Recalling the Islamofascist ‘Barbarians’ torturing to death of I. Halimi – while the Koran is recited






Global Issues: Selections From CQ Researcher –
CQ Researcher – 2009 – Political Science – 368 pages

the 2006 murder of Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old Jewish cell phone salesman who was kidnapped and killed by a gang in Paris after three weeks of torture. Halimi was found naked, covered in bruises, knife slashes and burns; he died on the way to the hospital… Halimi had been abducted by a gang calling itself the Barbarians, which had tried unsuccessfully to extort a ransom of 3 million Euros ($4.5 million) from Halimi’s family… When police raided the apartments of gang leader Youssouf Fofana and other gang members charged with Halimi’s killing, they discovered anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi and radical Muslim, or Islamist, literature. Fofana continued to send anti-Semitic letters to the judge overseeing the case.

The New Yorker
No cover image 2007 – Page 49
The police traced the crime to a group that became known as “the gang of Barbarians,” allegedly led by Youssouf Fofana, the twenty- five-year-old son of African immigrants, and determined that Halimi had been abducted because he was Jewish.

God’s continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s religious crisis – Page 168
 Philip Jenkins – 2007 – 340 pages
The Barbarians were led by Youssouf Fofana, from a Muslim family derived from the Ivory Coast, and Islamist literature was found in the home of one gang member. Koran while Ilan was heard screaming in agony in the background.” The murder attracted international outrage, as a symbol of brutal anti-Semitic violence…

France’s Barbarian ‘killers’ stir spectre of anti-semitism – Times …Apr 26, 2009 … He was set upon by the Barbarians whose members included blacks, … The kidnappers were torturing Halimi – for their amusement, …

BBC NEWS | Europe | Inside France’s ‘Barbarians’ trialJul 10, 2009 … Ilan Halimi suffered weeks of torture before he was stabbed and set alight … and Shia Muslim and could not recite verses from the Koran. …

Tale of Torture and Murder Horrifies the Whole of France …Feb 22, 2006 … According to one witness, verses from the Koran were recited while Halimi was tortured. There are precedents of Islamist terrorists luring …

Column One: Ilan Halimi and Israel

Caroline Glick, THE JERUSALEM POST  Feb. 24, 2006

Ilan Halimi’s barbarous murder in France should awaken all Jews to the most significant truth of our times: Today, every Jew in the world is on the front lines of war.


This makes sense. Anti-Semitism in the Muslim dominated suburbs of Paris and other French cities is all-encompassing. As Nidra Poller related in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, “One of the most troubling aspects of this affair is the probable involvement of relatives and neighbors, beyond the immediate circle of the gang [of kidnappers], who were told about the Jewish hostage and dropped in to participate in the torture.”

It appears that Ilan Halimi’s murderers had some connection to Hamas. Tuesday, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said that police found propaganda published by the Palestinian Charity Committee or the CBSP at the home of one of the suspects. The European Jewish Press reported this week that Israel has alleged that the organization is a front group for Palestinian terrorists and that in August 2003 the US government froze the organization’s US bank accounts, accusing it of links with Hamas.
Halimi’s family alleges that throughout the 20 days of Ilan’s captivity, the French police refused to take the anti-Semitic motivations of the kidnappers into account.

The Halimi Murder

Feb 25, 2006 … The French-Arab and African-Muslim ringleaders also recited verses from the Koran in their communications with the family. …

The barbarians of Europe

Feb 28, 2006 … The woman had been sent as bait in order to lure Halimi to a spot from where he could be kidnapped. She had been sent by a gang named “The Barbarians,” from Bagneux, a suburb south of Paris. The 15-strong gang, which includes Muslim radicals (one was the son of an Egyptian newspaper correspondent), overpowered Halimi and took him to an apartment in Bagneux.

Over the next three weeks they contacted Halimi’s family and demanded a ransom of up to 500,000 Euros ($600,000). On Feb. 13, Halimi was found tied naked to a tree, handcuffed, gagged, hooded and starved, with severe burns and torture marks and cuts all over his body.

