Arson attack against ORT Marseille


09 September 2009 Arson attack against ORT Marseille Police are investigating an arson attack against ORT Bramson High School in southern Frances port city of Marseille which caused minor damage to the schools dining hall. The attack happened at 9.45am yesterday (Tuesday) while the schools 400 students were in classrooms approximately 100 metres away. A row of tinder dry Cypress trees was set ablaze, the heat damaging four parked cars and melting a metal roller blind on the outside of the cafeteria building. The fire service quickly contained the blaze and no-one was injured. Three aerosol cans believed to have been used as incendiary devices were reportedly found by police at the scene and taken away for forensic tests. And the school has handed over tape from security cameras to investigators from the police departments urban violence squad. A view of the ORT Marseille campus. School Principal Maurice Cohen-Zagouri said that while the fire was definitely arson there was no evidence to suggest it was an antisemitic attack. In our street, only 400 metres away, is a public school a fifth of whose students are Arab. Every day, all year round, they pass by the entrance to our school and we have never had a problem, Mr Cohen-Zagouri said. There was never any danger to our students from this incident. In fact they used the cafeteria two hours later and only found out something had happened when they saw it on the evening news. There is no need to worry. However, Marseilles Prosecutor Jacques Dallest emphasised at a media conference that fire is never trivial and said the perpetrators of the gratuitous attack faced up to 10 years in jail. The Mayor of Marseille, Jean Claude Godin, denounced the incident as an unconscionable act. Local police chief Philippe Klayman said he had ordered patrols to be increased around schools and religious institutions and added that particular attention would be paid to Jewish institutions during the upcoming holidays. Marseille has among its more than 800,000 residents some 200,000 Muslims and 80,000 Jews; its ethnic mix combined with poverty, unemployment and a strong support base for the far right National Front would seem to make the city ripe for inter-communal strife. There were serious antisemitic incidents perpetrated during the Palestinian Intifada in 2001 but it has been relatively immune from the ethnic violence which has hit Paris and other French cities since then. This is attributed in large part to Marseille-Esperance, an informal organisation which brings the citys Muslim, Jewish and other religious and ethnic groups together to discuss matters of common interest and to coordinate responses to any flare-ups of tension. They hold meetings every four months or so, Mr Cohen-Zagouri said. It is a framework which maintains a positive atmosphere among the communities. [The Jews] have no problems with other communities. World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer, who visited ORT Marseille earlier this year, said the school was one of ORT Frances oldest institutions. Its an excellent school with a superb pedagogical team, Mr Singer said. We are all very glad that life is going on there as usual and hope that those responsible for yesterdays attack are found quickly.