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French government vows tough response to rise in anti-Semitism
The perpetrators of a series of anti-Semitic acts in France at the weekend must be charged and severely punished, France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has said.
A visibly moved Castaner was speaking in a Paris suburb where a tree planted in memory of a young Jewish man who was tortured to death in 2006 has been chopped down.
Municipal workers discovered the hate crime on Monday when they went to prepare the memorial site for an annual remembrance ceremony scheduled for Wednesday.
It is the latest in a series of acts and attacks which have raised fears of a new wave of anti-Semitism in the country, which is home to Europe's largest Jewish population.
Spreading like poison
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner warned that "anti-Semitism is spreading like poison" as he declared that such acts had surged by 74 percent last year, with 541 incidents reported in 2018 compared to 311 the previous year.
In the past two days in Paris, the word "Juden", with its echoes of Nazi Germany, was sprayed on the window of a bagel bakery; while swastikas were found drawn on Paris post boxes decorated with a portrait of the holocaust survivor and former French government minister Simone Veil.
The rise in anti-Semitic attacks pre-dates the Yellow Vest movement but there are suggestions that some of the recent acts might have been committed during the general vandalism and violence which sometimes accompanies their weekend protests.
The work of infiltrators?
Government spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux suggested that some of the recent acts could be the work of far-left and far-right activists who have infiltrated the Yellow Vests. An opinion poll released on Monday revealed that nearly half of the Yellow Vests believe conspiracy theories of a worldwide "Zionist plot".
The Jewish community has also been targeted by so-called jihadists in recent years.
In 2011 an Islamist gunman shot dead a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse and in 2015 a man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group killed four people at a Kosher supermarket in Paris.