Anti-Semitic violence in France up in early 2004

Anti-Semitic violence in France rose in the first three months of the year, the Interior Ministry said Saturday, a day after 127 graves were found desecrated at a Jewish cemetery.

The ministry said that 67 acts of violence against Jews were recorded in the first trimester of 2004, up from 42 in the last three months of 2003.

The increase could be attributed to greater police vigilance and campaigns by the Jewish community encouraging people to report such crimes, the ministry said.

Vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in eastern France, where 127 headstones were painted with swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti, drew swift condemnation from the government. Authorities said the graves were defaced overnight Thursday.

President Jacques Chirac called the acts “appalling and intolerable.”

Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin canceled his appointments Friday and visited the cemetery in the Alsatian village of Herrlisheim.

Some of the writing was in German, including one headstone that read “Juden Raus,” or “Out with the Jews.”

In the last several years, France has suffered a wave of violence against Jewish schools, synagogues and cemeteries that coincided with new fighting in the Middle East. Many of the attacks have been blamed on young Muslims.

More recently, France’s large Muslim community has also faced several attacks. In a case of suspected arson last month, fire damaged a mosque and destroyed a Muslim prayer hall in the southeast.

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