Anti-Seimitic graffiti appeared on more than 100 tombstones in a Jewish cemetery located in a small village near the French eastern city of Strasbourg as the region faces an upsurge of anti-Jewish sentiment.
As many as 107 graves out of a total of 700 have been desecrated in the small village of Westhoffen, a home for just 1,600 people, located 25 kilometers west of Strasbourg. The tombstones were covered with swastika and anti-Jewish symbols. The number ‘14’ considered to be a white supremacist symbol was also found on one of the graves.
“It’s a shock,” Maurice Dahan, the president of the Jewish consistory for the Bas-Rhin region, where Strasbourg is located, told AFP. Meanwhile, the local public prosecutor’s office said that the incident was part of a series of similar acts of vandalism, adding that anti-Semitic graffiti were found in another local village of Schaffhouse-sur-Zorn shortly before that.
The region has indeed seen a rise in attacks on cemeteries, in particular, being targeted by vandals. The most high-profile incident involved the desecration of 96 graves at the historic Jewish cemetery in the village of Quatzenheim in December 2018. A similar incident happened in Herrlisheim, north-east of Strasbourg around that time.
Apart from that, anti-Seimitic symbols were also discovered on the wall of the town hall of Dieffenthal in April and, a few days later, the walls of a local council office in Schiltigheim were also covered with swastikas and insults. Other incidents involved swastikas being painted on a school building in Strasbourg and on an old synagogue in Mommenheim in March.
None of the perpetrators in these cases have been identified or detained. This time, the investigation has been entrusted to a special gendarmerie unit. The inquiry is still ongoing.
The incident also comes on the day when the French Parliament adopted a resolution on combating anti-Semitism, which partially equates it to criticism of Israel.
“Criticizing the very existence of Israel as a collective composed of Jewish citizens is tantamount to hatred towards the Jewish community as a whole; just like collectively holding Jews accountable for the policies of the Israeli authorities is an expression of antisemitism,” the document says, describing anti-Zionism as “one of [the] contemporary forms of antisemitism.”
Such a definition of anti-Semitism was met with resentment even by some Jewish and Israeli scholars. Almost 130 of them signed a petition urging the French Parliament not to endorse the document. They argued that it was “cynical and insensitive” toward Palestinians who lost their homes to Israel ,as well as dismissive of Jews that hold anti-Zionist opinions.
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