Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
News

Soccer Fans’ Brawl Jolts French Jews

A deadly incident rife with racial and political overtones has roiled France for the past week and heightened a sense of siege among the country’s 600,000-strong Jewish community.

On November 23, a fan of the Paris Saint-Germain soccer team was shot and killed and another fan was seriously wounded by a plainclothes police officer who was rescuing a French Jew after a game between Paris and an Israeli team, Hapoel Tel Aviv.

The prosecutor in charge of the case said that the policeman, who is black, probably acted in self-defense to protect himself and the Jewish fan, Yanniv Hazout, from a group of a dozen enraged Paris supporters near the stadium after the game, which the Israeli team won 4-2.

The officer, Caribbean native Antoine Granomort, was beaten before drawing his weapon and firing. In the ensuing confusion, Granomort and Hazout escaped to a nearby McDonald’s restaurant and locked the doors behind them. Paris fans then set upon the restaurant, smashing windows and chanting antisemitic and racist slogans before police backup eventually arrived.

Police said the 24-year-old Paris fan who was killed was linked to a fan club known as the Boulogne Boys, of which some members have connections to Paris Saint-Germain’s violent, far-right fan base. For years, those fans have routinely chanted racist songs and made Nazi salutes during games. The fan club denied any political ties and held peaceful rallies after the incident. The wounded fan, who is of North African origin, has dismissed any suspicion that the attack was racial in nature.

The bloody incident has ignited a furious debate over the alleged failure of government and soccer authorities to eradicate recurring violence and racist outbursts in and around soccer stadiums in France and elsewhere in Europe. Some critics have linked the incident to the far-right ideology of frequent presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen. According to the prosecutor and several witnesses, some of the Paris team’s fans chanted “Le Pen, president” during the attack. The rightist leader blasted the prosecutor and warned that his party would sue anyone linking it to the shooting.

The multiracial nature of last week’s incident added fuel to ongoing debates over France’s identity. Reactions were particularly emotional in a Jewish community that is already concerned about the rise in the number of antisemitic acts, most of them committed by Muslims, since the beginning of the intifada six years ago.

Patrick Klugman, who is a vice president of the anti-discrimination group SOS Racisme and a board member of CRIF, the main Jewish umbrella organization, described what happened as a “pre-pogrom.”

Richard Prasquier, another CRIF official, noted that several spectators recounted being surrounded by hardcore fans who asked if they were Jewish. Some said they had witnessed Jews getting chased and beaten up by neo-Nazis and other fans.

A Jewish blogger who claims he was at the game wrote in a posting that it was the worst antisemitic atmosphere he ever had witnessed, with both far-right and Muslim supporters of the Paris team insulting the Israeli squad and its Jewish supporters during and after the game.

While the number of antisemitic incidents in France has decreased in recent years, largely because of the authorities’ increased efforts, the Jewish community was jolted earlier this year when a 22-year-old Jew was found dead after being tortured by a racially mixed band of young delinquents. The perpetrators were said to be interested primarily in obtaining a ransom, believing that Jews are wealthy.

Last week’s incident served as a stark reminder that the old far-right antisemitism is still alive, both politically — Le Pen is polling more than 15% in advance of a presidential election next April — and in the street.

“Those who pretend that certain Jews, disillusioned by the emergence and the trivialization of a violent antisemitism hiding behind the mask of anti-Zionism, would be tempted to turn to the extreme right to fight common enemies can see it: This attitude, which would negate a terrible past, would be as blind politically as it is shameful morally,” Prasquier, the CRIF official, wrote in an opinion essay in the daily Le Monde.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, the leading conservative presidential contender and a favorite of the Jewish community, announced that a law making it possible to dissolve fan groups that do not dissociate themselves from racist movements would be implemented starting December 1. The opposition Socialists accused the minister, an avowed Paris fan, of years of failure to act more diligently.

The new Socialist leader, Segolene Royal, is running neck and neck with Sarkozy in the polls, and both are expected to face off in a decisive second round of the presidential election. The 78-year-old Le Pen, however, is planning his final presidential run. He is hoping for the same upset he scored in the 2002 election, when he gathered more voices than the Socialist candidate and faced Jacques Chirac in a runoff. Chirac then won handily in the second round.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.