August 21, 2015 Last Updated 10:24 am

The Telegraph calls into question elements of Vanity Fair article on anti-Semitism in France

Criticism of article penned by Marie Brenner centers on account of attack on Paris synagogue which spokesman said were ‘absolutely not true’

The Condé Nast magazine Vanity Fair is today facing criticism for an article entitled online as The Troubling Question in the French Jewish Community: Is It Time to Leave?, but which appears in the August issue as Paris Is Burning.

VF-August-15The article, penned by Marie Brenner, recounts an incident in which Chief Rabbi Michel Gugenheim is said to have been attacked by an axe wielding mob chanting anti-Semitic slogans.

“Do something! Do you see what is happening here?” the chairman said to a line of police officers watching the demonstration build to a frenzy. “What do you expect us to do?” one officer said, then looked away.

But a report in the British paper The Telegraph is calling into question these events. In an article by Peter Allen and James Rothwell, the the president of the Paris synagogue denied Brenner’s version of events. According to his account, the demonstrators or attackers never “got within 150 meters of the synagogue.”

The press secretary for the Chief Rabbi of France told The Telegraph reporters that the allegations about the attack were “absolutely not true”.

“There was no counter-terrorism unit present [and] there was no Nazi mob outside the synagogue. The Chief Rabbi of Paris has not made any statement in relation to this claim,” the spokesman said. “It’s the first time I’ve read about these allegations and this report has nothing to do with what the worshippers experienced; nothing to do with reality.”

In June of 2003, Brenner penned another article for Vanity Fair entitled France’s Scarlet Letter that is very similar to the August article in that it recounts attacks on synagogues and mentions France’s large Muslim population.

The new interior minister of France, a young man named Nicolas Sarkozy, had a clear sense of the terrorist activity in his country. On the Jewish high holy days, Sarkozy visited synagogues in the vicinity of the tony suburb of Neuilly, near the Bois de Boulogne. It is often said that Sarkozy’s grandfather was Jewish—a figure of speech employed by Jews whose families, terrified for their lives, changed religions before or during World War II. “It is wrong that, 50 years after the Shoah, Jews have to be afraid how they think about Israel,” he said.

A year earlier another article, this one penned by the late Christopher Hitchens seems to cover the same ground. The article entitled Jewish Power, Jewish Peril contains the sub-head With synagogues being burned in Europe, ancient anti-Semitic lies finding new currency in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and even American Jews feeling distinctly unnerved, the author explores the ironies behind Israel’s founding–and the seemingly ineradicable hatred of his “tribe”.

Vanity Fair has responded to The Telegraph article only by giving the statement “We stand by our story,” according to the paper, and little else on what may grow to be a controversy has appeared online this afternoon. )Then again, much of the media is currently tackling the repercussions of the stock market meltdown on Wall Street – see here.)

French newspaper websites are currently leading with the report of a terrorist attack on an Amsterdam to Paris train. The attacker, identified as Moroccan, injured three passengers using a Kalashnikov, before being overpowered by two off-duty US Marines. Le Monde is reporting that the attacker is a 26-year-old and is known to authorities.

“The passengers are safe, the situation has been brought under control,” Thalys, which operates the train, tweeted this afternoon (in French, of course).

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