Monday, September 15, 2014

France: Media, authorities denied antisemitism as cause for Ilan Halimi's murder

Youssouf Fofana’s obsessive anti-Jewish hatred was as genuine as it was unexplainable. His parents, his brother, who appeared as witnesses, seemed as flabbergasted by it as anyone else. His view on the subject, though, had been summarized as early as 2006 by Sorour Arbabzadeh in her interview with the police: “He told us that the Jews are kings, that they eat the money of the state, whereas him, being black and all, is a slave to the state.” It was a stereotype that had begun to be popularized a few years earlier, in the wake of the Second Intifada and the Sept. 11 attacks, by the French comedian Dieudonné (who in 2013 would initiate an unsuccessful petition to free Fofana from jail).

The more passive anti-Semitism of the rest of the gang was no less clear. The crazy amount of money asked for Ilan’s release—450,000 Euros—was based on the assumption that “Jews stick together” and that if the family didn’t have that kind of money, the community at large did. Among the gang, the notion that Jews were an all-powerful enemy was so grounded that after Ilan’s death, one of Fofana’s lieutenants confided he had tried to hide not so much from the police than from “the Mossad” who, in his view, would undoubtedly send a commando to Bagneux to take revenge. In Jérôme Ribeiro’s room, police had also found anti-Semitic leaflets and Nazi-oriented posters.

Still, ever since the story broke, although part of the media fascination with the story was driven by the theme of a rising new anti-Semitism, editorialists and authorities alike had done their best to deny its very existence. The cops from day 1 had insisted in the strictly “villainous” nature of the crime and suggested that speculation about the gang’s anti-Semitic motivation was absurd. “There isn’t a single element to allow one to attach this murder to an anti-Semitic purpose or an anti-Semitic act,” said the investigative magistrate in the days following Ilan’s death. In the same vein, the minister of interior of the time, the future president Nicolas Sarkozy, came up with a new (and, given its lack of meaning, rather untranslatable) notion: “anti-Semitism by amalgam.”

More: Tablet Magazine

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