Seventeen years ago, a Parisian gang calling itself “the Barbarians” lured a twenty-three-year-old cell-phone salesman named Ilan Halimi onto its turf, tortured him for three weeks while reciting Quranic verses, and then left him to die by the roadside. Halimi’s murder is often seen as the beginning of the current era of anti-Semitic violence in France. Eleanor Krasne comments on the repeated failure of the French government, and even of Jewish leaders, to confront the sources of such violence:
The French authorities initially neglected to explore the anti-Semitic nature of the crime, but after a three-week search, they finally caught the gang’s leader, Youssef Fofana. When the case went to trial, Fofana wore a t-shirt that said “Allahu Akbar,” and when asked to state his identity said, “My name is Arab, armed African rebellion Salafist barbarian army, and I was born on February 13, 2006 in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois.” In other words, Fofana boasted of his allegiance to Salafism, a political-religious movement within Islam that seeks to establish a global caliphate. . . . Fofana was also saying that he was “born” the moment Ilan Halimi died.
Muslims are not solely responsible for French anti-Semitism, nor is every Muslim an anti-Semite. However, radical Islam’s role in French anti-Semitism must not be overlooked. Yet . . . French and American organizations that . . . advocate for Jews seem to shy away from confronting the radical Islamic theology behind these attacks, particularly when commemorating Ilan Halimi’s murder.
Confronting modern-day anti-Semitism in France means confronting the ideology behind it. France is home to 450,000 Jews and a growing community of over three million Muslims. Simone Rodan Benzaquen, the American Jewish Committee’s director in France, wrote in 2017 that Islamic anti-Semitism in France is a result of a variety of factors, “including manipulation of the Palestinian cause, failure of integration into French society, radical preachers and the funding of mosques, and satellite television stations broadcasting a steady stream of anti-Semitic discourse.”
Unfortunately, Benzaquen is correct, and other organizations must join her in facing the reality of Islamic anti-Semitism in France.