Sunday, June 22, 2008

Antisemitism in modern France grows 

Jewish teen brutally beaten in apparent anti-Semitic attack in Paris

By Reuters
Sun., June 22, 2008 Sivan 19, 5768

A 17-year-old French Jew was attacked on Saturday night in Paris, an assault condemned by President Nicolas Sarkozy and said by Jewish organizations to be an act of anti-Semitism.

The young man, identified as Rudy Haddad by one Jewish organization, was attacked by youths of African origin, a police source said, and the National Agency of Vigilance Against Anti-emitism said he had been attacked with iron bars.

Police said five youths had been held for questioning, and one police source told Reuters the victim was suffering "serious neurological problems."

The Union of French Jewish Students said Haddad had been identified as Jewish because he was wearing a kippa (skullcap), and had suffered several broken ribs and a fractured skull and was in intensive care at a hospital in central Paris.

"The victim was wearing a kippa and was on his way back home when his attackers, after identifying him as Jewish, started to beat him," the union said.

The number of attackers was not known, varying from 6 or 7 to 30, depending on sources. Haddad's father told French radio RTL there were around 15 attackers.

Two police sources said the attack took place right after a skirmish between two groups of youths, one Jewish and the other of North African origin. They said it was unclear whether Haddad had taken part in the confrontation.

They said such skirmishes were a regular feature in the multi-confessional Buttes Chaumont neighbourhood in the 19th arrondissement of Paris.

The assault was immediately condemned by French President Nicola Sarkozy, who began a three-day visit to Israel on Sunday aimed at reinforcing his image as an ally of the state.

"[Sarkozy] assures the victim and his family of his support and renews his total determination to fight all forms of racism and anti-Semitism," said a statement from Sarkozy's office.

Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie expressed her "profound emotion" and announced in a statement the opening of an investigation to determine the circumstances of the attack.

A 23-year-old French Jew, Ilan Halimi, was found naked, tortured and covered in burns near Paris on February 13, 2006, after being held captive for three weeks. He died on the way to the hospital.

The crime shocked France and raised fears of surging anti-Semitism among French Muslims.

In February of this year, another Jewish teenager was tortured in the same town in which Halimi was killed, in yet another anti-Semitic attack.


Jewish teen tortured in French town where Ilan Halimi was killed

By Daniel Ben Simon, Haaretz Correspondent
Wed., May 28, 2008 Iyyar 23, 5768

The incident of brutal abuse began at 10 A.M. on February 22. Mathieu Roumi, 19, whose father is Jewish, was strolling through his neighborhood in the Paris suburb of Bagneux, which has been the site of violent riots by immigrants in the past two years. The suburb became notorious as the scene of Ilan Halimi's 2006 murder, which horrified France.

Roumi ran into two youths he knew. They discussed a sum of money that he supposedly owed them. An argument ensued, after which they beat him and, with the help of a third friend, dragged him to a dark basement. The three assailants were joined by three other youths, all neighborhood residents and neighbors of Roumi.

For two hours the attackers tortured the young man. One shoved cigarette butts into his mouth, another took issue with Roumi's Jewish origin, grabbed correction fluid and scrawled "dirty Jew" on his forehead. The six men proceeded to scream at him and threaten that he would die the way Halimi did.

They identified themselves as members of the "Barbarians," the same gang that kidnapped Halimi from his store, demanded ransom for his release, and when that was not forthcoming, tortured the 23-year-old over the course of three weeks. Moments after he was dumped on the street, Halimi died.

Roumi told police investigators that throughout his ordeal, his assailants employed measures with sexual and sadistic connotations. When the issue of his sexual orientation arose, one of them placed a condom on the tip of a stick and shoved it in Roumi's mouth.

"We admire Youssouf Fofana!" they shouted at him, referring to the leader of the gang that murdered Halimi. Fofana and 29 other suspects are on trial for abduction, torture and murder. If convicted, they can expect a life sentence.

Roumi's life was spared because one of the assailants, who owned the basement space, had to leave and take the key with him. Roumi was set free and returned home, battered and broken. When he got to his parent's home, they sent him immediately for a medical examination.

