A 17-year-old French-Jewish student from the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, where Muslim extremist Mohammed Merah went on a shooting spree in March and killed three children and a rabbi, was a victim of a violent attack on Thursday on a train traveling from Toulouse to Lyon.
Two 18-year-olds of North African descent reportedly attacked the student while he was traveling to visit his family. The victim, who boarded the train on Wednesday, was wearing a Star of David around his neck.
According to a source in the French Interior Ministry, "During the ride the victim rose to use one of the bathrooms on board. The two attackers waited for him and severely beat him all over his body. Only after a fellow passenger and train ushers intervened did the violent attack against the youth stop."
Both suspected attackers were arrested Thursday morning at an army enlistment center in Lyon, after they were identified by security personnel from the SNCF train company.
The French Interior Ministry condemned the attack and vowed to act determinedly against acts of anti-Semitism, which "contradict the values of the republic."
The European Jewish Congress on Thursday demanded a more decisive response to the recent escalation in anti-Semitic attacks around Europe.
“While we appreciate the strong condemnation and quick reaction by the French Interior Ministry after this attack, we call on authorities to take a more proactive approach so there will be no reason for statements of regret and denunciation,” EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor said. “All these smaller attacks remind me of smaller tremors before a massive earthquake. The Jewish community cannot afford to be subject to an earthquake and the authorities cannot say that the writing was not on the wall.”
The EJC has outlined serious steps, including legislative measures, which need to be taken by all European states to confront any attempt at the expansion of terrorist and violent activities against Jewish communities. “In the past, pogroms were perpetuated to strike fear and terror among the Jewish communities,” EJC Secretary-General Serge Cwajgenbaum said. “These attacks feel like mini-pogroms because they are instilling a fear in some communities of Europe that Jews have not known for many years. The period of tolerance for anti-Semitism needs to end now.”
In a separate incident last weekend, anti-Semitic graffiti was sprayed on the building housing the Jewish Agency delegation in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Swastikas, along with the words “All of you – to Buchenwald,” appeared in massive lettering on the neighboring building.
“In recent days, we have witnessed a surge in anti-Semitic incidents, primarily in western Europe,” said Amos Hermon, who heads the Jewish Agency task force on anti-Semitism. “The incidents generally involve hateful graffiti targeting Jews, but some have also included violence. The Jewish Agency will continue to work with Jewish communities to combat anti-Semitic and anti-Israel phenomena around the world.”
Hermon noted a protest rally of hundreds of ultra-nationalists against Holocaust commemoration during a Holocaust remembrance event in the Great Synagogue of Riga, Latvia, recently; a rabbi who heads a Jewish educational network who was beaten by three men in the Paris Metro in recent days; a yeshiva student who was beaten by four men in London, and Jewish synagogues that were desecrated in Germany.