PARIS: France is considering disbanding a radical Jewish group whose members clashed with pro-Palestinian activists during rallies over Israel’s offensive in Gaza, a source close to the case said yesterday.
News of the mooted ban on the Jewish Defence League (LDJ) came just ahead of an evening pro-Israel demonstration outside the Jewish state’s embassy, located near the French prime minister’s office.
The rally called by the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) is in response to weeks of pro-Palestinian protests marred by clashes, arrests and allegations of anti-Semitism in which synagogues were targeted and Israeli flags burnt.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve did not specifically refer to the LDJ but said Thursday that “any group that can pose a problem” or did not abide by the law would be banned.
The CRIF’s head Roger Cukierman distanced his group from the LDJ as news of the possible ban emerged, saying: “We share neither their ideology nor their methods.”
“It’s a tiny organisation comprising a few dozen members from what I know,” he said, but expressed surprise that the government was not planning to ban “pro-Palestinian groups which have tried to vandalise eight synagogues in the Paris region.”
The main Jewish students’ union echoed that view. Its head Sacha Reingewirtz said: “I condemn all forms of extremism... but if the government disbands it (the LDJ), it should also ban all the radical groups behind recent anti-Semitic violence.”
The presence of charged-up JDL activists on the sidelines of recent rallies was seen as one of the reasons they turned violent, with clashes outside a synagogue on July 13 leading to a ban on subsequent pro-Palestinian protests.
“We are carrying out an extremely fine analysis of the law,” a source close to the case told AFP, confirming a report by French newspaper Liberation of the move to disband the LDJ.
Last week Cazeneuve said the group’s actions were “excessive” and “should be condemned”.
The French LDJ denies breaking laws. It takes inspiration however from the far-right Jewish Defense League, labelled a terrorist organisation by the FBI in 2001.
It also uses the emblem of a banned Israeli far-right party, the Kach, a raised fist inside a black Star of David, set against a yellow background.
The Gaza conflict has stirred up huge passions in France -- home to the largest Muslim and Jewish communities in western Europe with around five million Muslims and half a million Jews.
While many protests around the country have gone smoothly, some demonstrations in Paris and the northern suburb town of Sarcelles have descended into chaos and looting in which Jewish businesses were targeted.
French far-left and Muslim leaders have been calling for action against the LDJ.