He died of his wounds as he was taken to hospital. The French police officer leading the investigation said the gang “kept him naked and tied up for weeks. They cut bits off his flesh, fingers and ears, and in the end poured flammable liquid on him and set him alight. It was one of the cruelest killings I have ever seen.”

The gang phoned the family several times and made them listen to verses from the Koran while Ilan screamed as he was tortured in the background. Even when it became clear that the family, who are not rich, couldn’t pay, the gang continued committing violence against Ilan for its own sake because, the police say, he was Jewish.
One of the young torturers now under arrest told police his accomplices took turns to stub out cigarettes on Ilan’s forehead while voicing hatred for Jews.

The police also found literature linking the suspects to extremist Muslim causes and discovered that the gang had already tried to kidnap four other Jews in recent weeks, hospitalizing at least one 50-year-old Jew who was pistol-whipped before managing to escape, and throwing a hand-grenade at a Jewish doctor in another attack…

French authorities admit: RACISM played a “role” in barbarian act.

The Halimi Cover-Up – Op-Eds – Israel National News
May 26, 2009 … Death in an Islamic “homemade concentration camp”.

Warning! The following contains descriptions of extreme brutality.

The abduction and murder in Paris of a young Jewish man by a gang of Muslim immigrants calling themselves the Barbarians shocked the whole of France in 2006. But now that the accused are on trial – silence.

A French judge has ordered the latest issue of the magazine Choc (“shock”) removed from the shelves. The cover showed a man with duct tape completely covering his head, except for a small opening around his nostrils.
His nose is bloody. His hands are also bound with duct tape.

It was a photo of Ilan Halimi, the 23-year-old Parisian Jew who was kidnapped and tortured for 24 days by the Barbarians. His captors took the picture and sent it to his family. A lawyer for Halimi’s family had complained about the magazine, but Choc’s editor-in-chief Paul Payan responded: “Of course, we understand the anguish of the parents and, of course, we share their anguish…. But what’s so harrowing is not the publication of this photo. What’s harrowing is what it represents, what happened, the reality behind it.”

And it gets worse. The New York Times reported last week that “in the two and a half weeks since 27 people went on trial [in Paris] for the brutal 2006 kidnapping, torture and killing of a young Jewish man, little has filtered out about the proceedings.” Worse still, the little that has emerged indicates that French government and law enforcement have done everything in their power to obscure the Islamic Jew-hatred that led these Muslims to commit this crime.
[….] Recitation of verses from the Koran, while Ilan’s tortured screams could be heard in the background… They knew Youssef Fofana, the leader of the Barbarians, …

Nissan 5766 The Jewish Voice and Opinion Page – 14

Torture Murder of French Jew Spurs Marches, Rallies, Aliyah, and a Tribute at Rutgers

On April 24, Rutgers Hillel will hold a tribute to Ilan Halimi, z”l, the 23-year-old French Jew who was kidnapped and brutally tortured to death by a pre-dominantly Muslim gang in a Paris suburb this past February.

Leah Shisha, a Douglass College junior majoring in marketing, is one of theorganizers of the memorial rally, which willbe held on College Avenue in New Brunswick in front of the Student Center at 3 pm. “Living in 2006, I believed that brutal killings along antisemitic lines no longer happened. Ilan’s murder woke me up to the frightening reality in which welive. For this reason, I am determined tokeep the memory of Ilan Halimi alive,for his death has become a symbol of the antisemitism that still exists around theworld,” she said.

Making a Date

On Jan. 20, Mr. Halimi, a real estate specialist between jobs while hesaved towards his goal of making aliyah, was working in a small cell phone shopalong Boulevard Voltaire in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. A 17-year-old Ira-ian-French girl came into the shop and flirted with him, perhaps, authorities say, believing he was the store’s owner.

