The attitude of the French judiciary to 89-year-old René Hadjadj's murder is similar to how it has regarded all murders of Jews in France, for decades. First, the authorities always say, as quickly as possible, that the murder of the Jew was not at all motivated by antisemitism. When evidence to the contrary accumulates and becomes impossible to deny, the antisemitic motive may reluctantly be recognized. Pictured: The La Duchère district of Lyon, France, where Hadjadj was murdered on May 17. (Image source: Jeanne Menjoulet/Flickr)
Lyon, France. May 17, 2022. A district called La Duchère. René Hadjadj, an 89-year-old Jew, was thrown off a 17th floor balcony -- an act quickly revealed as a murder. The murderer was Rachid Kheniche, a 51-year-old Muslim Arab, with a Twitter account containing many antisemitic messages. The public prosecutor, who has since partially reconsidered his position, immediately declared that the murder was not an antisemitic crime. The mainstream media never reported the murder; only local Jewish newspapers did. Hadjadj's family, who live in the same neighborhood, said they preferred to remain silent.
Journalists have analyzed the situation of Jews in districts such as La Duchère. The responses from the families with whom they meet are always the same: constant Muslim harassment and threats. The families add that the situation of Christians and non-Muslims is pretty much the same: non-Muslims who have the means to leave, flee to safer districts. Those who remain are those who could not afford a move. Jews in particular are at risk. One journalist, Noémie Halioua, recently published a book on the subject, Les uns contre les autres, ("Against Each Other").
La Duchère is one of the districts defined by the French government as a "Zone Urbaine Sensible" ("sensitive urban zone"). These districts should be more accurately called "no-go zones," but the French authorities and the French mainstream media say that "no-go zones," which are scattered throughout the country, do not exist in France. The police, however, have so far identified 751 of them.
They are almost exclusively populated by Arab and African Muslims who live together and have their own rules and their own code of conduct. Muslim gangs, for instance, do not rob or attack other Muslims there. These "sensitive urban zones" are semi-autonomous Islamic enclaves on French territory. They are run by Muslim gangs, and the law that reigns there is essentially the law of the gangs and radical imams.
The rest of the country remains France, but those who live in the rest of the country know that they could be attacked by people from "sensitive urban zones," and that the attackers have a good chance of going unpunished. Robberies, wanton assaults and murders are increasing rapidly in all French cities and can at times be barbaric. On May 10, for instance, Alban Gervaise, a doctor, was sitting on a bench and waiting for his children in front of a Catholic school in Marseilles, when he was slaughtered by a man who said he was acting "in the name of Allah". Other people there, paralyzed by fear, did not react: they just described what they saw to the police. The press barely mentioned the murder. Criminal acts of this kind are more and more frequent.
The police hardly ever enter the "sensitive urban zones", and the French government asks the police to go there as infrequently as possible. When gang members in these districts commit a crime and the police pursue them, the gang members trust that the police will stop at the edge of the district, but not enter it. They also assume that if one of the gang members is injured or killed by the police, the district will go up in flames, and that if one of them is arrested, he will quickly be released by a judge. Ever since riots brought France to the brink of civil war in 2005, successive French governments recognize that "sensitive urban zones" can quickly explode. Not a year has gone by recently in France without riots taking place.
Not many antisemitic crimes in "sensitive urban zones" are recorded by the authorities: lesser crimes committed against the Jews there almost never lead to victims filing a complaint. People who live in these area justifiably fear that filing a complaint would lead to reprisals against them or their families. Hadjadj is the first French Jew murdered in a "sensitive urban zone," and the attitude of the French judiciary to his murder is similar to how it has regarded all murders of Jews in France, for decades. First, the authorities always say, as quickly as possible, that the murder of the Jew was not at all motivated by antisemitism. When evidence to the contrary accumulates and becomes impossible to deny, the antisemitic motive may reluctantly be recognized -- as with the abduction, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi in 2006; the murder of Sarah Halimi in 2017; and the murder of Mireille Knoll in 2018.
That the murderers are generally Muslim further encourages the French judiciary not to speak of antisemitism. In fact, it is almost taboo to speak of any Muslim antisemitism in France: Muslim antisemitism is supposed not to exist. All organizations dedicated to fighting antisemitism target only the "far-right," although all the attacks and murders of Jews have been committed by Muslims.
The French authorities are extremely cautious when it comes to Islam. They avoid making any remarks that might even appear offensive to Muslims. When an antisemitic murder takes place, the authorities express sadness and outrage, and then move on. French President Emmanuel Macron reacted to the April 4, 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi only on July 16, 2017, more than three months later. He simply said that the court should "clarify the matter". A year later, on March 28, 2018, five days after Mireille Knoll was murdered, Macron said she was "killed because she was Jewish" and a victim of "barbaric obscurantism". Later the same day, thousands of people gathered in Paris for a march against antisemitism. Then they returned home.
The French authorities will not say that "sensitive urban zones" are often run by Muslim gangs. On October 3, 2018, French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb cautiously said, "Today we live side by side, I fear that tomorrow we will live face to face". A little over two years later, on January 29, 2021, his successor at the Ministry of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, admitted that "errors" of "urban planning" and "allocation of social housing" were made and had probably led to an "Islamist contagion". He did virtually nothing to improve the situation. The number of "sensitive urban zones" is the same today as when he spoke: 751. In 2020, there were 540 Islamist mosques preaching jihad in France; in 2021, only 22 of them were closed down.
