How many Jews are still living in France today? Around 500,000. The number is going down year after year. Those who leave go mostly to Israel. Some of them move to Canada or to the United States. The larger part of those who stay in France are frightened and anxious. They feel they need to make escape plans for the future. "France is not safe for us anymore," one of them said on a TV show a few weeks ago.
And this was before the murder of Ilan Halimi.
This young Parisian Jew was kidnapped by a gang of thugs on January 21st and held captive for three weeks. On February 13th, early in the morning, he was found on the edge of a railway station, naked and handcuffed, his body covered with burn marks from acid and cigarettes. He had been savagely tortured and stabbed in the neck. He was not dead yet when discovered, but he died a few minutes later.
Little by little, information emerged about the crime. There were at least fifteen thugs, maybe more. They had used a girl to seduce Halimi into the trap where he was captured. They knew he was a Jew and they had chosen him for that reason. In his pocket they found the phone number of a rabbi and he was the first person they called, telling him: "We have a Jew. The family has to pay. If the family cannot pay, it will be the synagogue." In succeeding days, they called the rabbi again, howling sentences full of hatred. Later, they called the family, asking for $600,000, before lowering the price to $5,000. They spoke to the mother, to Halimi’s sisters, uncle, and father. When they were not asking for money, they were reciting suras from the Quran. In some of the conversations it was possible to hear Halimi screaming in the background. The thugs sent a videotape showing the young man naked, humiliated, handcuffed, just like on a Zarqawi videos from Iraq.
They called many times, but the police, stating later that "technical problems" kept them from tracing the calls, told the family to stop answering the phone and to stop negotiations with the kidnappers. The police also claimed that there was "no anti-Semitism involved." When the judge learned almost all the details about the case, he did not speak about anti semitism either. But as the case became news all over France, the motive became really obvious to deny any longer and the judge finally declared, "anti-Semitism is involved." Some politicians started using the word too. A ceremony was organized in the main Paris synagogue and deputies and ministers came. Jacques Chirac, who only three years ago had insisted that "anti-Semitism does not exist in France" even showed up. A protest against the hideous crime was organized a few days later, but political correctness had already won out: the protest was mostly against racism in general, not the specific pathology that had claimed Halimi’s life. "It's necessary to avoid tensions between communities," declared one of the organizers. There were some Muslims at the protest--fifteen, maybe twenty out of 30,000.
In the days since the dying Halimi was discovered, some journalists have been making ugly discoveries. The gang of thugs (they called themselves "the Barbarians") had sequestered the young man in an apartment that had been rented by the doorman of the building. The doorman knew what had been happening but did nothing. Many other residents in the building had heard a man screaming, but had decided to mind their own business instead of calling for help, even anonymously. "When you live here, you think about yourself and only about yourself," one of them said.
The screams must have been loud because the torture was especially atrocious: the thugs cut bits off the flesh of the young man, they cut his fingers and ears, they burned him with acid, and in the end poured flammable liquid on him and set him on fire.
The head of the gang, Fofana, was arrested in a brothel in Abijan, Ivory Coast. He had been able to leave France freely, without being stopped at the border. He spoke to a French TV channel while in Abijan. He was smiling at the camera and eating a good lunch. He said he was not anti-Semitic; he just wanted money (and, he added, "Jews have money.") He insisted that he had not killed anyone; to torture and to burn is not to kill. Had he any remorse? No. He was only disappointed: he had not been successful and he had not gotten any money. The future? "If the guillotine were still in use,” he smiled, “somebody would suggest that for me."
Fofana will be judged and sentenced. He will spend 10 or 15 years in jail, maybe less. Then, he will be released. He knows France's laws. He has been sent to jail 12 times (the previous time for attacking a bank and leaving a clerk severely injured), and he has been released 12 times. Before deciding not to take case, his French lawyer had started to state to the media that Fofana is a nice guy, not "capable of violence," and not a racist: "It must have been a collective moment of crazy behavior." added the lawyer. If a judge agrees that it has just been "a collective moment of crazy behavior," Fofana and the rest of the gang will not even go to jail: they will head for an insane asylum where they will be cured after a few months. Already, a number of columnists and intellectuals, in the typical French way, are starting to say the real victims of this crime are the thugs and their families.
During the last ten weeks, the people who tortured and killed Ilan Halimi had tried unsuccessfully to kidnap four other Jews in Paris. The police had descriptions of these people. They knew where these people were operating. They did nothing.
A little more than two years ago another Jew named Sebastien Sellam, was savagely killed in the eastern part of Paris. The murderer cut off his head and took out his eye globes with a fork. He came home a few minutes later saying to his family: "Now, I can go to paradise. I killed my Jew." He was a Muslim, just like most of the gang that killed Ilan Halimi. He was sent to jail, then to an insane asylum. He has been declared cured and will be out in April.
During the last couple of years, several Jewish doctors have been blackmailed and threatened in France. Some have been killed, but the "official reason" for the murders never made a connection between the fact that the victims were Jews and the killers were Muslims. During the same years, many tombs in Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated and covered with Nazi slogans. Jewish children in a number of high schools have been harassed by Muslim children, but in the end, the troublemakers have been able to stay in the high school and the only the Jewish kids have had to leave and to go study elsewhere.
This week, a teacher in Paris was brought to justice because he had told a Jewish student that he would have to be sent to "the oven" after the class (his colleagues immediately protested that the teacher is a good man and did not deserve punishment). A nurse in Strasbourg was mugged, attacked with a knife and covered with swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans because her agressors thought—incorrectly--that she was a Jew. A dozen Jewish students were mugged by supporters of the Palestinian cause on the campus of one of the main French universities. ("They looked Jewish," explained one of the muggers). Nobody has been arrested. In Sarcelles, a small town in the north of Paris, three Jews were mugged last Saturday on their way to the synagogue. Two of them are still at the hospital.
I am sad to have to say so, but it's impossible to rely on the French government to protect the Jews of France: the government has too many interests in Muslim countries. It's impossible to rely on the police because the police in France are not independent and have to do what the government asks. For the same reason, it's impossible to rely on the judicial system. It's impossible to rely on journalists to tell the whole truth because the media are infected with chic leftism.
Radical Islam is at war with civilization. A few days ago, Caroline Glick wrote in The Jerusalem Post that now every Jew is on the frontline of this war. She was right. The question now is not only whether the Middle East will belong to Hamas, to Al Qaida, and Ahmadinejad, but whether France and Europe will belong to the people who murdered savagely Ilan Halimi.
Guy Millière is a French writer who lives in Paris.
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