1980 Paris synagogue bombing

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The 1980 Paris synagogue bombing was a bombing directed against the synagogue of the French Israeli Liberal Union which was committed in Paris on 3 October 1980 on the evening of Shabbat and day of Jewish celebration of Sim'hat Torah so that a lot of faithful people went to the temple. It was the first deadly attack against Jewish people in France since the end of the Second World War. Hassan Diab, a Canadian of Lebanese origin was extradited to France on 15 November 2014. Thousands of Canadians, including many Jews, believe Dr. Diab to be a victim of mistaken identity and a Canadian extradition judge has stated that French evidence presented “a weak case” and that “the prospects of conviction in the context of a fair trial, seem unlikely". (J.Maranger, 6 June 2011)

The synagogue, 24 Copernic Street, Paris

Proceedings[edit]

This anti-Semitic bombing, on 3 October 1980 at 6:38PM, directed against the synagogue of the French Israeli Liberal Union Union liberale, Copernic street in Paris, led to 4 deaths and 46 injuries. The glass roof of the synagogue fell down on the worshipers, and one of the doors was blown through. Some cars on the street were projected into the road, the fronts windows of shops were blown through up to 150 metres.

Philippe Bouissou (22 years old) who passed by on his motorbike was killed directly. Aliza Shagrir (42 years old), Israeli TV presentator on holidays in France, was also directly killed while she was walking on the pavement, just like Jean Michel Barbé, a family driver who used to frequently visit the synagogue. Hilario Lopes-Fernandez, the Portuguese housekeeper of the Victor Hugo hotel, almost located in front of the temple, was grievously wounded and died two days later.

The commemorative plaque affixed onto the synagogue indicates : "In memory of Jean Michel Barbé, Philippe Bouissou, Hilario Lopez Fernandez, Aliza Shagrir killed during the odious attack committed against this synagogue on 3 October 1980."

Commemorative plaque onto the synagogue

The explosive weighing about 10 kilos of pentrite, in the bags of a blue Suzuki TS 125 motorbike parked about 10 meters from the synagogue, still could have caused more victims if it had happened a few minutes later, when the worshiping left : as it was the day before shabbat, the synagogue was full with 300 people coming to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of three boys and Bat Mitsva of two young girls. The Rabbi Michael Williams in fact fell behind schedule during the ceremony.

The day after, a spontaneous march of several thousands of people took place in front of the synagogue, and then went to the Champs Elysées. While other protests took place in other cities in provinces. On 7 October 1980, we saw a demonstration of 200,000 people marching from Nation to République*. Several MPs (Members of Parliament) joined the movement, all parties taken together.

The Prime Minister, Raymond Barre, shocked on 3 October by saying on TF1* : "This odious bombing wanted to strike Jews who were going to the synagogue and it hit innocent French people who crossed the Copernic street", a Freudian slip that his words of the 8 October in the National Assembly, assuring his "Jewish compatriots" of the "sympathy of the all nation", will not been erased of memories. Just before his death in August 2007, Raymond Barre attributed this campaign of protestations to "Jewish lobby".

Extreme right-wing leads and political utilisation[edit]

Less than one hour after the attack, an anonymous correspondent called the Agence France-Presse claiming that the bombing was in name of Faisceaux Nationalistes Révolutionnaires – a reconstitution of the National and European Action Federation, an extreme right-wing organisation banned by the government on 3 September.

The marches targeted uppermost the right government who had the power. On Saturday 4 October, the Comité de liaison des étudiants sionistes socialistes (Socialist Zionist Student Liaison Committee) organised a march with the anthem "Bonnet, Giscard, accomplices of murderers !"

The police and the DST were however convinced very early on that the FANE was not able to commit this bombing and favoured the Middle Eastern lead. In November, a note from the German criminal police sent to Paris, claimed that the bombing was committed by a commando of five people from Lebanon.

The superintendent Jean-Pierre Pochon explains in his book the pressures practised by the new socialist political power to steer the investigation to the extreme right-wing environment in detriment of the Middle-Eastern lead. A year after the attack, Jean-Yves Pellay, in charge of the police presence of the FANE admitted being the author of the anonymous call to the Agence France-Presse and confessed to be in fact a Zionist activist who infiltrated the structure. He declared to the newspaper Le Matin "They asked me to infiltrate the FANE".

See also[edit]