The next day Roumi went to the police. In a matter of hours, the six assailants were arrested. Most are in their 20s, two come from Muslim homes, two are "fully" French, and another two are African and Portuguese immigrants. They told interrogators that they had not meant to hurt Roumi.

Sami Gozlan, a former police investigator appointed by the Jewish community to monitor anti-Semitic incidents, visited the Roumi family the day after the incident.

"The family was in a terrible state," he told Haaretz Wednesday. "The father was weeping like a baby and couldn't believe that such a thing could happen to his son in France. The mother was also deeply upset. They told me that their younger children were forced to stay with relatives outside the neighborhood. Mathieu himself is still in shock."

"Sadly the lesson of Halimi's murder has not been learned," Gozlan added. "The fact that angry immigrant youth can kidnap a Jew in broad daylight and abuse him proves that the lesson has yet to be learned."

Jewish organizations condemned the attack and urged the authorities to increase police vigilance in mixed immigrant neighborhoods, where fear of attacks against Jews runs especially high.


Swastika drawn on French Jewish woman in anti-Semitic attack

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz Correspondent
Last update - 16:36 27/04/2007

A young Jewish woman was viciously attacked on Thursday by unidentified assailants in a train station in Marseilles. The attack was described by one observer as the "worst anti-Semitic incident in France since the murder of Ilan Halimi" over a year ago.

French police investigating the incident have imposed a gag order on all details of the attack, but David Roche, a Jewish Agency representative in France who is in touch with officials there said the incident is being described as an anti-Semitic attack.

According to details received from Roche, the attack occured in the afternoon when a 22-year-old woman arrived at the metro station of the La Rose district - which has a mixed Muslim and Jewish community.

According to reports, two unidentified men of Middle Eastern appearance approached the woman and began abusing her. At some point, they began hitting her, and one report states that she was dragged by the hair.

When they saw a Star of David on her neck, they lifted her shirt and drew a cross on her abdomen. One of the witnesses said it was a swastika.

The two assailants fled the scene.

In a telephone interview from Paris, Roche told Haaretz that Marseilles police have set up a special investigation squad and are searching the La Rose district.

The young woman gave testimony to the police for many hours, and sources at the Jewish Agency say she was confused and found it difficult to tell her story.


Halimi murder sparks increased interest in immigration among French Jews

By Amiram Barkat
Last update - 01:40 21/03/2006

The number of French Jews who are looking into the possibility of immigrating to Israel has doubled since the torture-slaying of Ilan Halimi last month. According to David Roche, European general director for the Jewish Agency, since the murder, dozens of French Jews have contacted the Jewish Agency to inquire about immigration.

In 2005, some 3,000 French Jews moved to Israel, compared to 2,400 in 2004.

Jewish Agency chairman Ze'ev Bielski, who is currently visiting Jewish communities in France, met yesterday with Jewish leaders, who told him of their concerns in the aftermath of the murder. Bielski also met with Halimi's mother, Ruth, and offered the Jewish Agency's assistance to her and the rest of the family.

"There is no hysteria among France's Jews," Bielski said, "but there is certainly an upturn in the number of people taking an interest in visiting Israel, as well as in housing and employment.

"The issue of employment is of the most concern," he added.


21 charged with kidnap, murder of Jewish man

By Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters , By Daniel Ben-Simon
Thu., February 21, 2008 Adar1 15, 5768

Twenty-one people will be tried in France for the 2006 kidnapping and murder of Ilan Halimi, a French Jew, in a trial expected to generate a great deal of interest in the country's Jewish and African communities.

Another seven suspects face trial for failing to report a crime, while one will be tried in a court for children because she was under 16 at the time of the attack on Halimi.

Halimi, 23, was found naked, tortured and covered in burns near Paris on February 13, 2006, after being held captive for three weeks in a crime that shocked France and raised fears of surging anti-Semitism among French Muslims. He died of his injuries soon afterward.

The African community, which gave rise to the self-styled "gang of barbarians" accused of killing Halimi, says the suspects were motivated by money rather than anti-Semitism. The suspects include Muslim immigrants from North Africa, and immigrants from Congo and the Ivory Coast.

The self-proclaimed "brain of the Barbarians," Youssouf Fofana, was eventually arrested in the Ivory Coast. Fofana told police that he led the gang and organized Halimi's kidnapping, but has denied killing him. If he is convicted, he is expected to receive a life sentence.

