Monday, February 20, 2006


So What's A "Hate Crime" Again?

Allison Kaplan Sommer
is following a horrifying story in Paris:
PARIS - The French police arrested late Thursday night most of the members of the gang that abducted, tortured and murdered Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old Jew from Paris.
Halimi was abducted on January 21 after a woman came into the mobile phone store where he worked and charmed him into a dinner date. The woman had been sent by the gang, which calls itself "The Barbarians."
Last Monday, a few days after the kidnappers ended contact with the family, Ilan was found near a suburban train station south of Paris, naked, handcuffed and gagged, with burns covering 80 percent of his body. He died on the way to the hospital.
"They acted with indescribable cruelty," the judiciary police chief leading the investigation said. "They kept him naked and tied up for weeks. They cut him and in the end poured flammable liquid on him and set him alight."
Here is Ilan Halimi, the man who went out on a date and was tortured and killed instead:

Apparently, The Barbarians, a largely Muslim gang led by one Youssef Fofana, have done this before, with at least six previous kidnap attempts on record. According to gang members currently under arrest, they specifically looked for Jewish targets, and, in the case of
Ilan Halimi, made a point of trying to evoke torture scenes from Abu Ghraib. (Youssef Fofana is still at large.)

Yet the Paris police is refusing to consider the possibility of antisemitism:
But the Paris public prosecutor, Jean-Claude Marin, told Parisian Jewish radio on Thursday that "no element of the current investigation could link this murder to an anti-Semitic declaration or action."
To which I can only reply: they are blind, or they are stupid, or they are cowardly.

How is it possible, to anyone who has ever heard of the Arab-Israeli conflict, to see Muslim Arabs murdering a Jew in cold blood, and not at least consider the possibility of a politically-motivated hate crime? Has Paris forgotten its increasingly virulent antisemitism of the past several years? Has France forgotten her own obligation to her Jewish citizens, and to France as a country, to make sure that Vichy never happens again?

Or are hate crimes only hate crimes when you disagree with the perpetrators?

No doubt the Paris police fear to further inflame the young Muslims of Paris, by calling this crime for what it is -- an attack on a Jew for being a Jew, one which, if not attacked vigorously at its source, will endanger many more Jews.

(Speaking of which -- let me offer my thanks to the journalists who are determined to keep Abu Ghraib in the news. They're trying to embarrass the Bush Administration, in which they are not succeeding; instead, they have contributed to the horrible murder of an innocent. And I am very much afraid that there will be more dead innocents, many more, whose murderers will claim inspiration from Western press coverage of Abu Ghraib.)

Judaism has many prayers for the dead. The most common, the Mourner's Kaddish, in fact does not mention death at all; it is an ancient prayer in Aramaic, extolling the glory of God, and praying for peace. There is also a common Hebrew equivalent of "rest in peace". But under these circumstances, I think a different prayer is more appropriate:

Ha-shem yinkom damo.
May God avenge his blood.

UPDATE: Gloria Salt seems to share my feelings.

UPDATE II: According to Allison, Fofana has been arrested in the Ivory Coast. Better still, in response to a huge outcry in France, Chirac's government finally appears to be taking this seriously.

I'm not the sort to suggest that Fofana should be made to suffer the way he made Ilan Halimi suffer. Let us hope, on the other hand, that France can offer a serious deterrent, so that would-be 'barbarians' are not tempted to try this sort of thing again.


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