around Paris and its suburbs that have been widely seen as antisemitic and threatening to Jews, amid the war between Israel and Hamas.

The French prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, condemned “the despicable acts”, saying they would not go unpunished.

New stars were painted on the facades of several buildings in a southern areas of Paris this week. Many appeared to have been spraypainted using stencils. Similar tags appeared over the weekend in suburbs of the city, including Vanves, Fontenay-aux-Roses and Aubervilliers.

In the nearby town of Saint-Ouen the graffiti were accompanied by inscriptions such as “Palestine will overcome”.

Since the 7 October Hamas attack on Israel, French authorities had registered 857 such markings, the interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said on Tuesday. “That’s as many acts of antisemitism in three weeks as there have been so far this year,” he said.

Darmanin said police and judicial authorities had opened several investigations into the anti-Jewish graffiti around the capital and promised Jewish communities around France that “we will protect you, absolutely, completely, day and night”.

There have been 425 arrests in connection with antisemitic incidents in France since 7 October.

Stars of David spraypainted on Jewish homes in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. Photograph: Poitout Florian/Abaca/ShutterstockOlivier Klein, the government’s delegate on antisemitism and racism, told France Inter radio on Wednesday: “Antisemitic and racist attacks have a link to the current news, but if there’s a resurgence it’s because this was present, there was a breeding ground … Unfortunately, our country, like others, has this capacity to awaken old demons.”

The union of Jewish students of France said the recent graffiti was designed to mirror the way Jews were forced to wear the stars by the Nazi regime. “This act of marking recalls the processes of the 1930s and the second world war which led to the extermination of millions of Jews,” its president, Samuel Lejoyeux, said. “The people who did this clearly wanted to terrify.”

The French prime minister told the national assembly: “The situation in the Middle East does not justify antisemitism … my government is determined to wage a merciless fight against it.”

Borne’s own father survived Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp, but then took his own life when she was 11.

“It is the duty of the republic to protect all the Jews of France,” she said, adding that those guilty should be arrested and convicted.

The mayor of Aubervilliers, Karine Franclet, condemned the graffiti as being “in total contradiction with the fundamental values that we hold, including tolerance, equality and mutual respect, particularly in the current context”, while the mayor of Saint-Ouen, Karim Bouamrane, said the perpetrators must be punished by the courts “with the greatest severity”.

A woman takes pictures of a wall covered with Stars of David painted during the night in the Alesia district of Paris. Photograph: Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP/Getty ImagesCharlotte Goujon, the mayor of Petit-Quevilly, a town in the region of Normandy, north of Paris, told AFP she had filed a complaint after antisemitic symbols, including swastikas, had been discovered last week.

Many Jewish people say they have felt unsafe in France since the violence flared in Israel. Jacques Isaac Azeroual, a kosher butcher in Paris’s 19th district, which has a large Jewish community, said his number of customers had halved.

“People are demoralised. They are scared of going out to shop,” he told AFP, adding that he shut an hour early and covered his kippa with a hat when he left for fear of aggression.

The president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, Yonathan Arfi, said: “They [the antisemitic incidents] were not triggered by indignation over the images from Gaza – the antisemitic acts began on 7 October, even before the Israeli response.”

Israel has been bombarding Gaza since the 7 October attacks by Hamas militants, which killed about 1,400 people according to Israeli officials. More than 8,500 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Gaza, according to figures from the health ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory.

Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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