The leader of a violent gang of Zionist extremists was sentenced by a Paris court on Tuesday to a year in prison.
But Joseph Ayache of the Jewish Defense League escaped jail by fleeing to Israel just before the trial.
Ayache was found guilty of leading a series of “extremely violent and coordinated attacks” against pro-Palestine activists in Paris in 2012.
These ranged from punishment beatings to issuing anonymous terror threats by phone or email, and were aggravated by the use of potentially lethal weapons.
His accomplices, Steve Bismuth, 27, Daniel Benassaya, 30 and Laurent Cashauda, 20, all received non-custodial sentences after claiming to the 14th Chamber of the Paris Correctional Court that they had changed their ways.
Benassaya and Cashauda each received a six-month suspended sentence for violent acts. Bismuth received a fine of $1,100 for posting a propaganda video of the gang’s attacks online.
Their 2012 campaign of hatred included an attack on anti-racism campaigner Houria Bouteldja by pouring a tin of red paint over her head. The gang later posted the video of their attack on Bouteldja online, as JDL propaganda, prosecutors said.Victims also included 68-year-old Olivia Zémor, co-founder of the Euro-Palestine group.
Zémor told the Paris court that the JDL used a highly toxic substance to attack her but said that “luckily American tourists came to my rescue.”
Zémor had received calls saying the JDL knew where her granddaughter went to school, and if she did not cease speaking up for Palestine the girl “would suffer.”
Prosecution lawyer Dominique Cochain told the court that the paint attacks, which were a JDL favorite, left women victims “feeling like they had been raped.”
Zémor was awarded $13,000 in damages, while Bouteidja was awarded $9,500.
The French branch of the JDL, the Ligue de Défense Juive, is probably the most organized and violent Zionist group outside Israel in the world today.
In March, six other JDL thugs were convicted in Paris over a “savage gang attack” against a fundraising event for Gaza.
The gang used iron bars, baseball bats and bike chains in the onslaught, in which they targeted anybody who looked like a Muslim. The 20-strong mob chanted “Death to the Arabs” and “Long live Israel” during the attack.
In October, an organized JDL mob attacked the offices of AFP as part of what they said was “our war against the Arabs.”
The JDL has faced calls for it to be banned in France, but so far to no avail. The French JDL’s founder told the newspaper Libération in 2014 that its activists work alongside the police.
On the run
Ayache has previous convictions for racist violence, mainly against French Muslims, and has for years been moving back and forth between France and Israel. When it became clear that this case would result in a custodial sentence, Ayache fled to Israel for good.
Since there is no extradition treaty between Israel and France, Ayache, like other fugitives from French justice, is likely to escape his year in jail by remaining in Israel.
Numerous JDL militants have fled France to Israel to avoid prosecution. Many admit participating in the Israeli army.
French Jewish extremist Gregory Chelli, who goes by the name Ulcan, also operates from Israel. He has been accused of a series of hoax calls that have resulted in police violently raiding innocent people’s homes.
In the most notorious such incident, Chelli targeted the family of French journalist Benoit Le Corre, possibly precipitating the death of this father.
Keith Fuchs and Andy Green, the FBI’s prime suspects, are thought to be living in an extremist settlement near the Palestinian city of Hebron.
The JDL was founded in 1968 by extremist New York Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahane’s group carried out a series of bombing attacks directed mainly at Palestinian, Arab and Soviet civilian targets in the 1970s and 1980s.
Kahane, once elected to Israel’s parliament, championed a radical violent strain of Zionism which called for all Palestinians to be expelled by force from the “Land of Israel” – all of historic Palestine, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Victor Vancier, Kahane’s hand-picked successor to lead the JDL, spent years in prison for masterminding the US bombing campaign. These days he mainly spreads his racist hate online.
According to Libération, Ayache was also once a member of the same group.
With reporting from Paris by Peter Allen.
- Jewish Defense League
- Ligue de Défense Juive (LDJ)
- Joseph Ayache
- Steve Bismuth
- Daniel Benassaya
- Laurent Cashauda
- Houria Bouteldja
- Olivia Zémor
- Dominique Cochain
- Death to the Arabs
- Libération (French paper)
- Manuel Valls
- Meir Kahane
- Gregory Chelli (Ulcan)
- Alex Odeh
- Victor Vancier
- Jewish Defence League UK
- Francis Kalifat
- Betar (French group)