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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