The attack Wednesday on the Naouri kosher supermarket in Sarcelles, a Paris suburb housing an important Jewish community, continued to cause concern for the local community, despite the efforts of some to downplay its significance, following a series of Muslim demonstrations in light of a controversial film and cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed.
“In my opinion, it follows on from the Mohamed incidents. It’s young people who have done this, who discussed it and told themselves: ‘If they’ve done this to us, we’ll do this to them’. It’s stupid, it’s idiotic, it’s a thoughtless act,” Raphael, owner of a nearby butcher to the Nouri supermarket, told AFP.
In any case, for him, it doesn’t represent the views “of all Muslims”.
In this town, nicknamed “little Jerusalem” because of its significant Jewish community, the attack on the grocery shop, doesn’t seem accidental.
“There is a concealed threat of violence here which could explode at any moment. Local youth live with it, they express it every day. It’s very easy, we are visible targets,” fumed Gerard Bouzag, 50, a trader who buys his supplies from the attacked shop.
“We are especially anxious given the approaching Jewish festivals. It’s the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) next Wednesday, we don’t know what might happen,” confided Hubert Ayat, a pensioner who’s lived in the area since 1945.
“Some people justify this violence. They use everything happening in the world to excuse it and, in no time at all, we become scapegoats,” he declared.
“We feel the anxious and confused, but, whatever happens, we won’t stop living,” defied Olivier, father of three.
“This grocers, I go there with my children, it really scares me!” added his wife Jessica. “In general, what happens in the Middle East always makes some reverberations here,” reasoned Olivier.
“We see the cartoons, everything that’s going on, we tell ourselves that it’s a small act of revenge, it’s shocking. This is an area where we all live together, Arabs, Jews, Africans, there is no friction,” assessed Jordan Hadida, 21, a pizza shop worker who’s lived in Sarcelles from a young age. “It’s instigating hatred for nothing!”, he rued.
The district prefect, Pierre-Henry Maccioni, denounced the “extremely significant incident” which constituted, according to him “a really threat for the Jewish community”.
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls made a visit to the area, where he reassured the Jewish community of his wishes and called for calm, according to sources close to him.
Local public prosecutor Yves Jannier refused to qualify it as an act of “anti-Semitism”. “There were no particular demands, no chants, no graffiti that contained any comment. In any case, there weren’t any reported to us by witnesses at the scene of the crime,” he stressed.
According to witnesses at the scene, at about 12:30, two people dressed in black and wearing hoods, entered the shop which is extremely well frequented by the local Jewish community, and which is located in the Flanades shopping centre in Sarcelles. They threw “a weak explosive device”, revealed the department director of the public security service, Pascale Dubois.
Following the explosion, a cloud of smoke rose up in the shop. The perpetrators then left the grocers, breaking the fire exit with a brick or a stone, she added. They were still at large by the end of the day Wednesday.
The mildly injured victim who was hit by “glass or plaster splatters”, according to Dubois, was hospitalised in nearby Gonesse. Three clients present in the shop were treated for “extreme shock”.
“Amongst the witness statements, were some usable elements,” stressed the public procurer, specifying that that the enquiry wouldn’t exclude “any avenue”. “There was a CCTV system in the shop. We won’t know if it was working and if it is usable,” he added.
“There was little damage caused, but the emotional trauma is significant,” declared Joel Mergui, president of the Central Consistory of France, from the scene. “Where is it going to end up? Will it eventually be necessary to protect all the places where the Jewish community goes, the business, the restaurants?”, he demanded.
The Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) insisted “that this attack has direct links to the eruption of violence which followed the release of the Islamophobic film” and “predicts that certain people will continue, against all reason, to implicate the Jews in the production of this film, inciting hate in our country”.
The Ambassador of Israel to France, Yossi Gal, condemned “anti-Semitic aggression”, emphasising that “no symbols either excuse or justify targeting innocent people”.
In Israel, the president of the Knesset Committe on Immigration, Integration and the Diaspora, Danny Danon, announced the launch of an urgent debate inthe Knesset (the Israeli parliament), on the position of Jews in the Diaspora, following the attack in Sarcelles and the outbreak of violence caused by the release of the film Innocence of Muslims and the anti-Mohammed cartoons in French weekly Charlie Hebdo.
“No film justifies infringement on human life and no cartoon justifies touching a hair on a Jewish head,” raged Danon, calling on French president Francoise Hollande to reinforce surveillance equipment in areas surrounding the country’s Jewish infrastructure.
The Security Service of the Jewish Community (SPCJ) stressed Wednesday that the situation “forces us to increase the level of protection of our community and to redouble vigilance outside our synagogues, Jewish schools and community centres and similar locations”.