With scooter helmets in hand, a man called Yohan and six buddies stroll around Paris’ 20th arrondissement. The seven look much like a typical group of French students — until they locate a group of Arab men they suspect of perpetrating an anti-Semitic attack the previous day.
Using their helmets as bludgeons, members of France’s Jewish Defense League, or LDJ, set upon the Arabs and beat them. Several of the Arabs attempt to escape in a blue sedan, but the LDJ members pursue the vehicle, causing it to crash into a stone wall.
The attack last August, filmed by a television crew shooting a documentary on LDJ, was one of at least 115 violent incidents that critics attribute to the group since its registration in France in 2001 — a year after the eruption of the second intifada in Israel and the sevenfold increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the 12 years that followed.
“Now they know the price of Jewish blood,” said Yohan, the nom de guerre of Joseph Ayache, one of LDJ’s young bosses.
An offshoot of the American Jewish Defense League, which was founded in New York by the ultranationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1968 and which the FBI considers a domestic terrorist group, LDJ stages violent reprisals to anti-Semitic attacks.
The group, which numbers about 300 members, is now on a collision course with France’s Jewish establishment, which has condemned its activities and threatened a lawsuit.
French authorities have ignored calls to ban LDJ, though in Israel the Kach movement, also founded by Kahane, has been outlawed.
The French government’s apparent acquiescence may have inspired LDJ to ratchet up its deterrent potential by showcasing its activities following the murder of four Jews in Toulouse last year by a Muslim extremist.