World Jewish News
Murder of Sarah Halimi: ‘The aggravating circumstance of anti-Semitism is still not retained'
Each publication of the newsletter of CRIF, the representative body of French Jewish community, bears a banner which reads: ‘’The aggravating circumstance of anti-Semitism is still not retained. Why this denial of anti-Semitism,’’ in reference to the murder of Sarah Halimi, a 66-year-old Jewish woman who was killed by her 27 year-old Muslim neighbor, Kobili Traore, an immigrant from Mali, who broke into her apartment on April 7.
As he subjected the woman to a savage beating, neighbors alerted police after hearing her screams. Officers who arrived at the scene just heard Traore shouting “Allahu Akhbar!” and “I have killed Shaitan!” (Arabic for ‘Satan’). Fearing a terrorist attack was being planned, the officers called for backup. But by the time anti-terror units arrived, Traore had thrown Halimi’s fractured and bruised body out of the window of her third-floor apartment.
Until today, judicial authorities have refused to label the grisly murder as anti-Semitic when it carries many stigmas. An indictment filed against Traore did not mention anti-Semitism or any other aggravating element. ‘’Why this denial of anti-Semitism?’’ ask CRIF.
During a meeting with CRIF President Francis Kalifat, French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet said said that she empathizes with Halimi’s relatives and is following the trial closely, but that she would not intervene.
However, an indictment filed against him did not mention anti-Semitism or any other aggravating element. CRIF have called this a cover-up.
Belloubet said she empathizes with Halimi’s relatives and is following the trial closely, but that she would not intervene given the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.
On July 16, in a speech during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv — the roundup of more than 13,000 French Jews during the Holocaust in 1942- French President Emmanuel Macron referenced the Halimi affair, after being urged publicly to do so during a speech by Kalifat. Macron said the judiciary should “make clear the truth” in the case “despite the murderer’s denials.”
The refusal of the judicial authorities has sent shock waves through the French Jewish community, Europe’s largest. For many, it evinces a political calculus that weighs certain attacks over others.
Last week, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), issued a statement urging French Justice Minister to declare the murder of Sarah Halimi, an act of anti-Semitism.
“As an organization that helps Jews in France who wish to emigrate to Israel, we hear daily from many French Jews who no longer feel safe living openly as Jews in their native country. If the French government wants to maintain and protect its Jewish community, it must take a strong stand against rising anti-Semitism and Islamic extremist terror by declaring that the brutal murder of Sara Halimi was anti-Semitism at its most horrific,’’ he said.
“By refusing to acknowledge that the killing of Sara Halimi was a brutal act of anti-Semitism, the government will send a dangerous message that will echo throughout the French Jewish community and heighten the fears of French Jews who are not only angered by this terrible injustice, but deeply anxious about their community’s very future.”
This month, The Fellowship will bring Halimi’s older brother William Attal and his family to Israel along with other French-Jewish immigrants as part of its ongoing efforts spearheading French-Jewish immigration to Israel.
The Sarah Halimi affair harks back to another Halimi Affair, from 2006, when Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old cellphone salesman who had no relation to Sarah Halimi, was abducted and murdered by the “Gang of Barbarians,” a gang of immigrant criminals from the Paris suburbs. They had targeted their victim merely because he was Jewish, which French authorities initially refused to recognize.
“These ostrich politics must stop, and our leaders must become aware of what is happening in the country,” read a recent letter signed by 17 prominent French intellectuals in the aftermath of the murder of Sarah Halimi.
“It’s always the same story in France,” journalist and public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy, another advocate of Halimi and her family, said in an interview. “Anti-Semitism is not supposed to exist, especially among minority communities.”
The Jewish community has also criticized the indifference of the media. This silence and indifference, which were also condemned by the intellectuals denouncing the broader challenge of anti-Semitism among French Muslims, have been interpreted as a desire of top journalists and editors to ignore the case so as not to boost the electoral chances of extreme-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in the May presidential election.
It’s only last week that French television channel TF1 aired a report on the murder.
Attorneys for Sarah Halimi’s relatives have lodged a formal complaint with the Paris Public Prosecutor’s office over the manner in which local authorities in the French capital have treated her case.
By Yossi Lempkowicz