The two arranged to meet the following Friday evening, but, when they did, the young woman lured him to aspot she had pre-arranged with her gang, a group of mostly Muslim young men, who kidnapped Mr. Halimi and held him for 24 days in a building in one of the banlieues, the poor suburban projectst hat ring the French capital.[…]
Page 15

Throughout Mr. Halimi’s disap-pearance, the police handled the case asif it were a simple matter of kidnap forransom. They neglected, some say pur-posefully, to connect the dots between Mr. Halimi’s disappearance and severalother men who had been targeted in other recent kidnapping attempts. Most of them, like Mr. Halimi, were Jewish.

600 Messages

During the three weeks of Mr. Halimi’s ordeal, the gang contacted his divorced parents approximately 600 timesby phone and email. One of the emails contained a picture of Mr. Halimi with asack on his head and a gun pointed at his temple, suggesting, according to the police, “scenes of torture at Abu Ghraib.” In the Wall Street Journal, American novelist Nidra Poller, who resides in Paris, wrote, “As it turns out, the beheading of Daniel Pearl or Iraqi snuff films are the better comparison.” Unlike those cases, however, Mr. Halimi’s kidnappers, who appropri-ately called themselves “Barbarians,”wanted money. Ransom demands toMr. Halimi’s very modest family rangedfrom €500,000 ($600,000) one day, to €100,000 ($122,159) the next, and then to €5,000 ($6,108).

The kidnappers called off several pick-up arrangements. But while some of their antics seemed amateurish, they knew enough to keep their emails and cell phone numbers untraceable.

Not for the Money Alone

…From the beginning, the Halimi family knew different. Ilan Halimi’s uncle, Rafi Halimi, told reporters that, during several of the gang’s phone calls, the family was forced to listen to gang members read from the Quran. In the background, they could hear Mr. Halimi screaming in agony as the torture continued.

When the family told the kidnappers that they did not have money to pay aransom, the Barbarians told them “to go and ask in the synagogues.”The gang later contacted a rabbi to tell him, “We have a Jew.” “If Ilan hadn’t been Jewish, he wouldn’t have been murdered,” his mother, Ruth, told reporters.

Moroccan Immigrants
Mrs. Halimi and her former hus-band, Didier Halimi, immigrated to France from Morocco in 1980 with their two daughters, Anne-Laure and Yael. Ilan was born in France. Family photographs show him as tanned young man with a ready smile andclose-cropped hair. Friends described him as maintaining a sunny dispositionand an open heart. He associated with people from all backgrounds, which is why he had no problem keeping a date with a young Iranian woman. Mrs. Halimi, who works as a clerk for a Jewish communal center in Paris, accused French police of ignoring the antisemitic motive because they did not wish to upset Muslims.“ We told the police that there were at least three attempted kidnappings of young Jews, but they kept insisting that the motives were purely criminal,” said Mrs. Halimi. […]
Page 17
..smoke the culprits out. Jewish communal leaders now say that publicizing the case might have led to the earlier capture of the kidnappers andthe possible prevention of thetorture they perpetrated ontheir victim.“ Everyone knows you maintain contact, otherwise, they become enraged, and that is exactly what happened,” Mrs. Halimi told reporters. She said she felt “abandoned” by the French police, not because they had no interest in catching the gang members, but because “they were not thinking about Ilan.” “It was cold-blooded, with no feeling, like they didn’t care,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Real Torture

One of the photos sent to thefamily shows Mr. Halimi wrapped like a mummy with only a small hole for air and liquids. Another shows him with blood streaming down his face. His tormentors had shaved his head and sliced his cheek with a knife before photographing him.“ This was real torture. Not touching a terrorist’s Quran with the wrong hand. Or leaving the lights on in his cell until he tells you where the next big terrorist attack might comefrom.
Real torture in the flesh. Tortured to death. Despised with the most utter hatred,” wrote an Internet blogger commenting on the case.


On Feb 13, Mr. Halimi was found stumbling in a field near the railroad tracks in the Essonne region south of Paris. Handcuffed, naked, with 80 percent of his body covered with bruises, stab wounds, andserious burns, he was found by a passerby who called for help.

