This article, another translation from the investigative website, MediaPart, deals in-depth with the Jewish Defence League, its appearances at pro-Palestine demonstrations in France, and the French state's collusion with it. I am grateful to Maurice Lanselle for the translation.
Pro-Palestine demonstrators, overrun by partisans of Dieudonné and of Alain Soral, also face the competing mobilization of small, radical Jewish groups, and in particular the Jewish Defence League (LDJ in French). Who are the militants of this Jewish organization on the far right, an organization which some call to have outlawed?
Last Wednesday, pro-Palestinian militants demonstrated in Paris again, this time with the government's authorization. Overrun by partisans of Dieudonné or Alain Soral, they are also confronted by the competing mobilization of small, radical Jewish groups (or factions). Among them, the Ligue de défense juive (LDJ), Jewish organisation of the far right.
This faction, widely present on the Internet and in social networks - where it promises to defend the Jewish community and send the "Muslim pro-terrorism vandals" "to the hospital" - uses violent methods. It patrols some neighbourhoods like the rue des Rosiers, an emblematic street for the Jewish community of Paris, to "provide security."
On 22nd July, the on-line petition platform wesign.it, which hosts a petition calling for the dissolution of the LDJ, published a communiqué accusing the group of attacking its Internet site. "We underwent an attack with an exorbitant number of IP addresses from Sweden, the United States and numerous Western countries," Baki Youssoufou, founder of wesign.it, explained to Mediapart.
On Facebook, the organization announced that it would come to each pro-Palestinian demonstration to "accompany" in its manner the pro-Palestinian demonstrators - although, there was no specific call to attend Wednesday's demonstration in evidence.
In the past few days, the LDJ has been at the heart of several confrontations around synagogues. On 13th July, for example, some of its members confronted pro-Palestinian militants near the synagogue of the rue de la Roquette, at the end of the demonstration of solidarity with Gaza, before the groups were separated by the CRS (the national police force). Several conflicting accounts of those events have appeared. (See our article
). "We only defended ourselves," asserted the LDJ. However, there are indications that the confrontation was premeditated. In an amateur video broadcast by i-Télé
, members of the LDJ can be seen brandishing motorcycle helmets, iron bars, tear gas cannisters, table legs and chairs from the restaurant La Cappadoce, before taking refuge behind the CRS police line.
Asked about this incident, on France inter this Wednesday, the Interior Minister* Bernard Cazeneuve judged the the Ligue de défense juive "has crossed limits." "It is involved in acts which may be reprehensible and must be condemned and these acts are so [condemned] by me in extremely firm manner" he asserted. Before adding that "if acts of violence have been committed, complaints have been filed, the law will be applied."
The minister nevertheless denied the claim of a listener that the police had provided protection to the LDJ activists. "The police forces interposed themselves between the LDJ and the demonstrators to avoid confrontations," stated Bernard Cazeneuve. "All these stories, all these assertions that the police might have been complicit with the LDJ and that explains why the demonstrations went wrong, are purely and simply manipulation."
During the day on Wednesday, the blogger Al-Kanz was left speechless upon finding that a tweet from the Minister "firmly" condemning the "reprehensible acts" of the LDJ had been deleted from his official Twitter account. According to his office, when contacted by Mediapart, what had been erased was the entirety of the "live Tweet" from the Minister's appearance on the France inter morning show, which was deleted "as usual" and replaced by a link to the video of the interview. "Bernard Cazeneuve can repeat what he said about the LDJ fifty times if need be," we were assured. Several "live Tweet" sessions from media appearances by Bernard Cazeneuve have nevertheless been conserved on his account, such as his 9th July session on France info.
Who are the militants of the LDJ? The small group claims several hundred militants, but in fact only has about forty, with a hard core of about fifteen people, essentially young people based in Paris and Lyon. Among its leaders, one finds Jean-Claude Nataf, who also goes by the aliases "Amon Cohen" or "Carlisle." Man of networks, he has his hand on the group's communication tools and maintains contacts with the French far right. In 2013, Mediapart spotted him in the crowd of the May 1st gathering of the Front national (FN), where he listened to Marine Le Pen's speech in the company of Philippe Péninque, formerly of [the violent student neofascist group] GUD and unofficial advisor of the FN party president.
