Among some Jews, little faith in French authorities… and other stories
By Cnaan Liphshiz
PARIS (JTA) — When he heard that four Jews had died in an attack on a kosher supermarket near his home, 16-year-old Natan Kalifa was overcome with grief, anger and a feeling of exclusion from French society.
He even contemplated staging an act of violence — possibly against Islamists who support the murders, he recalled Saturday at a vigil outside
Hyper Cacher, the market where a 32-year-old jihadist took 21 people hostage and murdered four before police killed him on Friday, Jan. 9.
Kalifa’s distress was somewhat diminished after he heard French Prime Minister Manuel Valls reiterate his commitment to French Jews in a speech at the vigil. But Kalifa said he still plans to leave France for Israel as soon as he graduates.
“For France and the Jews who stay here, I hope Valls becomes president,” Kalifa said. “For me, I hope to be gone before the next elections.”
In the wake of an unprecedented spree of terror attacks that claimed 17 lives in France last week, many French Jews expressed appreciation for their government’s resolute stance against anti-Semitism, but nevertheless felt the response to be insufficient at a time when anti-Semitic violence is a daily reality that is already driving out record numbers of Jews.
“The government’s response is impeccable, but that is not the issue,” said Serge Bitton, a resident of the heavily Jewish suburb of St. Mande.
“The issue for the future of our lives here as Jews is how France reacts, not its government. And right now, France is reacting to Charlie, not to Chaim,” Bitton said of public outrage at the Jan. 7 attack on the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
“The government talks but it’s only words. We do not have a future here,” said Joyce Halimi, 26, who attended the vigil with her husband, Julien.
Tellingly, the feeling of insecurity is being openly discussed by leaders of French Jewry who, in the past, have strived to reassure their coreligionists and inspire them to stay and fight.
“There are thousands of French citizens fighting for jihad in Syria and Iraq. When they return to France, they are truly bombs with a time delay,” Roger Cukierman, the president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, said at a ceremony honoring the victims at the city hall of St. Mande.
In an interview with Le Figaro, Cukierman called the increase in emigration from France to Israel a “failure for France” and said it owed to “growing insecurity felt throughout the country.”
French Jews, he added, “feel like the nation’s pariah.”
Moshe Sebbag, rabbi of the Grand Synagogue of Paris, Synagogue de la Victoire, told Israel’s Army Radio that he estimated the attacks will result in a doubling of the number of immigrants to Israel in 2015.
“There is a tremendous feeling of insecurity and that these events will only worsen,” he said on Sunday.
In 2014, France became for the first time Israel’s largest source of Jewish immigrants, with 7,000 new arrivals – more than double the 2013 figure of 3,289. The year before, 1,917 French Jews immigrated to Israel.
Among the prospective immigrants this year is Sammy Ghozlan, a former police commissioner who founded the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, which is one of the country’s most prominent watchdogs on anti-Semitism.
“The departure, it’s a message,” Ghozlan said in an interview about his decision published last week on JSSnews.com. “Leaving is better than running away. We do not know how things will play out tomorrow.”
BNVCA Vice President Chlomik Zenouda, himself a retired police major, spoke of a sense of fatigue.
“I have participated in many demonstrations. Many marches. Many vigils. The truth is I am getting tired,” he told JTA after the murders. “And another truth is that if it were not for my obligations at the BNVCA, I would leave for Israel.”
Part of the problem, he said, was that “police are under orders not to respond, so you see cat and mouse games that encourage offenders to test the limits and cross them.”
Zenouda was referring to violent rallies against Israel held over the summer in defiance of a ban by authorities.
“The firm use of force that exists in the United States against violators does not exist here, and that’s part of the problem,” Zenouda said.
A further complication is the sheer operational challenge involved in protecting 500,000 French Jews — Europe’s largest Jewish community — from home-grown killers with combat experience gained abroad.
“You can guard a synagogue, fine,” Zenouda said. “But you can’t put cops outside each kosher shop. You can’t assign police protection to each family before it goes shopping.”
Another factor eroding trust is the glorification of Palestinian terrorists by French elected officials, said Alain Azria, a Jewish photojournalist who specializes in documenting France’s anti-Semitism problem.
“Look at this place, it’s like Gaza,” he said at the market of Aubervilliers, an impoverished and heavily-Muslim suburb north of Paris where the mayor recently honored Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader serving multiple life sentences in Israel for terrorist attacks.
In recent months, several French municipalities have conferred such honors on convicted Palestinians.
“Hollande can speak against anti-Semitism as much as he likes,” Azria said, “but when public officials hold up Barghouti as an example, we will see the result in blood on our streets, which are emptying of Jews.”
Thousands attend funeral in Jerusalem for victims of Paris supermarket attack
“Dear families, Yoav, Yohan, Philippe, Francois-Michel, this is not how we wanted to welcome you to Israel. This is not how we wanted you to arrive in the Land of Israel, this is not how we wanted to see you come home, to the State of Israel, and to Jerusalem, its capital. We wanted you alive, we wanted for you, life,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in an address at the funeral Tuesday at the Givat Shaul Cemetery in Jerusalem. “At moments such as these, I stand before you, brokenhearted, shaken and in pain, and with me stands an entire nation.”