Mr. Halimi, who had lost parts of his fingers and his ears to the torturers, died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. No one wound was said t obe the cause. He died from the cumulative effect of torture. The French police officer leading the investigation said the gang “kept him naked and tied up for weeks. They cut off his flesh, fingers, and ears, and, in the end, poured flammable liquid on him and set him onfire. It was one of the cruelest killings I have ever seen.”

There were some suggestions that he was burned in an effort by the kidnappers to destroy their own DNA evidence. Some reports said his abductors thought he was already dead when they dumpedh im near the railroad.

Fast Arrests

As the pieces fell quickly into the place, French police made numerous arrests. A remarkably accurate police sketch of a blond woman who had tried to lure other youngmen, most of them Jews, to the kidnappers, prompted Audrey Lorleach to turn herself in before she was captured. She led police to a housing project in Bagneux, a suburb in Hauts-de-Seine where Muslims commonly refer to Jews as “Feuj,” which is “Juif” backwards. A sketch also led to the capture of the Iranian woman who had lured Mr. Halimi to his death. Fifteen “Barbarians” were arrested as hundreds ofSWAT officers raided apartments. Another suspect was arrested in Belgium.

Ms. Lorleach told police she did not expect the kidnapping to lead to murder, but she did nothing to alert authorities once the torture began.


Youssouf Fofana, the gang’s 26-year-old shaven-head ringleader, who alternately refers to himself as the “Brain of the Barbarians” and “Mohammed,” was found …
[Page 18]

… in northern Ivory Coast, where he was born. He had flown there on a one-way ticket, bought under his own name, on Feb 15, the day his picture appeared in Le Figaro. According to French police, when Mr. Fofana saw his name and photograph in the French media, he became enraged and, from Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, called Mr. Halimi’s father and girlfriend, as well as several of his own accomplices in France. These calls led police to his exact location.

French police described Mr. Fofana as a small-time gangster with 13 arrests for crimes that included armed robbery and assault on a law-enforcement official.
In 1999, he stole a car and beat the Portuguese owner when he tried to intervene. Mr. Fofana was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison, which he served not far from Paris.
… Mr. Fofana, who reportedly was cheerful in admitting his participation in Mr. Halimi’s kidnapping, said his only motive was money. “The kidnapping was for financial reasons,”he told French television.He said he did not participate in the murder, but his accomplices accused him of delivering Mr. Halimi’s fatal stab wounds.
The arrested Barbarians and their colleagues include the 18-year-old son of an Egyptian newspaper correspondent.

Hatred of Strangers

One of the most troubling aspects of the case is the probable involvement of many of the Barbarians’relatives and neighbors, who were told about the Jewish hostage and seem to have dropped in just to participate in the torture. No ne called the police or urged the abductors to show mercy.“ It was like they had a trophy, a Jewish kid, and everybody abused him,” said Sammy Ghozlan, a former French police officer who serves as president of the National Office of Vigilance against Antisemitism. Mr.Ghozlan, 63, sees his missionas monitoring security for the French-Jewish community.

Police searches of the crime scenes, an apartment and then, later, a utility room in the cellar of one of the project buildings, led to the discovery of Islamist literature, including pamphlets supporting Al Qaeda and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. The Barbarians were given the spaces in which to hold Mr. Halimi by a custodian, who is now also in police custody.“ They promised him €1500 ($1,827), so he gave them an empty apartment touse and said nothing. What kind of man is that? A man who simply does not care.
It was an open secret in the neighborhood that a Jew was being held and tortured, and nobody called the police anonymously, not one person,” said Mrs. Halimi.
She noted that the building’s elevator was blocked for 10 days, and people were guarding the door to the torture-chamber apartment. “It was not that all those neighbors were antisemitic. It’s more that they simply did not care,” she said.
…“This is anti-Jewish hatred,” said Mr. Ghozlan. “You see it in the choice of the target and in the way they treated him when they had him.” Mr. Ghozlan, who was born in Algeria and speaks Arabic as well as French and Hebrew, maintained that if the motive were not antisemitism, the gang would have released Mr. Halimi when it was clear there would be no ransom. But Mr. Ghozlan conceded that these thugs probably see Jews as just one of their many enemies. “They mix everything together. They are against Jews, Americans, France, the West. If they could have got-ten their hands on a French cop in the same way, they probably would have done the same thing,” he said.

