PARIS - The August 22 blaze and vandalism in an eastern Paris Jewish center that caused a world-wide outcry was initially believed to have been motivated by anti-Semitism. However, officials are now holding a Jewish man for questioning.
The center was daubed with swastikas and set on fire, prompting renewed pledges by French authorities to declare war anti-Semitism and racism. Visiting Israeli Foreign Minister, Silvan Shalom, toured the site a couple of days after the fire, condemning the attack but praising French efforts to curb a rise in anti-Semitism in the country.
The anti-Semitic graffiti and swastikas scrawled on the walls of the Jewish center were made with a red marker. But on Tuesday, officials said that tests on markers found at the suspect's home were identical to the ones used for the graffiti. Police are said to no longer be treating the arson and vandalism as an anti-Semitic attack.
Sensitivity over the issue was heightened earlier last month when a 23-year-old woman said she and her infant child had been viciously attacked by a gang of Arab and African men who mistook her for a Jew. She claimed the men ripped off her clothes, beat her and mistreated her baby. Subsequently, she admitted her story was a complete lie. She was given a four-month suspended sentence.
Anti-Semitic acts have more than doubled in France in the first seven months of this year compared with 2003. Yet, these false attacks, the purpose of which is to portray the Jews as victims, may cause officials to second guess their investigations.