His first contacts with the French far right, retraced by the anti-fascist information site REFLEXes, go back to the early 2000s, via Louis Aliot, current number two of the FN. According to Libération, he also attended the "Blue White Red" festival of the Front national, in the mid-2000s. In parallel, he also frequented the former FN member Jean-François Touzé, with whom he is close, and turned to the leaders of the Bloc identitaire (BI) for a time. A meeting with Fabrice Robert and Richard Roudier, who he had already met in 2005, took place on the sidelines of a BI demonstration in Paris.
In 2010, le Monde reported a note posted on the LDJ web site, in which its administrator supported Marine Le Pen after she assimilated prayers of Muslims in the street and the German Occupation. A year later, after the death of a jeweller killed in the course of a robbery, Nataf explained in le Parisien that "in the [Jewish] community" some are "more and more tempted by a protest vote in favour of the Front national." For a section of the LDJ takes a favourable view of the strategy of "de-demonisation" of Marine Le Pen, her nudges and winks in the direction of the Jewish community (Louis Aliot travelled to Israël in late 2011) and her anti-Islam discourse.
Prior to the 2012 presidential election, the LDJ published on its web site a "clarification" that was rather ambiguous. The organization "does not support the Front national," one could read, "although the position taken by the FN against Islamization remains a significant step among the political urgencies of our country." More recently, the organization "rejoiced" that Marine Le Pen had "killed the father" following the declarations of Jean-Marie Le Pen about an "ovenload" of Jewish celebrities. On July 21, in a memo titled "No, it is not the Front national that attacks synagogues," the organization [LDJ] reprimands watch committees--comprising the Union of Jewish students of France (UEJF) and SOS Racisme--observing FN mayors.
On Twitter, the faction cultivates this same duality, combining defence of the FN with provocations:
COMMUNIQUE LDJ: the killer in Brussels is not a member of the Front National
COMMUNIQUE LDJ: anti-Semitic aggression in Paris day-before-yesterday the aggressor is not a member of the Front National.
LDJ_Paris: For Marine Le Pen, the FN is the best shield to protect French Jews.
LDJ_Paris: The FN first party of France. The yellow star on the torso is coming soon.
LDJ Militants Already Convicted of Aggression
Concurrently, part of the LDJ approached the anti-Islam collective Riposte Laïc and its satellite unit Republican resistance. In several instances, it was militants of the League that provided security services for events organized in 2010 by Riposte Laïc -- like the apéro républicain (republican aperitif), a demonstration held in front of the Iranian embassy, or the "Judgement panel (Assises) on islamization." Organized with the 'identitaires' [the “cultural” racists of the Identitaires movement], the security of this event was provided under the oversight of Philippe Wagner, a former skinhead nationalist who had joined the LDJ. The president of Résistance républicaine, Christine Tasin, remembers. In a memo, July 16th, she salutes the "patriotism" of the organization and expresses "relief to know that LDJ exists, is effective."
What are the militant actions of the LDJ? On its web site, the organization presents itself as a "patriotic and nationalist Jewish movement" which aims to "protect the Jews of France from the verbal and physical violence of their enemies." It asserts that it favours a "pacifist discourse." But on social networks, it claims credit for acts of violence:
Tweets from 17 January 2014, when militants of LDJ confronted Dieudonné supporters.
LDJ_Paris: Young Jewish girls assaulted by little nazis near the Bastille. The LDJ is going back there! SHAME ON YOU!
LDJ_Paris: The response to the assaults undergone by these young girls has been firm. Unfortunately for the anti-Semites, most dentists are Jewish.
Tweet from 27 March 2014
LDJ_Paris: The '30s are over. The blood of the professor lynched because Jewish last week will be avenged very soon, this is a promise! #LDJveille (LDJwatches).
And emits radical messages:
Tweet of 6 April 2014:
We repeat always: assimilation and mixed marriage took more Jewish lives than the Shoah.
In the field, the faction behaves like a militia which supposedly backing up the police and proliferates messages of support to the police. Examples:
LDJ_Paris: We are about 200 in front of the synagogue in #Sarcelles in case the CRS line proves insufficient ! No journalists...(Tweet of 20 July 2014)
Photo posted on LDJ Facebook account, 20 July 2014. Four young men seated on the ground against a wall, hands apparently attached behind their backs.
The organization functions with a core of youths led by a gang leader and violent methods that some of its members admit, as in this video broadcast in 2009:
On its site, on social media or YouTube, the LDJ shows off its violent in-your-face actions. One sees, for instance, militants spraying with red paint the Moroccan Jewish writer and militant anti-Zionist Jacob Cohen, the president of the association CAPJO-EuroPalestine Olivia Zémor, or the spokesperson of the "Indigenous of the republic" Houria Bouteldja.