Stuck in the Lower Class

Page 20
Some French authorities explained to the Los Angeles Times that the Barbarians were driven “by a tribal, predatory code that glorifies brutality, a subculture nourished on violent films, rapmusic that curses France and politicians, Islamic fundamentalist literature, and jihadist videos. “There are only two idols in the projects today, [French NBA star] Tony Parker and Abu Musab Zarqawi,” the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq,” said author Stephane Btome, a former anti-terror-ism detective. “And unlessyou’re a really good basket-ball player, it’s easier to emu-late Zarqawi.” That seems to be thepath taken by Mr. Fofana,who, after his release fromjail, returned to his mother’sapartment and used his prison credentials to assume the role of a senior thug. Just before Mr. Halimi’s funeral on Feb. 15, Mr. Fofana called Didier Halimi on his cell phone to issue one last threat: “Do you see what we did to your son? We’ll do the same thing to you if you don’t fork up the money.”

National Solidarity

On Thursday, Feb 23, more than 1,500 mourners, including French President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, Archbishop André Vingt-Trois of Paris, and Dalil Boubakeur, president of the organized Muslim community, jammed Paris’s Main Synagogue on Rue de la Victoire, for a commemorative service held after the seven-day shiva mourning period.

Thousands of Jews and non-Jews, who could not get into the shul, paid their respects outside. The family was accompanied by police officers for security.
Mr. de Villepin stressed the “emotion” and “meditation” in the synagogue. “It is the national solidarity whichi s expressed here,” he said.

Mr. Chirac, who was accompanied by his wife, Bernadette, spoke at length with Mrs. Halimi and her daughters. He promised that “those responsible for this act of barbarity will be traced, caught, and punished.”

“Before” and “After” Ilan

During the service, France’s chief rabbi, Joseph Sitruk, said, “From now on, there is a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ Ilan.” He asked all French citizens “to stand up as one manand cry: It’s enough. No, France, didn’t lose its soul.
It must remain the country of enlightenment as it always has been.”
Paris’s chief rabbi, David Messas, recalled that, in Hebrew, Ilan means “tree.” “Others uprooted the tree andsowed hatred, horror, and terror,” he said.

In Brussels, some 600 people, including two government ministers and several MPs responded to a call issued by the Belgian Union of Jewish Students to gather at the city’s main synagogue to pay tribute to Mr. Halimi.

After Kaddish was recited,the crowd marched silently to the nearby Law courts, where candles were lit.

Stern Response

Although French authorities may have come on their own to the realization that antisemitism was a factor in Mr. Halimi’s murder, they were doubtlessly jarred by an angry protest that evening in which hundreds of Jews demanded that it be classified as a hate crime. “The truth is that these lowlifes acted primarily for sordid and vile motives, tog et money, but they were convinced that ‘the Jews have money’ and if those kidnapped didn’t have money, their family and their community would come up with it. That’s called ‘anti-semitism by amalgam,” said French Interior Minister and Presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy.
Mr. Sarkozy, whose stern response to crime and anti-semitism has endeared him to much of the Jewish community, pointed out that four of the six other people targeted by the Barbarians for kidnapping were Jews…

‘Barbarian’ defies court over torture and murder of Jew – Times Online

April 30, 2009

Charles Bremner in Paris

A self-proclaimed Muslim barbarian shouted his contempt for his judges yesterday at the start of his trial for the torture and murder of a young Jewish man.

Youssouf Fofana, 28, who led a loose-knit gang of youths from an immigrant housing estate, swaggered into court and shouted “Allah will conquer” as the court began hearing a case into a killing that horrified France and the world Jewish community in 2006.

Mr Fofana and most of his 26 alleged accomplices have admitted their roles in the kidnapping of Ilan Halimi, 23, an assistant in a Paris telephone shop, who was held for ransom for 24 days in the suburb of Bagneux.