Fofana and 18 other suspects are in jail pending the trial, which will be heard before a juvenile court because some were youths at the time of the attack. The other suspects have blamed Fofana for the abduction and murder, telling police he recruited them to the gang and that they joined because they didn't have anything better to do.

"We were bored," one of the suspects said.

No trial date was set, and a judicial source said it might not be held until 2009.

Police say the gang attempted to kidnap several Jewish youths before capturing Halimi. They then sent a series of ransom demands to his parents, asking for as much as 450,000 euros, but lengthy negotiations failed to secure his release.

The kidnappers used a pretty young woman - a blonde of Iranian descent - to entice Halimi into a trap, dragging the telephone salesman to a cellar where they proceeded to beat and torment him. Police investigators said the kidnappers acted with indescribable cruelty.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

2007 rise in Anti-semitism 

Anti-Semitic incidents in Canada hit record high in 2007

By Rhonda Spivak
Tue., June 03, 2008 Iyyar 29, 5768

WINNIPEG - Anti-Semitic incidents in Canada hit a record high in 2007, according to a recently released report by the League of Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada.

The group recorded 1,042 anti-Semitic incidents in Canada in 2007, up 11.4% since 2006. A 59.1% increase was noted on Canadian college and university campuses.

In Montreal, anti-Semitic incidents increased 16 percent from 2006 to 2007, and regional Quebec showed a significant increase of 282 percent from the previous year.

The study also showed that over the past 10 years anti-Semitic incidents have jumped 400 percent in Canada.

Nearly 30 percent of all incidents in 2007 were attributed to internet activity. Of these, nearly one-third involved threatening or harassing communications.

Synagogues were targeted in 22 incidents, in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Richmond British Columbia, Hamilton and Barrie, Ontario. There were 28 incidents of violence in 2007, down from 30 in 2006. Incidents of harassment were up from 588 in 2006 to 699 in 2007.

"The 2007 findings indicate that anti-Semitism is not just at the fringes of Canadian society," Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B'nai Brith Canada said in a news release. He also noted that incidents are no longer "primarily confined to urban centers."


Anti-Semitic incidents rise in Germany, Australia, U.S. in 2007

By Anshel Pfeffer and Asaf Uni, Haaretz Correspondent
Thu., February 21, 2008 Adar1 15, 5768

The annual global report on anti-Semitism being presented to the cabinet Sunday morning points to a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Germany, Australia, the United States and Ukraine together with an overall decrease in Western Europe. The largest number of incidents were recorded in Britain, followed by France.

Under pressure from Diaspora Jewish community leaders, particularly the Board of Deputies of British Jews, it was decided this year not to cite numbers of incidents but only to report general trends. In previous years there were discrepancies between the numbers in the Israeli report and data published by other countries.

The report, a joint government and Jewish Agency project, indicates a decline in anti-Semitic incidents in 2007 after the steep jump registered for 2006 in the wake of the Second Lebanon War. In countries where an increase did occur, such as Germany and Australia, this was tied to the strengthening of the radical right, along with aggression by local Muslim communities.

Rising anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S., including a 30-percent increase in New York, is also associated with racist activity by right-wing extremist groups.

In Ukraine, last year saw a move from spontaneous anti-Semitic acts to more organized activity within parties with anti-Semitic platforms and the distribution of anti-Semitic propaganda at universities and colleges. Contrary to President Victor Yushchenko's declarations during his visit to Israel two months ago, the government only recently began countering such activity.

Similar trends can be seen in other Eastern European countries. Anti-Semitism is rife in Russia, alongside general racism and xenophobia, but the central government has cracked down on the phenomenon over the past year.

The security director for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Michael Whine, declined to comment on Britain's topping the list of anti-Semitic incidents in the Israeli report, saying only, "we are still going over our data."

In related news, the Muslim Council of Britain will participate for the first time in today's National Holocaust Memorial Day, chosen for the date that Auschwitz was liberated. The large umbrella organization decided two months ago to end its six-year boycott of the memorial day, a decision that followed accusations in recent years by the British government and Jewish organizations that its positions were anti-Semitic.

