(JTA) – A security guard thwarted an assault on the top representative of the Jewish Agency for Israel in France in what one witness said was an anti-Semitic incident.
The October episode took place on a Saturday night on the Champs-Elysees, a well-known shopping area, according to Josh Schwarcz, the secretary-general of the Jewish Agency.
“We were there with six lawmakers from Israel and Daniel Ben-Haim,” Schwarcz told JTA in Brussels, where Jewish Agency Chair Isaac Herzog alluded to the incident in a speech Wednesday to the European Parliament describing what he called a “raging crisis” of anti-Semitism in Europe today.
Schwarcz said a passer-by noticed that Ben-Haim was wearing a kippah.
“We were all speaking Hebrew and this guy started moving in our direction from the back, clearly planning to attack Daniel,” he recalled.
The security guard wrestled briefly with the man, who fled.
“If a Jewish Agency security officer had not stopped the attacker with his own body, this incident could have been an international incident or ended in tragedy,” Herzog said in his address at an event organized by the European Jewish Congress ahead of the Jan. 27 International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Schwarcz said the incident “shows the reality in which French Jews live today, that wearing a kippah is inviting physical assault.”
He said the Jewish Agency did not file a complaint with police or report publicly about the incident prior to Herzog’s speech.