Reproduction photo: French police department
Ilan Halimi tortured by abductors
Reproduction photo: French police department

All is not well in France

Horrific murder of Jewish man in Paris shows anti-Semitism alive and well

French anti-Semitism reached its gloomiest peak these last few days.


The murder of Ilan Halimi, despite its resemblance to Daniel Pearl’s story, who was murdered because he was a Jew, did not take place in Pakistan nor in any other Muslim-majority country.


It did not happen in the Middle East, or South America where Colombia holds a record in ransom kidnappings. It took place in the heart of the French capital, and the horrendous crime was organized by a group of French nationals, mostly of African and Arab origin.


Yet the French government and media are trying to cover up the reality of Muslim anti-Semitism, and this in the face of the most gruesome anti-Semitic murder of the decade.


A group of criminals calling themselves “the gang of the Barbarians” kidnapped on January 21st a 23-year-old Jewish man, Ilan Halimi who worked selling cell phones in Paris. The gang, headed by a 25-year-old man, born in France to a family hailing from the Ivory Coast, called Halimi's Parents demanding ransom.


The gang of criminals selected Ilan because he was Jewish; as some of the arrested suspects declared: “Jews are wealthy,” and that is why they picked him. A suspected member of the group revealed that one of them burned Ilan's forehead with a cigarette simply because he was Jewish.


An arduous effort was made by French authorities - police and the public prosecutor- to downplay and minimize the victim's religious, conscientiously trying to label the crime as a minor news item. However, the examining magistrate decided that the fact Ilan was Jewish was indeed a major component in the case.


Minister of Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking for the first time on the topic last Tuesday, declared that the crime was anti-Semitic. Sarkozy added that the gang was first motivated by greed and by “anti-Semitism by conflation."


The “Barbarians” asked for 450,000 euros – about USD 540,000. They told Ilan's parents on the phone that if they could not pay, they should ask the Jewish community for help, playing on the notion of Jewish solidarity, to raise the money needed to set the young man free.


The gang contacted the family by phone and e-mails and sent a picture of their captive held at gunpoint, with blindfolded eyes, imitating Iraqi jihadists’ actions.


For three weeks, the “Barbarians” detained and tortured Ilan Halimi. When he was found on February 13, he was naked, handcuffed after being dumped near railway tracks in a Parisian suburb. He suffered from severe burns covering 80 percent of his body. Traces of cigarette burns, iron burns, and various cuts (made by knives and scissors) covered his body. He passed away in an ambulance before reaching the hospital.


Police arrested about a dozen suspects so far. The gang leader’s was finally arrested in the Ivory Coast where he went into hiding two days after Ilan’s death. The "baits" used to trap Ilan, three women, are also among the suspects.


However, there must have been many witnesses to the crime, which spread over weeks. The shrieks and screams brought on by torture must have been heard by some of those living in the building where the horrific scenes were taking place. Yet not one soul, not even one anonymous caller, alerted the police in the suburb of Bagneux.


The janitor, who lent the gang the empty lodging without notifying the owner, is among the suspects in the ongoing investigation, which everyday seems to reveal a little more of the horror of what took place in the sordid apartment. According to an unofficial source, police came to realize that many in the building knew what was going on, but did not act since it appears everyone knew the victim was Jewish.


The items found in the torture chamber included extremist Islamic literature and leaflets of a pro-Palestinian charity blacklisted by the United States and Israel. The charity, the Comité de Bienfaisance et de Soutien aux Palestiniens (CBSP), a Hamas-affiliated fund, is still active in France despite the exposure of its members and financial support tying it directly to terrorist activities in the Palestinian Authority.


What happened to Ilan is not the first attempt of this kind. The gang tried to pull off similar crimes before with four of the six previous victims being Jewish. Similar stories are only now surfacing.


French daily newspaper Le Parisien reported that the gang's last victim was a fifty-year-old Jewish man, who had driven home a girl who attempted to seduce his twenty-year-old son. The man was miraculously saved from being further beaten and certainly kidnapped when passersby called the police. Meanwhile, young Halimi’s seductress has turned herself in.


Yet police officials and the media do not tell the whole story: Various attempts have taken place in the past, and other gangs are reported to operate in similar fashion, luring their Jewish victims with an attractive girl who brings the "target" to the gang.


There appears to be a tacit agreement between the media and police to downplay these attempts and the role of these young men from the suburbs, already “suffering” from bad publicity due to the riots of last November. In those riots, hundreds of cars were set aflame and violent clashes between police and young thugs took place.


Also, the Muhammad cartoons’ controversy is too fresh in many minds and further polemics involving the Muslim and Arab communities seem to be avoided by officials.


And so, despite recent reports about a sharp decrease in anti-Semitic incidents across France, the horrific murder of Ilan Halimi reminds us the monster is still there.


Clara Beyler is a French-born counter-terrorism researcher

פרסום ראשון: 02.24.06, 10:28
 new comment
This will delete your current comment