According to news agency reports, the first assault took place on December 21 in Lyon. The next day, last Sunday, another attack was carried out in Villeurbanne. Police suspect that the local "league" – a right-wing Jewish organization affiliated with the late Rabbi Meir Kahane – is behind these acts, and that the gang tracked down its victims on social networks.
JTA reports that two of the victims were tracked down for performing the "quenelle," an anti-Semitic gesture conceived by comedian and Holocaust denier Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, which is gaining momentum across Europe and particularly in France.
'Little Nazis are no longer at ease!'
According to AFP and Le Progres, the first attack took place late on December 21 at the Mama Shelter Hotel in Lyon and targeted a restaurant employee. A few small groups entered the building in search of the worker, while their friends remained outside.
An eyewitness reported that upon locating the employee, a few dozen men waiting outside entered the hotel in order to beat him up and even used tear gas. The hotel's security officers intervened and prevented the men from attacking the worker.
The group was more successful in its second attack: This victim was also located online after performing the "quenelle." He was beaten up and then locked in the trunk of a parked car. According to the report, six men were involved in this incident. Two of them were arrested the same night and the other four were captured the following day. Two were remanded to police custody on Tuesday on suspicion of assault, Le Progres reported. According to JTA, it is unclear how badly the man was hurt.
LDJ, the report said, posted a message on its Twitter account on Tuesday, allegedly claiming responsibility for the attacks: "Two major punitive actions were carried out Saturday and Sunday in Lyon against people who performed the quenelle. The little Nazis are no longer at ease!”
French defense minister against 'quenelle'
This isn't the first time that LDJ is allegedly involved in attacks in anti-Semites. About six months ago, the group claimed responsibility for the assault of a young Arab man believed to have attacked Jew in the suburb of Saint-Mande, east of Paris.
The league's "soldiers," as they referred to themselves, put him in hospital following a "swift and effective response." The statement led to a demand from the government to arrest the group members. The organization later reneged on the announcement, denying any involvement in the violence.
According to JTA, recent weeks have seen the "quenelle" widely discussed in French media as many French Jews see it as sign of mounting anti-Semitism. The French defense minister strongly condemned the phenomenon, and even asked for sanctions to be imposed against soldiers documented performing the gesture outside a synagogue in Paris.
In recent months, researchers warn, anti-Semites have been taking advantage of the lack of public awareness of the new "salute" and taking pictures of themselves performing the salute in particularly symbolic and sensitive places around the world like the Treblinka extermination camp, the Western Wall plaza and next to IDF soldiers, as well as alongside Jews who are unaware of the "trick." They then post the photos on the Internet.
The phenomenon was revealed in a conference held earlier this month in New York by the World Zionist Organization's Department for Countering Anti-Semitism.
In order to expose the public to the new movement, which many have encountered but were unaware of its meaning, the conference organizers presented pictures and videos of neo-Nazis documenting themselves performing it in different places around the world.
As part of a more concrete effort, the Defense Ministry has been asked to warn IDF soldiers against the phenomenon in a bid to prevent them from unknowingly participating in further embarrassing photographs.