Two days after heavily armed gunmen killed 12 people at the Paris offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, two gunmen took hostages at a kosher supermarket in a Paris, killing at least four people. Police killed one of the gunmen, who was suspected in yesterday’s murder of a police officer and reportedly affiliated with the gunmen behind the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi, who were also killed in a shootout with police Friday.
The deadly siege on the kosher supermarket, which occurred on a Friday afternoon, when Jewish shoppers would likely be purchasing last-minute items for Shabbat, is not without context. Marc Weitzmann’s sadly prescient five-part series, France’s Toxic Hate, which details the rise of extremism throughout France and its anti-Semitic tendencies, is a helpful primer.
But the other important piece of context is that this attack comes after a truly frightening year for French Jews. Nearly 7,000 French Jews moved to Israel this year, more than double the figure from the previous year. Smaller things, like the viral popularity of the quenelle gesture—a reverse Nazi salute—created by controversial Cameroonian-French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, compounded with attacks on visibly identifiable young Jews in Paris and the quickness with which anti-Israel protests during this summer’s Gaza war devolved into anti-Semitism, have fueled a climate in which many French Jews simply don’t feel safe.
Here’s what the past year looked like for French Jews.
Jan. 26, 2014: Video footage captures anti-government protestors shouting “Juif, la France n’est pas a toi”—“Jew, France is not yours”–at a demonstration in Paris.
March 2, 2014: A Jewish man is beaten on the Paris Metro by assailants who reportedly told him “Jew, we are going to lay into you, you have no country.”
March 3, 2014: France’s Jews demand the election of new chief rabbi (the post had been filled by two interim chief rabbis since April 2013), in a letter that cites the need of a leader “to express the voice of Judaism during the difficult period we are experiencing.”
March 10, 2014: An Israeli man is attacked with a stun gun in the Marais district.
April 3, 2014: A French court fines a 28-year-old Moroccan man $4,130 for posting photos online of himself giving the quenelle salute in front of Grand Synagogue in Bordeaux.
May 15, 2014: A Jewish woman was attacked at a bus stop in Paris’ Montmartre district by a man who shook her baby carriage and said, “Dirty Jewess, enough with your children already, you Jews have too many children, screw you.”
May 19, 2014: A poll of 3,833 French Jews reveals 74 percent have considered emigrating.
June 9, 2014: Two Jewish teenagers and their grandfather are chased by an ax-wielding man and three accomplices as they walk to their synagogue in the Paris suburb of Romainville on Shavuot.
June 10, 2014: A Jewish teen wearing a yarmulke and tzitzit is attacked with a Taser by group of teens at Paris’ Place de la République square. In Sarcelles, two Jewish teens wearing yarmulkes are sprayed with tear gas.
June 23, 2014: Rabbi Haim Korsia is elected Chief Rabbi of France.
June 24, 2014: A French court drops its lawsuit against Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, ruling the French comedian’s video mocking the Holocaust doesn’t constitute hate speech. (Europe’s notoriously strict hate speech laws regulate Holocaust denial as well as “racially or religiously discriminatory expression”.)
July 10, 2014: A 17-year-old Jewish girl is pepper-sprayed at Paris’ Place du Colonel-Fabien square.
July 16, 2014: More than 400 French Jewish emigreés arrive in Israel, most of them young families from Paris and its suburbs.
July 23, 2014: French Prime Minister Manuel Valls denounces anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism. “Anti-semitism, this old European disease,” he said in a speech, has taken “a new form. It spreads on the Internet, in our popular neighborhoods, with a youth that has lost its points of reference, has no conscience of history, and who hides itself behind a fake anti-Zionism.”
Aug. 14, 2014: The Simon Wiesenthal center requests that a small hamlet south of Paris known as La-Mort-aux Juifs—‘Death to the Jews’—since the 11th century change its name.
Sept. 2, 2014: Two French teenage girls are arrested for plotting to blow up a synagogue in Lyon. A Central Directorate of Homeland Intelligence source said the teens were “part of a network of young Islamists who were being monitored by security services.”
Sept. 12, 2014: French anti-Semitic watchdog group SPCJ reports 527 anti-Semitic incidents from Jan. 1 to July 31, 2014. There were 423 incidents reported in all of 2013.
Nov. 5, 2014: Arsonist responsible for setting fire to a kosher supermarket during July 20 riot in Sarcelles is sentenced to four years in prison.
Nov. 12, 2014: In a new spree of anti-Semitic incidents in Paris, a kosher restaurant is firebombed, and a Jewish student wearing a yarmulke is assaulted outside his private high school.
Nov. 21, 2014: French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve expresses his support for the Jewish community. “Every time you feel the violence exercised against you, when you are afraid for your children, when you are worried about this rising violence, remind yourselves that the republic protects you and an interior minister who loves you and who is your friend,” Cazeneuve says at an event sponsored by Station J, a Jewish radio channel.
Dec. 2, 2014: France votes to recognize Palestine as a state, which the Israeli embassy in Paris says sends “the wrong message to leaders and people in the region.”
Dec. 31, 2014: France states the country from which the largest number of Jews immigrated to Israel in 2014. Nearly 7,000 French Jews immigrated to Israel, double the 2013 figure of 3,400.
Related: France’s Toxic Hate
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.