The city of Liverpool will host the main event, where speakers will include Britain's Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams.


Report: British Jews facing more anti-Semitic sentiment than ever

By Assaf Uni, Haaretz Correspondent
Mon., February 18, 2008 Adar1 12, 5768

LONDON - Britain's Jewish community faces an unprecedented level of anti-Semitism and feels more threatened than ever, according to the report of the all-party parliamentary inquiry into anti-Semitism, which is to be released Thursday.

The panel found an increase in "anti-Semitic discourse," particularly among leftist groupings, and recommends a series of actions to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.

Panel chairman Denis MacShane, who will present the report's conclusions to Prime Minister Tony Blair Thursday, told Haaretz Wednesday that the report rings the "alarm bells" for Britain.
The committee was created about a year ago in order "to investigate the current problem, identify the sources of contemporary anti-Semitism and make recommendations that we believe will improve the current situation."

Over 100 written statements were submitted to the 14 committee members, who span the political spectrum. Experts, politicians and public figures testified before the panel in four separate hearings.

The panel was initiated by members of Parliament and not intended to be an official inquiry.

According to the report, the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in Britain has risen since 2000, accompanied by a decline in public support for Jews.

The panel attributed the escalation to flare-ups in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (but did not specify a direct connection), as well as the "anti-Semitic discourse" being held openly among Muslims, the extreme left and, to a lesser extent, the extreme right.

"It is this phenomenon that has contributed to an atmosphere where Jews have become more anxious and more vulnerable to abuse and attack than at any other time for a generation or longer," the report said.

"We are ringing the alarm bells for Britain," MacShane told Haaretz, to tell the people that the country's Jews are unable to live lives free of fear and to enjoy cultural, community and religious life without the constant fear of being attacked.

He said that one of the most important findings of the panel is that most Britons are simply unaware of the serious problem of anti-Semitism in their country.

Great Britain is home to 300,000 Jews, two-thirds of whom live in the Greater London area. The recommendations in the 66-page report include better reporting of anti-Semitic incidents on the part of the police and an investigation of why only ten percent of such incidents result in a suspect being accused.

"The Panel recommends that the Home Office require police forces nationwide to record such incidents using the current Metropolitan police model of categorizing such incidents as both racist and anti-Semitic."

It "calls on the Department for Communities and Local Government to commission an annual survey of attitudes and tensions between Britain's communities to be monitored by the Commission for Racial Equality," and places great emphasis on combating anti-Semitism on university campuses and on limiting "traditional broadcast and internet access to racist, including anti-Semitic, material."

One of the more interesting chapters of the report deals with the public mood in Britain, which, according to the authors, changes markedly "when Jews are discussed, whether in print or broadcast, at universities, or in public or social settings."

The report warns against the growth of a "new anti-Semitism" that transfers the traditional stereotypes about Jews to Israel, as a Zionist state. "We heard evidence that contemporary anti-Semitism in Britain is now more commonly found on the left of the political spectrum than on the right."

MacShane believes that the academic boycott of Israel by the Association of University Teachers (which was later reversed) and the decision by the Anglican Church to re-examine its investments in companies with ties to the Israel Defense Forces contribute to anti- Semitism.

He said the decision to focus on Israel while ignoring all the non-democratic regimes in the world is hypocritical and contributes to the Jews' feeling like "second-class citizens" who are spurned by certain elements in the country.

The publication of the report coincides with the celebration this month of the 350th anniversary of the Jewish presence in Britain. "I've been here for 11 years and I never thought it would get so bad," said Linda Cohen, an Israeli who was assaulted about two weeks ago in an anti-Semitic incident in the largely Jewish London neighborhood of Golders Green.

Cohen, the owner of a Jewish-Israeli cafe, said, "I didn't know there was anti-Semitism in Britain until two young men assaulted me verbally and physically after asking whether this was a Jewish cafe."

According to the report, anti-Semitism in contemporary Britain is a complex issue. "Anti-Semitism is not one-dimensional. It is perpetrated in different ways by different groups within society and for this reason it is hard to identify."

MacShane hopes the report will draw a lot of attention to the situation of Britain's Jewish community. He says another MP on the committee told him that his constituents are completely unaware of the things heard by the panel over the last year.

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