Friday, February 24, 2006

This calls for a "silent march"

I can't say why I'm so moved, depressed, furious, etc. about what happened to Ilan Halimi. In part it could be the whole French Jews/Dreyfus Affair obsession, which explains why I was reading things that would lead me to the story to begin with, but that's not it exactly. It could be that, at 23, he's about my age, and looks like someone I might have known. But still I don't think that's it either. I think it's that what happened is deeply, incredibly, evil, and unlike cartoon or port controversies, there's no debate, no calm discussion, possible. Whatever one thinks of torture in the context of war, remember, this is torture in the context of happening to be Jewish in France, at a time of peace.

From Haaretz: The reports about Halimi in France did not mention that he was Jewish. Halimi's family was livid. His mother accused the authorities of ignoring the anti-Semitic factor. "Had Ilan not been Jewish, he would not have been murdered," she said. She was widely quoted in the French media, and the authorities began to retreat.

On Tuesday French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said that "the murder had anti-Semitic motives." "They kidnapped and murdered him because he was Jewish - in their words, the Jews have money," he said.

What a long way from the Dreyfus Affair. Except, well, it is. First off, at least there is some speaking out, at least there aren't only the vague calls for justice (or, in more modern terms, for anti-racism). But more importantly, French Jews now have options. There doesn't need to be a Herzl now because there already was one--if an event like this makes Jews wish to defend themselves as a nation, the nation's already there, a physical state more than ready to accept French and all other Jews. While Halimi will never be able to move to Israel as he had planned, others may do so.

Also important is the fact that it seems France is also, at least on the surface, doing its part to make it so that Israel is not the only option for French Jews, that all French citizens may stay in France with the understanding that they as individuals (if not their communities) are protected. While Herzl may have been off about the Jewish state's existence making things much better for those Jews who would choose to stay in places like France (every time native-French Jews are attacked, it's said to be over the conflict in the Middle East; the exception seems to be this case, in which the motive was "he's Jewish and thus must be rich"), Israel's existence does give Jews a certain voice they didn't have before. And France does not come across looking all that terrible after this. Even if the gang's methods--using a woman to lure their victim, the putting out cigarettes on him--bring to mind some French stereotypes. But the government seems to be doing the right thing, kinda-sorta, although considering anti-Semitism as a secondary motivation still seems a little strange. As for the French-Jewish leadership...

The story seems to have reached the New York Times, which reports: "Nobody is denying that their priority was money," said Roger Cukierman, president of CRIF, France's umbrella Jewish organization. "But their vision, based on the prejudice that Jews have money, and then once they are kidnapped, the way they happily tortured them, shows the anti-Semitic element."

An anti-Semitic "element"? Nothing is ever considered truly anti-Semitic, it's either a reenactment of the conflict in the Middle East (assuming all French Jews, no matter how many generations in France, to symbolize the Israeli government), or, apparently, a mugging with a tinge of anti-Semitism. Assuming Jews are by definition rich (including those who must work in cellphone stores to make enough money to move to Israel--that certainly implies a trust fund) is not at all anti-Semitic. To put it in as subtle terms as possible: WTF?

I'm sure the "silent march" (what else?) planned by the CRIF will do a lot to fix the situation.


Alex B. said...

The French government doesn't recognize ethnic/religious sub-groups or communities within French society -- everyone is just French, period. Therefore, this crime cannot have been "anti-Semitic", because in the official government view, there's no such thing as a communauté musulmane or a communauté juive, or a musulman torturing a juif. They'll try to pass it off a French person killing another French person. The same applies to the recent riots in the suburbs: they weren't perpetrated by "French people of North African descent", but by "French people".

It's weird, but that's how it is.

Anonymous said...

It's pathological IMHO.

codone said...



i'd really like to see some hard evidence about the "backlash against Islam" in the western world.

and i'm sorry, a bunch of conservative bloggers quoting Sayyid Qutb is not backlash, it's discussion.