(Just a reminder as to the agenda of the French we hear too much from here - is it any wonder that the anti-war crowd is hateful towards Jews? btw - takeo there's a message for you in the Lounge)
Jews attacked in French anti-war protests
Street protests against American and British military action in Iraq have escalated into attacks by Muslim youths on Jewish demonstrators, sparking fears of a new wave of anti-Semitism across France.
The French government was forced to appeal for calm after protesters, some of them carrying pictures of Saddam Hussein, burnt the Israeli flag and turned on Jewish students, attacking one of them with an iron bar, during a series of anti-war rallies.
Officials fear that anti-war sentiment, supported by President Jacques Chirac, may be running out of control and could ignite widespread violence. Banners at recent demonstrations have shown the Star of David intertwined with a Nazi swastika, while protesters shouted "Vive Chirac! Stop the Jews".
In response, French police have announced the formation of a new unit to investigate "racist and anti-Semitic crimes", and stepped-up protection for synagogues and Jewish schools.
Jean-Paul Proust, the head of the Paris Prefecture of Police, promised the new unit would "systematically follow up all complaints".
President Chirac, whose bitter opposition to the United States-led military offensive in Iraq has won him almost universal support in France, has remained silent on the attacks, but his prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, sought to rein in public sentiment, saying that people should "not choose the wrong enemy".
Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister, also warned demonstrators not to use the war in Iraq as an excuse for violence. "Whether it is a case of French Muslims or French Jews, each has the right to pray, believe and live his faith as he sees fit," he said.
Public passions have been fuelled by anti-war rhetoric in the French media, which has concentrated on civilian casualties and highlighted setbacks suffered by the coalition forces.
An opinion poll in the newspaper Le Monde found that almost a third of French people wanted Saddam to win the war. Only 53 per cent wanted the Anglo-American forces to triumph.
The fears of increased anti-Semitism come only a month after the French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin allegedly told a group of centre-Right MPs that "the hawks in the US administration are in the hands of [Ariel] Sharon".
At a private meeting, Mr Villepin referred scathingly to the "pro-Zionist" lobby, including Paul Wolfowitz, America's deputy defence secretary, Richard Perle, who recently resigned as chairman of President Bush's defence policy review board, and Elliot Abrams, the head of the National Security Council, according to the weekly satirical magazine Le Canard Enchaine.
In his attempt to redress the balance, Mr Raffarin said last week: "We believe that this war was a bad choice - but the Americans are not our enemies. Being against the war does not mean that we want dictatorship to triumph over democracy. Our camp is the camp of democracy."
A government official admitted to concern about increasing tensions, particularly in the banlieus, the sprawling suburbs of France's main cities. In these areas of high immigration, police report a growing amount of anti-US, anti-British and anti-Jewish graffiti.
The official said: "It would only take a spark for this hostility to feed into uncontrolled forms of violence." Last week vandals defaced a memorial at a British First World War cemetery in northern France, daubing a demand that Britain "dig up its rubbish which is contaminating our soil" alongside a swastika.
Meanwhile, staff at the British Embassy in Paris have been advised to "play down our Britishness" after several reported being harassed.
At a security briefing they were told to avoid speaking English in sensitive situations, to avoid directing taxis to the embassy building in the rue Faubourg St Honore and to change their diplomatic car plates. The ambassador, Sir John Holmes, has been given extra French police protection.
Noam Levy, a 24-year-old French Jew, was beaten with an iron bar as he took part in a Paris protest and needed several stitches to his head. "As a Jew, I now know that I do not have a place in the anti-war protests," he said. "I was shocked by the comparison of the state of Israel to the Nazis and by anti-Zionist slogans."
The National Consultative Committee on Human Rights said that acts of violence against Jews and Jewish property in France had increased six times in 2002.