The following photo is of relatives of murderers of Ilan Hallimi:
May they burn in hell, soon.
Murder Trial Puts Focus on French Anti-Semitism
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 Ilan 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, they had to be rich. But once in court, Fofana sought to frame his behavior in jihadist language: After shouting "Allah'u akhbar" 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 February 13, 2006, the date of Ilan Halimi's death. (See photographs of Nazi Germany's Kistallnacht 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 of 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 report 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 now 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 Israel 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 Muslim and Jewish communities — populations of around six million and 350,000 respectively. The 936 anti-Semitic acts reported in 2002, and 974 two years later coincided with flare-ups between Israel and the Palestinians. 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 immigration to Israel for their own safety.
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