Mr Fofana, whose parents came to France from Ivory Coast, denies killing the victim, who was tied up in a cellar and tortured with acid, cigarettes and knives. He died in an ambulance after Mr Fofana dumped him by a railway line and allegedly set him alight.

The crime symbolised the casual and violent anti-Semitic culture among the young on the immigrant estates. It shocked France because many residents, including parents of gang members, were alleged to have been aware that Mr Halimi was being held. Some allegedly took turns in guarding the captive for a few euros. Half the defendants, mainly teenagers at the time, face charges of failing to render assistance or alert police.

The racially charged trial proceeded in camera because two of the accused were minors in 2006, including Emma, 19, of Iranian background, who is alleged to have lured Mr Halimi to his doom by visiting his shop and inviting him on a romantic date.

Ruth Halimi, the victim’s mother, has accused the police of bungling the inquiry. She initially attacked the Government, including Nicolas Sarkozy, then the Interior Minister, for playing down its anti-Semitic aspect.

After thousands demonstrated, Mr Sarkozy promised Jewish leaders that everything would be done to bring all those involved to justice.

Mr Fofana faces life imprisonment if convicted of kidnapping, torture and murder, aggravated by anti-Semitic motives, a specific charge in French law.

Mrs Halimi sat apparently praying in court as Mr Fofana, bearded and in a white tracksuit, grinned at her and jokingly told the judges that his name was “Arabs African revolt barbarian Salafist army”. Salafism is a fundamentalist movement espoused by many young immigrant radicals.

Mrs Halimi has been waging a campaign to keep the spotlight on the anti-Semitic motives behind the crime. Mr Fofana’s accomplices are alleged to have said that he picked the victim because he was Jewish and “Jews have money and they stick together”.

Trial begins of French ‘gang of barbarians’ accused of killing young Jew after 24-day torture,BR>
By Mail Foreign Service

Last updated at 8:49 AM on 30th April 2009

A self-proclaimed ‘gang of barbarians’ accused of kidnapping a young Jewish man in a Paris suburb, torturing him for 24 days and killing him went on trial yesterday.

The death of Ilan Halimi, 23, in 2006 horrified France and came to symbolise a rise in anti-Semitic violence in its poor, multi-ethnic suburbs.

The leader of the ‘barbarians’, Youssouf Fofana, smirked at Halimi’s relatives and shouted ‘Allahu akbar!’ (‘God is Greatest!’ in Arabic) at them as he entered the courtroom.

Bearded and wearing a white tracksuit, Fofana gave his identity during formal questioning by the judge as ‘Arabs African revolt barbarian salafist army‘.

Murder Trial Puts Focus on French Anti-Semitism
By Bruce Crumley / Paris Sunday, May 03, 2009

The murder of Ilan Halimi was an anti-Semitic crime. That fact, with which virtually everyone in France now concurs, was established at the opening of the trial this week in Paris of the self-styled “Gang of Barbarians” charged with kidnapping, torturing and then killing the young Jewish man. And although acknowledging Halimi’s death as a hate crime may seem like stating the obvious, it’s a far from insignificant detail in a country that has tended to minimize the bias aspect of past violence against Jews.

From the opening moments in the trial of 27 youths accused of involvement in the February 2006 abduction, persecution and murder of Halimi, the anti-Semitic attitude and motivations of alleged gang leader Youssouf Fofana became quite clear. Previously, Fofana had told police he and his cohorts had chosen to kidnap Halimi for ransom because the victim and his family were Jews and therefore, Fofana believed, had to be rich. But once in court, Fofana sought to frame his behavior in jihadist language: after shouting “Allahu akbar” at the court, for example, Fofana gave his name as “Arabs, African, Revolt, Armed, Barbarian, Salafist [the literalist Muslim puritanism whose more violent incarnation is usually associated with al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups].” Later, Fofana, 28, appeared to taunt the victim’s family by, among other things, giving his date of birth as Feb. 13, 2006, the date of Halimi’s death. (See photographs of Nazi Germany’s Kristallnacht pogrom.)

