Reported rape of Jewish girl linked to rising antisemitism in France

The reported rape of a 12-year-old Jewish girl in a suburb of Paris has brought protesters into the streets and drawn condemnations from top politicians, who have linked the episode to rampant antisemitism.

French authorities indicted two 13-year-old boys on charges of aggravated rape, making religious insults and death threats, and recording or sharing images of a sexual nature, among other crimes, prosecutors said in a Wednesday statement. A third boy, age 12, was charged with being an assisting witness to a rape, as well for making religious insults and death threats.

According to prosecutors, the girl said in a police interview that she had known one of the boys before the attack. In police interviews, all three boys expressed regret toward the girl without addressing their alleged involvement, prosecutors said. Authorities did not identify any of the minors.

Details of the case have sent shock waves through France.

“Raped at 12 years old because she is Jewish,” Prime Minister Gabriel Attal wrote on X, denouncing “a monstrous and abject act.”

The chief rabbi of France, Haïm Korsia, said he was “horrified” by reports of the attack. “No one can be excused from this unprecedented surge of antisemitism,” he said in a social media post.

Reports of antisemitic acts have skyrocketed in France, with French Jews expressing alarm for their safety. The Interior Ministry recorded 1,676 antisemitic attacks last year, a fourfold increase over 2022. The majority of the recorded acts took place in November and December, after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the start of Israel’s war in Gaza.

In April, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin ordered local officials to step up security at synagogues and Jewish schools.

Activists have called for a mass demonstration against antisemitism in Paris on Friday.

On Wednesday, French media reported that more than 1,000 people attended a rally at Paris’s City Hall. Its organizers said they gathered to stop the rise of anti-Jewish hatred and to offer solidarity to the 12-year-old victim. Addressing the crowd, French Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti warned against minimizing instances of antisemitism: “After words, there are acts. And after fiery words, there are fires,” he said.

Across the political aisle, Jordan Bardella, the 28-year-old far-right leader of the populist National Rally, said it was essential to combat the atmosphere of antisemitism in France.

The French far right has itself been historically linked to antisemitism. National Front party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen was repeatedly fined for diminishing the Nazi gas chambers as a mere “detail” in the history of World War II.

But his daughter Marine Le Pen has rebranded the party, moderating its tone and expanding its appeal. In European Parliament elections this month, National Rally claimed victory over French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition. The party is also expected to perform well in the upcoming snap legislative elections, potentially getting a chance to govern for the first time.

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