‘We Will Fight and Win’ Battle Against Antisemitism in France, Chief Rabbi Pledges
The chief rabbi of France has pledged to “fight and win” the battle against rising antisemitism in the country, in a wide-ranging interview with France’s leading Jewish newspaper.
“Wherever it is, we will fight it and we will win,” Rabbi Haïm Korsia told the news outlet Actualité Juive in its latest edition, as he discussed the significance of French President Emmanuel Macron’s attendance at funeral of Mireille Knoll — the 85-year-old Holocaust survivor who was robbed and then murdered during an antisemitic attack on March 23.
Noting that Macron had arrived at Knoll’s funeral immediately after presiding at a tribute ceremony for Lt.-Col. Arnaud Beltrame — the French police officer murdered during a hostage exchange with Islamist terrorists in the southern city of Trèbes just one day after Knoll’s killing — Korsia commented favorably on the president’s observation that both Beltrame and Knoll had been killed “by the same barbarous obscurantism.”
Condemning Islamist groups for aiming “to terrorize the whole society,” Rabbi Korsia said that the targeting of Knoll was effectively the “targeting all the elderly people of the country, all the Jews of the country, all those who live their lives simply, quietly.”
Asked about the latest twists in the investigation of the April 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi by an Islamist antisemite, Korsia emphasized that he expected Halimi’s killer, Kobili Traore, to undergo a trial irrespective of his mental state. Traore’s lawyers continue to insist that their client is mentally unfit to face a charge of criminal responsibility for the attack, which culminated in him hurling Halimi’s bruised and bloodied body from a third-floor window in the early hours of April 4.
“Nothing prevents us from saying that the murderer of [Sarah] Halimi is crazy, disturbed and antisemitic,” Korsia stated. “An expert assessment that reveals he is more crazy than we previously thought does not change the fact that this was barbarism and savagery motivated by antisemitism.”
Korsia also discussed the controversy within the French Jewish community over the July 1 burial of Simone Veil — the Holocaust survivor and women’s rights advocate — at the Panthéon in Paris, where several of France’s most distinguished citizens are buried. The chief rabbi was criticized by some Orthodox members of the community for attending the ceremony, which they viewed as contrary to Jewish religious law.
Korsia countered that the decision to honor Veil in this way was also “an immense honor for Judaism.” He argued that Jewish law had not been violated, as Veil had initially been buried in a non-Jewish cemetery following her death in 2017. “This controversy around the burial of Simone Veil in the Panthéon is unhealthy because it tends to question the nature of [our] link to France,” he added.
Thousands of people attended the July ceremony at the Panthéon in tribute to Veil, one of the most highly-regarded government ministers in post-war France who pressed for liberalized policies on birth control, as well as improved conditions for prisoners and for children in care. Deported to Auschwitz during the Second World War, Veil was one of the few members of her family to survive the Nazi genocide of the Jews. Her inmate number at the death camp — 78651 — is carved into her sarcophagus, as a testament to what President Macron called her “untouchable dignity.”