None of his 26 co-defendants echoed Fofana’s tirades; most have minimized their participation in the kidnapping and torture by telling police investigators that they reluctantly participated for fear of defying the intimidating Fofana. Some also admitted to investigators that Fofana’s depictions of Jews as rich exploiters had jibed with the anti-Semitic comments often heard in the racially diverse, economically depressed housing project from which they hailed. Despite the rich-Jew stereotype embraced by many of the accused, the same impoverished milieu from which they came is also home to several large Jewish communities, often founded by Sephardic Jews forced out of France’s former North African colonies after independence. These communities have reported mounting tension with their black and Arab neighbors in recent years.

At the time of Halimi’s death, many commentators — and, initially, even the French police — declined to see Halimi’s abduction and murder as an anti-Semitic crime. Instead, they explained it as a naive ransom attempt by plotters whose motivation was financial gain, even if their social milieu and limited education had led them to accept grotesque racist stereotypes of Jews. No one is offering such rationalizations any longer.

“Ilan Halimi was targeted because he was a Jew and because his tormentors believed he had to be rich and deserved what was coming to him,” says Richard Prasquier, president of the Representative Council of France’s Jewish Institutions. “This gang attempted kidnapping two people before Ilan Halimi — both Jews. They were not dissuaded upon realizing Ilan worked in a mobile-phone store, didn’t earn much and came from a modest family that couldn’t be rich. To them, he was a Jew, so he was victimized.”

“If this crime wasn’t anti-Semitic, what crime is?” agreed Laurent Joffrin in his editorial for the daily Libération as the trial opened. Joffrin warned that anti-Semitic thinking that has long been present among France’s extreme right- and left-wing political groups is gaining traction in France’s blighted suburbs. “In the exclusion of the projects, in the racism that strikes minorities, and in their social despair,” Joffrin wrote, “the old plague has found favorable terrain.”

The “old plague,” of course, is also boosted by a tendency to hold France’s Jews responsible for Israel’s actions: anti-Semitic attacks here tend to spike during outbreaks of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Prasquier noted the “disturbing surge of [anti-Semitic] acts in January, due to the war in Gaza.” Previous outbreaks of Mideast violence in recent years have produced a similar effect in France, which is home to Europe’s largest ,b>Muslim and Jewish communities — populations of around 6 million and 350,000, respectively. The 936 anti-Semitic acts reported in 2002 and the 974 two years later coincided with flare-ups between Israel and Palestine. Those peaks — and perception among many Jews in France and abroad that French authorities had displayed insufficient concern or reaction — led Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004 to denounce the “spread of the wildest anti-Semitism” in France. The only answer for French Jews, Sharon said, was immediate emigration to Israel for their own safety.

Even at that time, however, French Jewish leaders denounced Sharon’s comments as unfounded, deeming them a misguided swipe at the pro-Arab policies of France’s then President Jacques Chirac. Current President Nicolas Sarkozy has made priorities of cultivating strong relations with Israel and fighting anti-Semitism at home — factors that have partially contributed to a slowing of French emigration to Israel. Last year, the number of French Jews moving to Israel was 1,562 — a 33% decline from the 2007 figure, which itself had been down from 2006.

The number of anti-Semitic attacks in France in 2008 dropped for the third straight year, to 397 — even as racist acts directed at other minorities exploded 45% higher. Though the recent violence in Gaza fueled a spate of anti-Jewish aggression in France during December and January, Prasquier is careful to note that “France wasn’t unique in this way, because we saw the same kind of action against Jews elsewhere in Europe — notably in England and Belgium.”

And as it has done recently in facing up to its darker history under Nazi occupation, France is showing clear intent to confront rather than deny anti-Semitism — as much of the commentary regarding Halimi’s murder indicates. French Jews are not ready to claim that anti-Semitism is no longer a problem, but Prasquier says most now do feel that things are moving in the right direction.

“If there ever were any existential fear felt, it is gone today,” he says. “There is concern at each new act of anti-Semitism and keen attention paid to how French society reacts to them. Often, we feel reaction in the rest of France is largely in phase with ours.”,8599,1895342,00.html

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