Commentators who were not there provided chilling descriptions of an alleged attack on the Roquette Synagogue in the Bastille area of Paris last month. Evoking the Nazi Holocaust, they described hordes of thugs desecrating the building as they tried to harm those inside. According to the reports those responsible were Muslim, pro-Palestinian demonstrators consumed by anti-Semitism, inflamed by the slaughter of civilians in Gaza by Israel.
“Worshippers barricaded themselves inside the Synagogue de la Roquette as demonstrators tried to storm the building with bats and chairs,” is how The Independent’sabsent Paris correspondent chose to put it. The seemingly authoritative claim was followed up around the world.
An alleged testimony was published by a US-based news site called The Tablet. With a mixture of blood-curdling melodrama, murderous threat and pure racism it recounted how “Parisians from Arab countries” used an axe and even firearms. The writer – allegedly a Jewish woman solely identified as ‘Aurélie A’ – says of one: “I want to leave him for dead!”
Now, more than three weeks since the 13 July incident, the international current affairs magazine Newsweek is running a cover story on the Synagogue ‘attack’ claiming it has contributed to a new “Exodus” of Jews from Europe. Elaborating on the picture of vengeful Islamists, writer Adam LeBor quotes another “trapped” witness – who is not identified at all – maintaining that the alleged siege was “like an Intifada.”
Mr. LeBor opens his piece with the words: “The mob howled for vengeance, the missiles raining down on the synagogue walls as the worshippers huddled inside. It was a scene from Europe in the 1930s, except this was eastern Paris on the evening of 13 July, 2014.”
Except it wasn’t. Such reports are pure fabrication. Nobody attacked the synagogue, nobody was trapped inside, no worshippers were hurt and there were no missiles thrown at it. Comparisons with the kind of demonic crimes committed against European Jews in the pre-war years, and during the occupation of Paris, are profoundly wicked.
I was in rue de la Roquette on 13 July and what actually happened was that a vigilante group called the LDJ (Ligue de Défense Juive, or Jewish Defence League) 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*** Palestine’.
The truth was not only recorded on film, but Serge Benhaïm, the President of the Synagogue, confirmed categorically that there had been no attack on his place of worship, and no damage caused to it or those inside. He said that none of the opposing groups had got within 150 metres of his synagogue……