But other of the organization's actions go far beyond symbolic violence. The list of assaults authored by the LDJ is long (see the catalogue amassed by the journal Politis and the article of the daily Times of Israel which lists 115 violent incidents since 2001). Some of its members have been convicted of acts of violence.
In 2002, militants of the Betar and the LDJ provoked violent incidents during a demonstration of support for Israel in Paris. A police commissioner was gravely wounded after a stabbing. In 2004, one of its leaders was convicted of assaulting students from the Nanterre university campus in the administrative court building in Paris. In 2009, four of its members were convicted after the vandalism, with ski masks, sticks and bottles of oil, of a Paris bookstore close to the Palestinian cause. The same year, they were suspected of being responsible for the assault of three high school students, two of whom were of Tunisian descent.
Two years later, the LDJ violently interrupted a meeting organized by the France-Palestine association. Rue89
[an online investigative journal] described this aggressive operation: "Israel will win" signs, Israeli flags waved, wearing leather gloves weighted with lead or sand.
The same year, the organization created a controversy by announcing in a communiqué that it was sending an expedition of "militants with military experience" to "help (their) brothers faced by the aggressions of the Palestinian occupants" and "reinforce the security measures of the Jewish cities of Judea and Samaria (West Bank territory, ed. note) ."
Metronews reminds that in June 2013, the LDJ had published a message claiming responsibility for the violent assault on a youth. Several associations or sites had denounced this Facebook post made while the victim was in a coma.
In 2012, "Enquête exclusive"
[an investigative television show broadcast on the M6
channel], demonstrated how the organization acts as vigilantes in Paris, sometimes with illegal methods, under the orders of their leader, then faced by three accusations of aggression. One sees them practise shooting (despite being forbidden from bearing arms in France) and explain that they are "prepared to face threats that might be made against Israel." One also sees the organization prowling in the Marais neighbourhood of Paris in the middle of the night, for an unauthorized postering campaign of posters calling for murder of the anti-Semitic killer of Ilan Halimi. A few days later, they made a punitive expedition to the porte de Bagnolet, with telescopic clubs, to avenge an adolescent supposedly the victim of an anti-Semitic insult.
In 2004, "Complément d'enquête" [another investigative television show] revealed that the members of LDJ trained in a government building protected by the French police. The broadcast by France 2 had filmed about forty of their members being trained at "krav maga", combat techniques used by the Israeli army, in this building.
“If at some point, the LDJ meets the criteria for dissolution, it will be applied.”
Around the Jewish Defence League, a whole galaxy of youths gravitate. Besides the Betar, another movement of radical Jewish youth, a multitude of little communitarian groups form. They meet in krav maga clubs, like the Maccabi, in the Xth arrondissement of the capital. They are linked via social networks, where they launch calls to converge on the synagogues.
The LDJ remains, however, an ultra small minority within the Jewish community. "It's a tiny little organization, which is not affiliated with Jewish institutions, which is not a member of the Crif," "it's very, very marginal" discounted Roger Cukierman, the president of the Crif (Representative council of Jewish institutions of France), questioned by RFI on the responsibility of the LDF in the current tensions.
A "tiny" organization that some parties and associations call to have disbanded again. The LDJ is issued from the Jewish Defense League, founded in 1969 by the rabbi Meir Kahane in the United States then in Israel, and claims that affiliation. Its creator also founded the Kach party (since become the Kahane Chai), which calls for the expulsion of Arab populations from Palestine out of "Greater Israel." The party was outlawed by the Israeli government in 1994 after the Hebron massacre [committed] by one of its members. It is classified a terrorist organization by the American government.
These are the arguments put forward by the Communist deputy Jean-Jacques Candelier to demand the disbanding of the LDJ. In an open letter to François Hollande, July 19th, he denounces "a criminal organization." "The impunity of these barbarians whose only goal is to conflate Judaism and Zionism is unacceptable," argues the deputy. On the left, other elected representatives demand this disbanding. "It appears that there have been provocations by the Jewish Defence League (LDJ), so I am in favour of its disbanding," declared the senator Esther Benbassa (EELV) in les Inrockuptibles [a French weekly rock music and culture magazine] .