The result is that crime seems to be markedly rising throughout the country. Between 2020 and 2021, sexual assaults increased by 33%; batteries and assaults by 12% and homicides by 4%.
The French authorities and mainstream media describe crime, but do not explain it -- meaning that crime is rising but not being fought. In France 70% of prisoners are Muslim, while officially they make up only 8% of the population, and almost all Muslims in prison come from the "sensitive urban zones." These facts could help those in charge understand the problem, but the French government has declined to document the religion or race of people charged with crimes. Although the refusal may be well-intentioned, it prevents any understanding of what is taking place and consequently any the means of addressing or preventing it.
The result is that France is now religiously, ethnically and geographically divided.
For more than 20 years, those who were elected to govern France have known what the situation is, but have done nothing to improve it. They only added to the willful blindness measures that they must have hoped would restore calm but that only further worsened an already deteriorating situation. They poured hundreds of millions of euros into the "sensitive urban zones" to subsidize multiple "cultural associations" and renovate buildings. The money often ended up in the pockets of corrupt politicians and gang leaders, who used it to pay still more people to engage in the criminal activities that had made them leaders of gangs. The renovated buildings soon deteriorated again.
The possibility of seeing political changes that could allow France to escape the "great replacement" looming on the horizon seems almost non-existent. The number of Muslims settling in France and becoming French citizens keeps increasing (about 400,000 immigrants from the Muslim world arrive in France each year, and the birth rate of Muslims in France is higher than that of the non-Muslims). The Muslim vote has acquired such weight that it is now almost impossible to be elected president without it; alienating Muslims would be political suicide, as the recent French presidential election once again plainly showed.
In October 2020, Macron said that he wanted to fight what he called "Islamist separatism" and that a law should be passed to that effect. He was careful to say that he was targeting Islamism -- which he defined as an ideology totally separate from Islam -- and not Islam. However, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan explained in 2007:
"These descriptions are very ugly, it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that's it."
Macron's words unsurprisingly aroused the ire of French Muslim organizations. Demonstrations against France were held in several countries across the Muslim world. Macron immediately sent Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to Egypt to meet with the imam of al-Azhar in Cairo and solemnly emphasize France's deep respect for Islam. In August 2021, the law, called the "law confirming respect for the principles of the Republic", was passed. All references to Islamism had been removed from the text. In the weeks leading up to the April 2022 presidential election, Macron pledged grants to various Muslim organizations and won support from the Grand Mosque of Paris, as well as from the Rally of Muslims of France, one of France's two major Muslim organizations.
While Macron received a small percentage of Muslim votes, for the first time in France a candidate benefited massively from the votes of Muslims. That was Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a Marxist who had repeatedly said that France must be fully open to Islam. Mélenchon had taken part in a march against Islamophobia that ended with cries of "Allahu Akbar" ["Allah is the greatest!"].
Another challenger to Macron in 2022, Marine Le Pen, had abandoned her program from 2017 and even given up talking about Islam and immigration; Macron nevertheless demonized her, as in 2017, and easily won.
The journalist and author Éric Zemmour was the only presidential candidate who dared to speak about the Islamization of France, Muslim antisemitism, and the crime emanating from "sensitive urban zones". For weeks, he attracted enough anxious voters that polls forecast him making it into the second round of the election. All of the other candidates, right or left, dragged Zemmour through the mud, and a month before the election, he fell sharply in the polls. In the first round of voting, he received a percentage too low to influence the debate.
Macron was elected by a massive number of votes from people over the age of 65. Mélenchon, in addition to the Muslim vote, received huge support from people under 34. The French school system is in the hands of teachers who vote predominately for the left ], and they have influence. Marine Le Pen received the votes of poor whites, former blue collar workers now condemned to unemployment, and lower middle class people who had fled the neighborhoods that became "sensitive urban zones" when the Muslim gangs began to rule there.
The current French political landscape looks like a field of ruins. The two parties that governed France for decades – the Socialist Party of François Hollande and the Republicans Party of Nicolas Sarkozy -- are dead. In the 2022 election, the Socialist Party candidate received 1.75% of the votes and the Republicans Party candidate received 4.78%. Marine Le Pen's National Rally party remains marked by the sad fact that, when it was called the National Front, Jean Marie Le Pen, her father and the founder of the party, was an overt antisemite. The part of the electorate who would vote for her is gradually decreasing. Macron's electorate is mostly old and is also gradually disappearing. Mélenchon, who sees that the Muslim electorate will continue to grow, may well calculate that in five years, he will have a chance.
In the years to come, the "sensitive urban zones" will grow. A feeling of public insecurity, as nothing has been done to curb it, will also continue to grow. To adapt to the situation, Macron recently appointed as Minister of National Education Pap Ndiaye, a man leading the fight against "white privilege" and author of a book that praises the Black Lives Matter movement. Zemmour, during the election campaign, said that France could die soon. If current trends continue, he might be right. Hadjadj will probably not be the last victim of an antisemitism that is rising in France and Europe and that almost no one seems willing to fight.
Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.