French Authorities Deliberate on Whether Arson Attack on Jewish Family Home Was ‘Antisemitic in Nature’
French authorities are hesitating over whether to treat an arson attack on the home of a Jewish family near Paris last Friday night as an antisemitic attack.
The French newspaper Le Parisien on Monday quoted a local law enforcement representative in the suburb of Creteil commenting, “Nothing at the moment allows us to say that it is an attack of antisemitic nature.” The family, however, believe that the fire set to the door of their home was started by an Islamist neighbor of North African origin who had previously uttered antisemitic threats. On October 29, the family’s car was torched, and the suspect remains at large.
On Friday night, the family were alerted by their barking dog to the smoke that was quickly enveloping their apartment. They immediately began stamping on the flames with their feet. After extinguishing the blaze, they discovered that a bottle of highly flammable white spirit had been left outside.
The BNCVA — a French Jewish security organization with a particular focus on protection for Jews living in heavily Muslim areas, where complaints of antisemitism are rife — said that the attack was further confirmation of a pattern that has seen antisemitic violence impact Jews inside their own homes, as well as on the street and in Jewish institutions and buildings. The organization pointed out that Creteil had been the site of another antisemitic attack in 2014, when robbers raided a Jewish home and raped the wife in front of her husband. Gang members have said that Jews are targeted out of the belief that all of them are wealthy and can pay ransom money.
In September, robbers broke into the home of Sephardic leader Roger Pinto, in the Livry-Gargan neighborhood. They then cut off the electricity in the house, tied up Pinto’s son, and held and beat his wife, all the while insisting, “You are Jews, you have money.”
In what remains the worst example of this trend so far, in April Jewish pensioner Sarah Halimi was beaten and tortured by an Islamist neighbor who broke into her apartment. The assailant then threw Dr. Halimi out of a third floor window to her death. In this case as well, the assailant was known to the victim, having made antisemitic remarks to Dr. Halimi and her daughter in the past.
French prosecutors waited for several months before examining the antisemitic motives behind Halimi’s murder, amid what French Jewish leaders angrily denounced as a politically-motivated conspiracy of silence around the crime.