“They spit when I walked in the street,” Joanna Galilli, 28, a French Jew, told the New York Times late last month. She, like many Jews in recent years, had left a suburb of Paris to move to the 17th arrondissement, a district in the city’s western corner with a growing Jewish population. She lamented a “new anti-Semitism”—one that emanates not from the far right but from Muslims.
France is home to Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish populations, and tension between the two communities isn’t new. But it has gained urgency since March, when Mireille Knoll, an octogenarian Holocaust survivor, was stabbed to death in her Paris apartment by her 28-year-old neighbor, Yacine Mihoub. A 21-year-old homeless man, who was with Mihoub at the crime scene, alleged that he had cried “Allahu Akbar!” as he stabbed Knoll. The grisly act drew up memories of the murder, just a year prior, of 67-year-old Sarah Halimi, a Jewish woman who was beaten to death, also by her neighbor—and in the same area of Paris—who proceeded to throw her body off her third-story balcony while also yelling “Allahu Akbar!” It took the judicial authorities ten months, and significant public pressure, to acknowledge that Halimi’s murder was an anti-Semitic crime.
Knoll’s murder, in contrast, was swiftly labeled as such. Thousands marched across France days after her death to condemn anti-Semitism. A month later, some 300 high-profile public figures, intellectuals and elected officials—past and present, across the political spectrum—signed a controversial manifesto published in French daily Le Parisien denouncing a “new anti-Semitism” perpetuated by Muslims, and lambasted what they called the media’s silence on the issue. Persistent attacks, from vandalism to physical aggressions, have led Jewish families