French Jews Mourn Victims of Supermarket Attack, More Than One Million Expected to Rally in Paris
Paris, January 11 – Several thousand people gathered Saturday evening in front of the kosher supermarket located in the eastern Paris neighborhood of Porte de Vincennes, where four people were murdered by terrorist Amedy Coulibaly on Friday. Candles were lit and flowers were scattered in honor of the victims, whose names were revealed earlier in the day by the CRIF, the representative organization of French Jews. “These French citizens were struck down in a cold-blooded manner and mercilessly because they were Jews,” read the CRIF statement.
In a press conference on Saturday, Paris Prosecutor François Molins said that the murders of Yoav Hattab, Yohan Cohen, Philip Braham and Francois-Michel Saada were believed to have taken place when the terrorist entered the supermarket and not during the police assault. Molins also revealed that the kosher supermarket had been booby-trapped by Coulibaly.
Yoav Hattab, 22 had recently moved from Tunis to Paris for his studies and is the son of the Chief Rabbi of Tunis. François Pupponi, Mayor of Sarcelles, where Yohan Cohen lived with his mother, said he had spoken to the victim’s family and that they were “devastated”. “He was a nice boy. I would see him from time to time with his friends. The Jewish community is once again hit by another tragedy,” Pupponi told reporters. According to CRIF Vice-President Gil Taïeb, Yohan Cohen worked at the kosher market and was a friend of Lassana Bathily, a Muslim co-worker who saved the lives of six people by helping them hide in the supermarket’s freezer.
Philippe Braham, 45 was described by a close family friend as “someone who was always willing to help others.” François-Michel Saada, 63 had been married for 30 years and had two children, Jonathan and Emilie. Speaking to French media, a family friend described him as “an extremely honest man, who only wanted his family’s happiness.”
On Sunday, the office of Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that the PM “acceded to the request of the families of the victims of the murderous terrorist attack at the Jewish supermarket in Paris and instructed all relevant government officials to assist in bringing them for burial in Israel.
“The funerals are tentatively scheduled to take place on Tuesday, 13 January; Prime Minister Netanyahu asked Minister Limor Livnat to coordinate the preparations. A meeting on the preparations will be held this evening at the Prime Minister’s Office.”
A number of French political officials, including Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Minister of Interior Bernard Cazeneuve and Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira participated in Saturday’s ceremony. Shortly before Valls – who was met with cheers from the crowd – arrived, people began to sing the French national anthem La Marseillaise. “French Jews have been afraid for many years,” the Prime Minister declared. “Today, we are all Charlie, we are all police officers, we are all Jews of France. France cannot be France without its Jews,” he added before calling on all French citizens to participate in the massive rally scheduled for Sunday in Paris.
As the ceremony ended, groups of people continued to gather in silence, although some could not help but express their fear of what the week’s attacks signify for France’s Jewish community. One young man, Stéphane Villard, interviewed by French media, insisted that “[French] Jews are going to leave.” “I am definitely going to leave,” he continued. However, for Jérémie Brami, a 22 year-old web developer also present Saturday evening, leaving the country was not the solution. “If we all leave, the synagogues, the kosher markets will close. How will people be able to lead Jewish lives here?” he asked.
French authorities have intensified security measures surrounding Jewish sites in the last days. Paris’ Grande Synagogue was evacuated on Friday afternoon, as the market attack was taking place, and was asked by French authorities to remain closed on Friday evening for the first time since World War II. Police had also ordered shops to close along the famous Rue des Rosiers of the city’s Marais neighbourhood, which is located 2.5 miles from Porte de Vincennes.
Jewish representatives were invited to meet with French President François Hollande on Sunday morning. Following the meeting, CRIF President Roger Cukierman said that additional security measures surrounding Jewish schools and synagogues, including a possible military presence “if necessary”, were discussed. The government is set to announce a string of new measures in the coming days.
Interviewed by French television on his way to the Paris rally, France’s Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia, who also met with Hollande earlier Sunday, expressed the Jewish community’s “trust in France.” “This is France,” he continued “we are able to stand together and show unity.”
François Hollande is expected to attend a ceremony held at Paris’ Grande Synagogue after the rally on Sunday.
In an interview on French TV station BFMTV on Saturday, Cukierman said that “Jews today feel like parias of the [French] Republic.” “Jihadism is spreading throughout the world and now in Paris, ” he continued. Describing a particularly tense climate for France’s Jewish community “since 2001”, Cukierman underlined the fact that “the word Jew has now become an insult in French classrooms.” As to the desire of a growing number of French Jews to leave the country out of fear of antisemitic attacks, the CRIF’s president said he “understands the desire to move to Israel”, but stressed the necessity for Jews “to fight and act as would any other French citizen.”
Speaking to The Algemeiner on Saturday night, David Chemla, European Secretary for JCall, a prominent non-profit Jewish European Organization, admitted that “attacks against Jews very often precede attacks against democracy.” However, he said it is essential to recognize that radical Islamism is not only a Jewish or a national issue, but a global one. “We have to find a way to confront this problem, as does the rest of the world,” Chemla stressed.
A number of rallies were held accross the country on Saturday, as part of a wave of “national unity marches” sparked by Wednesday’s Charlie Hebdo massacre. Paris was gearing up for an unprecedented march on Sunday in which more than 50 world leaders were expected to participate, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, British, German and Italian Prime Ministers David Cameron, Angela Merkel and Mateao Renzi, as well as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
According to a statement released by the French Ministry of Interior, 5,500 police and military officers will be deployed in the capital and its suburbs during the demonstration.