Jewish Defense League
Protesters, including member of the Jewish Defense League, in Paris, 2001. Photo by AP
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French police have arrested six Jews they believe staged vigilante attacks against suspected anti-Semites.

The attacks occurred on December 21 in Lyon and December 22 in nearby Villeurbanne and are believed to have been perpetrated by members of France’s Jewish Defense League, or Ligue de Defense Juive (LDJ), the local branch of the militant group associated with the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.

The victims were targeted on social networks and tracked down for performing the “quenelle,” a gesture conceived by the anti-Semitic comedian and Holocaust denier Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, the Le Progres daily reported.

On Tuesday, LDJ wrote on its Twitter account: “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!”

The December 22 attack involved six young members of LDJ, the newspaper reported. The report said they beat a man suspected of performing the quenelle and locked him inside the trunk of a parked car. The report, which named neither the suspects nor the alleged victim, said two of the six were arrested that night and the remaining four were arrested the following day. Two were remanded to police custody Tuesday on suspicion of assault, Le Progres reported. The report did not say how badly the man was hurt.

In recent weeks, the quenelle has been widely discussed in French media because many French Jews see it as sign of mounting anti-Semitism.

According to Le Progres, the December 21 attack was directed at an employee of the Mama Shelter Hotel in Lyon. A few small teams entered the hotel looking for the employee, who was not named, while their friends stayed outside, the report said.

In total, a few dozen men were involved in the incident, witnesses told the newspaper. The hotel’s security agents fought off the intruders and prevented them from attacking the employee. Several dozen guests were briefly evacuated from the hotel, according to the report.

In June, LDJ announced that its “soldiers” had put a young Arab in hospital, calling it “a rapid and effective response” to the man’s attack on Jews at Saint-Mande, just east of Paris. The announcement drew calls to ban LDJ. As criticism mounted, LDJ retracted the statement and denied any involvement in the violence.