Published on 30 June 2017

#CRIF- For Sarah’s sake, I will not be silent

By Francis Kalifat, President of the Representative Council of the Jewish Institutions of France.

It has taken many years for French society to realize that French Jews have been suffering from a violent, new anti-Semitism and not just ordinary criminal acts.  Assailants were labeled “delinquents,” “lone wolves,” and “mentally ill,” to avoid the conclusion that once again Jews in France were being attacked and even killed only because they were Jews.

French society did all it could to refuse to see this new reality, in which anti-Semitic prejudices and anti-Semitism have become hallmarks of a growing part of the French Muslim population.  Worryingly, 50% of 15-25 year-old French Muslims are in that group, according to a September 2016 study by the Institut Montaigne.  When the victim is a Jew, our society struggles to recognize this new reality, to confront it, and to name this evil.

On April 4, at 4:41 am, the lifeless body of a 66 year-old woman lay in the courtyard of her building, 26 rue Vaucouleurs, in the eleventh arrondissement of Paris.  To the chants of verses from the Koran, Sarah Attal-Halimi had been tortured.  Then her attacker, a 27-year-old French citizen of Malian descent and recidivist criminal, shouted “Allahu Akhbar” and threw her alive from her balcony.   He was likely radicalized while in prison and attended a Salafist mosque.

The evidence makes clear that this incident is a classic case of anti-Semitic murder.  Yet, this horrible crime is not recognized as such due to a code of silence, like the Mafia omerta.  We have been asking since the first day that the whole truth about this sordid assassination be publicly revealed.

Sarah Attal-Halimi was not murdered because she just happened to cross paths with the killer, nor because she lived in the same building, nor because she was a nursery director, nor because she had money.  No, Sarah Attal-Halimi was murdered because she was Jewish and for that reason alone.

We can’t understand the foot-dragging by the authorities who are telling us that this killer is mentally ill.  He is a terrorist whose supposed insanity cannot hide insidious anti-Semitism.  What kind of absurdity could minimize or excuse an anti-Semitic murder?  How could this not be considered an anti-Semitic crime, when under parallel circumstances it would easily be classified as a racist crime?  How does the profile of the murderer have anything to do with the classification of the act?

This is not a question, but a fact and an obvious one.  The evidence demands that the crime be classified as anti-Semitic, to declare it as such, and to allow the family to mourn.  We cannot allow false justifications and assurances that an Islamic extremist could not possibly murder a Jewish woman unless he was insane.

The circumstances and assassin’s character prove that Sarah Attal-Halimi is a victim of Islamic extremist terrorism and an anti-Semitic crime.  She was the only Jew in her building, and she was chosen as a sacrificial victim.

Sarah is the latest victim of the new Jew-hatred that has developed in our country since the early 2000s.  Our demand is based on the evidence.  We do not ask for vengeance, but for justice.  And for justice to be done, this anti-Semitic crime must be recognized as such without further delay.  Only then can Sarah rest in peace and can her family begin to mourn.

Until that happens, for Sarah Attal-Halimi’s sake, I will not be silent.