New Memorial Plaque to Murdered French Jew Ilan Halimi Unveiled Amid Fresh Concern Over Antisemitic Violence
More than 100 people joined Jewish community leaders and local officials for the dedication of a new memorial plaque to Ilan Halimi – the 23 year-old French Jew kidnapped, tortured and murdered by an antisemitic gang in February 2006 – one week after the previous plaque was defaced with antisemitic graffiti. The event took place as new figures released by the French Jewish community’s defense organization disclosed that Jews make up 30 percent of the victims of all racist attacks in the country.
The plaque was dedicated in a park in the Paris suburb of Bagneux, where Halimi, who was buried in Israel, had lived with his mother and sister. Its wording paid tribute to Halimi as a victim of “barbarism, antisemitism and racism.” Speaking at the ceremony, Bagneux Mayor Marie-Hélène Amiable pledged that “we will never forget,” while local Jewish leader Elie Korchia declared that the “antisemitic thugs” who vandalized the previous memorial to Halimi “will never win.”
Halimi was kidnapped on January 20, 2006, by a mainly Muslim gang calling themselves “The Barbarians.” Lured into the gang’s hands by an attractive young woman who flirted with him in the cellphone store where he worked as a salesman, Halimi subsequently spent three weeks in captivity, during which he was constantly beaten and burned with cigarettes while being tied up.
Throughout the ordeal, “The Barbarians” attempted to extort 450,000 Euros in ransom money from Halimi’s relatives, believing them to be wealthy because – as one of the gang members later explained to police – “Jews have money.” On 13 February, Halimi was dumped, barely alive and with burns on 80 percent of his body, near a railway track on the outskirts of Paris. Discovered by a passerby who called for an ambulance, Halimi died on his way to the hospital.
The Bagneux ceremony came during a week of heightened anxiety about antisemitism in France, as new statistics released by Jewish communal defense organization SPCJ revealed that while Jews make up less than 1 percent of France’s population, they are the targets of 30 percent of racist attacks. Documenting the number of antisemitic outrages in France since the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, the SPCJ noted that in that year, there were 744 antisemitic attacks, compared with just 82 the previous year. These high numbers have remained consistent each year throughout the last decade and a half.
Critically, the report underlined that the true numbers are likely higher, as many Jews no longer report attacks. “Very many victims of verbal aggression or minor antisemitic violence no longer file a complaint,” the SPCJ said.
In an interview with national newspaper Le Monde, Alain Bensimon, the president of a synagogue in Val d’Oise near Paris, explained that this reluctance stemmed from the fear among many Jews that involving the police “means problems.”
“The community is often threatened,” Bensimon said. “But people do not complain anymore.”