Paris, April 4, 2017, 4:00 am. A Malian Muslim named Kobili Traore breaks into the apartment of one of his neighbors, Sarah Halimi. He knows she is a Jew. In the past, He has repeatedly uttered anti-Semitic insults at her. Halimi and her family had filed complaints and asked the police to intervene. Each time, the police respond that Traore has not committed a criminal act, and that they did not want to be accused of anti-Muslim prejudice.
That day, Traore decides to go from words to deeds. He beats Halimi violently. He tortures her. She screams. Neighbors call the police. This time the police do something -- but not enough.
When they arrive at Halimi's door, they hear Traore shouting Allahu Akbar, and shaytan ("demon"). In a jarring breach of duty, they decide to run away. They walk out of the building and call for reinforcements.
The reinforcements arrive more than an hour later, at 5:30 am. It is too late. Halimi had been thrown out the window by Traore a few minutes earlier. She is dead. Her body lies on the sidewalk three floors below. It is clearly an anti-Semitic murder committed by a Muslim who invoked the name of Allah.
Sarah Halimi (Image source: Courtesy of the family)
Traore is arrested and says that the Quran commanded him to kill, but he is not thrown in jail. Instead, he is sent to a psychiatric hospital. He is still there. Almost no one in the French media talks about what happened; they still have not. The few journalists who broke the wall of silence described the killing as a "random crime" committed by a "madman". None of them says that the murderer is a Muslim who invoked the name of Allah and that his victim was a Jew.
Three days later, a rally is organized by Jewish leaders at the scene of the crime. Only Jews come. They are greeted by insults similar to those made against Halimi before her slaying. Bottles and metal objects are thrown at them from nearby buildings.
Members of Halimi's family ask the authorities for an explanation, and demand to see the psychiatric report established at the time of Traore's internment. They receive no reply. Joel Mergui, President of the Consistory, the institution charge of the Jewish religion in France, presses charges. Halimi's sister places the case in the hands of a famous lawyer, Gilles-William Goldnadel, president of France-Israel. In an op-ed published in Le Figaro, Goldnadel emphasizes that "the killer has the classic profile of the usual Islamic criminal". He adds that Traore "had no psychiatric history". He notes that the murder occurred shortly before the French presidential election, and any mention of an antisemitic Islamic murder at that time would probably not have served the interests of Emmanuel Macron, the candidate supported by the Muslim Brotherhood in France. Goldnadel points out that a "political choice" was made by the French authorities.
Now that Emmanuel Macron is president, the political choice seems to remain
s the same.
The murder of Sarah Halimi is not the first anti-Semitic murder Islamic committed in France in recent years. Twelve years ago, Ilan Halimi was abducted, tortured for three weeks, then savagely murdered by a gang led by an Ivorian Muslim, Youssouf Fofana. In March 2012, Mohamed Merah, a French jihadist who trained in Afghanistan, shot dead Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two sons, Aryeh, 6, and Gabriel, 3, and Miriam Monsonego, 8, in a Jewish school courtyard in Toulouse. In January 2015, in a kosher supermarket east of Paris, Amedy Coulibaly, a man who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic state, murdered four men: Philippe Braham, Yohan Cohen, Yoav Hattab, and François-Michel Saada.
Each time, the anti-Semitic and Islamic character of the murders was almost completely erased by the French media.
Ilan Halimi's murderers have been described as "teenagers adrift", looking for easy money. Mohamed Merah was originally depicted as a young man frustrated at not being able to join the French army. Amedy Coulibaly was presented as a petty criminal who slipped abruptly towards "radicalization".
The French authorities declare that they mercilessly fight anti-Semitism, but the only anti-Semitism they seem to fight or even denounce is the one emanating from the far-right. During the French presidential election campaign, the Front National and Marine Le Pen were obsessively presented as an absolute danger for French Jews and used as straw-men. Marine Le Pen is not beyond reproach, but she was the only candidate who dared to connect the dots and say that anti-Semitism is rising sharply among French Muslims and leads to murder. Evidence shows that far-right anti-Semitism in France is dying. The files of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Antisemitism (BNVCA) document that all of the anti-Semitic attacks committed in France for more than two decades came from Muslims and Islamists. The French authorities know this, but choose to hide it and look in another direction.
None of the French organizations supposedly combatting anti-Semitism talks about Muslim anti-Semitism: therefore, none of them combats it. Talking about Muslim anti-Semitism on French territory can lead one to criminal court. This is what happened recently to intellectuals such as Georges Bensoussan and Pascal Bruckner, among others. The Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) tracks all "Islamically incorrect" statements, asks for penalties and is often successful at getting them. Even organizations that pretend to fight anti-Semitism sometimes join the CCIF in fighting someone who points out Muslim anti-Semitism.
Islamic anti-Semitism is such a taboo in France that a documentary on the subject, produced by the Franco-German TV channel ARTE, was cancelled when the station's directors were informed of its contents. ARTE's executives were expecting a denunciation of "fascists". When they saw that the maker of the documentary, Joachim Schroeder and Sophie Hafner, spoke about the omnipresent hatred for Jews in the "suburbs of Islam," they said that the product delivered was not the one they had ordered, and threw it in the garbage. As the film is the property of ARTE, it will never be shown.
A week before the French presidential election, Emmanuel Macron went to the Holocaust Memorial in Paris and used the visit to outmaneuver his opponent, Marine Le Pen, and to denounce the "anti-Semitism that killed Jews in Europe" seven decades ago. He did not denounce the anti-Semitism that kills Jews in France today. He did not do it before being elected. He still has not. He probably will never do it. He knows there is nothing to be gained. He needs the support of the Muslim electorate. He does not want to lose it. The Jewish vote in France has no weight; it does not count.
A survey carried out for the Institut Montaigne a few months ago showed that anti-Semitism is widespread among French Muslims. Apparently, 27% of them (50% of those under 25 years old) support the ideas of the Islamic State (ISIS): those aspects of the survey have barely been mentioned anywhere. Columnist Ivan Rioufol spoke about them recently in a televised debate. A complaint was immediately filed against him.
A petition signed by 16 writers, journalists and academics, made public on June 2, asked that more exposure be given the murder of Sarah Halimi. The French Ministry of Justice said that the psychiatrists concluded that the murderer was not responsible for his actions at the time of the events and that maybe he did not even intend to kill. He will spend two or three years in a psychiatric institution, then will be released.
The district of Paris where Sarah Halimi lived is a no-go zone, like nearly 600 other districts in France. Most Jews who still live in France have left the no-go zones and avoid entering them, as do most other French. Sarah Halimi did not leave. She suffered terrible consequences. She was, those who knew her agree, a sweet woman, but she was a Jew at a time when it is unsafe to be a Jew in France.
Jews who have the financial means to leave France, leave in increasing numbers. Jews who do not have the financial means to leave know that they have to be careful wherever they are in France. If they live in or near an Islamized neighborhood, they understand that they must quickly be able to collect their belongings and flee: their lives are at stake and no one will help them if a jihadist murderer comes to murder them.
Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.