Telegraph report questioning antisemitic incident in Paris continues to unravel

We posted recently about a shameful article in The Telegraph which attempted to undermine multiple undisputed accounts of an antisemitic attack in France last summer.  


We noted that media outlets across the board agreed that, on July 13, 2014, a violent mob of over 100 pro-Palestinian rioters tried to storm the Don Isaac Abravanel Synagogue in eastern Paris, trapping hundreds of Jews inside. 


There are videos and photos of the attack – representing but one incident within the larger tsunami of antisemitism that has plagued French Jews in recent years.

Telegraph writers Peter Allen and James Rothwell specifically took aim at a story published in last month’s edition of Vanity Fair (The troubling question in the French Jewish community: Is it time to leave?, Marie Brenner, August 2015) which provided readers with the harrowing details of the attack. 

In our post, we refuted most of the allegations in the Telegraph’s “expose” of the Vanity Fair (VF) article.

However, one charge in particular still needed to be answered: the suggestion that worshippers at the Paris synagogue, including Paris’s chief rabbi, Michel Gugenheim, were not in fact trapped inside the building, threatened by an angry Palestinian mob and rescued by police.  Indeed, The Telegraph claimed that the account was denied by a spokesperson for the synagogue. 

Recently, however, VF’s Marie Brenner published a follow-up story in response to the Telegraph article. The new VF piece includes an exclusive interview with the chief rabbi.

Here’s the relevant section from the VF follow-up:

When I told the chief rabbi that word was starting to get out that he might not, in fact, have been rescued from the crisis at the synagogue, or that the situation might not have been alarming, he responded, “I am glad to tell you that I was in the synagogue. I was rescued by the police. That is all true. There were a lot of people who were all afraid. That is all true. That is it.”

Worshippers had gathered that Sunday at the synagogue to pray for peace. The rabbi, who never spoke with the Telegraph, told me what happened: “We came into the synagogue and the ceremony started. Suddenly, they said that the guys from the demonstration are coming against the synagogue. My policemen said to me, ‘You can’t go out.’ They called the police commissioner in charge of security and said they had to send a force to protect the synagogue. For an hour, we were locked in. After one hour, my policemen told me, ‘Rabbi, we are coming out.’ Only me. I was rescued.” The others were kept inside for the next two hours. “I saw the street filled with police and they took me very fast,” the rabbi said. “They said, ‘Fast, fast, fast.’ My security kept saying, ‘Dépêchez vous!’”—“hurry up”—“to get away from this place.”

It has also been alleged that the synagogue’s president, Serge Benhaim, denied the events of July 13, 2014, as I, and many others, reported them. But when I spoke to Benhaim about this last week, he confirmed my account. “There was a large crowd coming close to the synagogue,” he said. “I heard them yelling ‘Death to the Jews.’ We kept everyone locked inside until the police could come. It could have been a very dangerous situation, but no one, luckily, entered the synagogue.” He added that no one from the  Telegraph ever contacted him.

The Telegraph’s efforts to cast doubt about the terrifying antisemitic incident have, at this point, almost completely unraveled.  Messrs. Allen and Rothwell should be ashamed of themselves.

Though Telegraph editors – following our communication with their office – have updated the story to include a link to the new VF response, a substantive correction to the original false claims is clearly required.

We encourage you to contact Telegraph editors here to complain. 

Though he blocked us, we also encourage you to tweet the lead journalist in the story, Peter Allen.


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