This is not a first. The Mrap [a French anti-racist NGO] has demanded this disbanding since 2002, following several aggressions attributed to the LDJ. "The violence of this group, the advertising on Internet of its paramilitary training programs, the videos recounting the group's commando actions, its provocations even into courthouses, cannot be ignored by the ministry," complained the Movement against racism, again in July, 2012.
Meanwhile, the French Jewish Union for Peace (UJFP, a progressive Jewish pro-Palestinian organisation) was also joining the fray, expressing to Manuel Valls their amazement that the LDJ be "one of the rare fascist militias authorized in France." "In France, it has multiplied its attacks on authorized demonstrations, gatherings, public meetings, associations' facilities, and has committed anti-Arab brutalities," the association accused.**
According to Libération, the charter of the Ligue de défense juive was first filed with the prefecture as "Liberty, democracy and Judaism." On 19 July 2003, barely two years after its creation, the LDJ disbanded itself. Since that day, it is thus only an informal group, not legally registered in the Journal officiel (official record).
In the context of the law of 10 January 1936 regarding combat units and private militias, the president of the Republic can dissolve (disband) militias by decree, whether or not they are constituted as associations. That is what was done for the "Service d'action civique" (SAC), dissolved by François Mitterand in 1982. More recently, 1 March 2012, Nicolas Sarkozy dissolved the Islamist radical faction "Forsane Alliza" on the basis of it being a "combat group" which had for "goal to hinder the republican form of government by force."
In July 2013, after the murder of militant antifascist Clément Méric, François Hollande dissolved several far right organizations (12 July 2013): "Third Way", the "Revolutionary nationalist youth" of Serge Ayoub, then, two weeks later (25 July 2013) the "Nationalist youth" of Alexandre Gabriac and l'Oeuvre française (see our articles here
Due to its [potentially] freedom-destructive character, this measure must meet stringent conditions and be preceded by contradictory debate. To dissolve "l’Œuvre française," for instance, the president of the Republic applied three grounds expressly defined by the law: the form and military organization of the movement; its avowed worship of the collaboration and the Vichy regime; and its ideology inciting hatred of, and discrimination against foreigners, Jews and Muslims. The State Council*** validated these grounds on 25 October 2013, rejecting the appeals filed by the leaders of this far right movement.
"The State Council recognizes a private militia by its hierarchic paramilitary organization, the obedience of all to its chief, its collective training in martial arts, its capacity to conduct strikes of force, that is to say to mobilize its members collectively and rapidly for a particular event and in a logic of violence," explains lawyer Nicolas Gardères in Le Nouvel Obs.
Asked Tuesday by Mediapart in Marseille about an eventual disbanding of the LDJ, Bernard Cazeneuve skirted the reply, answering that no group can be allowed to be "in violation of the principles of the Republic if one wishes these values to prevail." He then cut short his press conference, at the police headquarters, regarding the elucidation of several of the recent inter-gang killings by the criminal investigation unit.
"If at some point, the LDJ meets the criteria [for dissolution], it will be applied," his office clarifies, reminding that dissolution is "an exceptional procedure, which must meet stringent conditions." "We know that it is composed of ill-intentioned people and they have been monitored for years by the Ministry of the Interior which is very vigilant," reassures the office of the Ministry. "The best demonstration is that the demonstration planned by LDJ for Sarcelles Sunday has been forbidden as well."
"It is clear that the LDJ is not simple and that its members cause more problems than anything else, but the prefecture can do nothing as long as the Minister of the Interior does nothing", laments a responsible of the Paris prefecture, in Metronews, anonymously.
This Monday, we submitted a list of questions to the Ministry of the Interior, the prefecture and the public prosecutor of Paris concerning the lack of reaction on the part of the police July 13 when faced with armed LDJ militants on the street, on the building where the LDJ trains according to "Complément d'enquête", on the legal sequels to several physical aggressions attributed to LDJ, etc. Many are still unanswered.
*The French Interior Minister is roughly equivalent to the US Secretary of Homeland Security.
** The original term in French is "ratonnade", a modern term (first attested use in 1960) designating violence exerted against a North-African community for punishment of actions attributed to some of its members. More generally, brutality exerted against any particular group. [[http://www.cnrtl.fr/definition/Ratonnade][Centre national de ressources textuelles et Léxicales]].
*** State Council: Conseil d'état, a French state institution (since 1799) which advises the government on matters of administrative law and decrees.