The victims “were murdered on the eve of the Sabbath, in a kosher supermarket in Paris, in cold blood, because they were Jewish … This is sheer hatred of Jews; abhorrent, dark and premeditated, which seeks to strike, wherever there is Jewish life,” Rivlin said.
He called on the leaders of Europe to work to “commit to firm measures” to protect their communities’ Jews.
Yoav Hattab, 21; Philippe Braham, 45; Yohan Cohen, 22; and Francois-Michel Saada, 64, were killed Jan. 9 when Amedy Coulibaly took more than 20 people hostage at the Hyper Cacher supermarket. Coulibaly was killed when police stormed the shop. He reportedly told hostages during the standoff: “I will die today, but you before. You are Jewish, and today you are going to die.”
Some attending the funeral held signs in French reading “Je suis Juif,” “Je suis Israelien” above photos of the victims.
The family members recited together the Mourner’s Kaddish after being assisted in tearing their clothes in the traditional Jewish sign of mourning. They then lit memorial torches for their loved ones.
“I have been saying for many years and I say it again today: These are not only enemies of the Jewish people, they are enemies of all mankind. It is time all people of culture to unite and uproot these enemies from our midst,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu issued a call, as he has several times since the attack, for Jews to make their homes in Israel.
“Jews have a right to live in many countries and have full security, but I believe that they know in their heart, there is one country which is their historic home, a state which will always accept them with open arms. This is the hope of the entire Jewish people,” he said.
“Anti-Semitism has no place in France,” French government minister Segolene Royal told the funeral, speaking in her native language. “Each hit suffered by a Jew is a hit suffered by the French people.”
Following her address, Royal bestowed the Order of the Legion of Honor, the country’s highest civilian honor, on each victim, and then went to each family member to express individual condolences.
Manager of Paris kosher market says he will leave for Israel
BERLIN (JTA) – The manager of the Paris kosher supermarket that came under attack plans to move to Israel, his brother told a German newspaper. Patrice Oalid, 39, who was shot in the arm and is recovering in the hospital, told his older brother, Joel, that after barely surviving the Jan. 9 attack, and seeing his customers and employees killed, he cannot stay in Paris any longer, Joel Oalid told the Bild newspaper on Sunday in what the German daily said was an exclusive interview. He expects many more French Jews to follow suit, Joel Oalid said his brother told him.
The gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, who in a video that surfaced Sunday pledged allegiance to the Islamic State jihadist group, wore a video camera on his chest during his attack on the Hyper Cacher market and told his hostages that since they were Jewish, they were all going to die.
Patrice Oalid told his brother that Coulibaly had ordered the hostages to look into his camera and greet ISIS, another name for Islamic State.
Joel Oalid said his brother spoke with him immediately after being freed and said “the terrorist said he wanted to die. He said, ‘I will die today, but you before.’ My brother told me, he told all the people, ‘You are Jewish, and today you are going to die.’”
He also reported his brother had tried to alert the police after Coulibaly entered the store and killed one employee. Coulibaly had held up a Kalashnikov in each hand, according to Patrice Oalid.
“My brother ran outside and told the police to come in, and the police said, ‘No, no, no, we don’t go in, we don’t have the order to come inside.’”
A day earlier, Coulibaly reportedly killed a police officer.
College students, teacher among supermarket victims
PARIS (JTA) — Just before Shabbat, Avishai Hattab told a Jewish radio station that he hoped to see his brother alive.
But by Saturday morning, it was clear that Yoav Hattab, a 21-year-old Tunisia native living in the Paris suburb of Vincennes, had died at the hands of a radical Islamist during a hostage situation Friday at a kosher supermarket at the eastern edge of Paris.
Hattab, the son of a Tunisian rabbi was one of four Jewish victims in the attack. The other victims were Yohan Cohen, 22; Philippe Braham, 45; and Francois-Michel Saada, 64.
Reacting to the news, David Hattab, Yoav’s cousin, wrote on Facebook: “You were my brother, even though we did not have the same mother. We grew up together. I miss you terribly and I can’t believe it. I love you, my brother, your name is etched in my heart, I will never ever forget you.”
Like Hattab, Yohan Cohen was also a student and had begun working at Hyper Cacher about a year ago, according to the French magazine L’Express. He was living in Sarcelles, another suburb with a large Jewish community, with his mother, according to Le Parisien. He had recently returned from a Birthright Israel trip.
Philippe Braham was a teacher and father of three. His neighbors in the town of L’Hay-les-Roses, near Paris, described him to media as a quiet and polite man.
Accounts from some of the freed hostages — in total more than 20 people were held in the supermarket by the gunman Amedy Coulibaly, 32 — revealed that at least six people were led to relative safety by an employee of the supermarket named Lassana Bathily, who according to BFMTV is not Jewish.
Jewish cartoonist Georges Wolinski among 12 dead in Paris shooting
(JTA) – Among those killed at the Paris headquarters of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was Jewish caricaturist Georges Wolinski. Wolinski, 80, a Tunisia native who moved to France as a teenager, also was a cartoonist at the magazine and was known for his cynical and at times vulgar style. After entering journalism in the 1960s, he went on to work at leading French publications such as L’Humanite, Le Nouvel Observateur and Paris Match. One of Wolinski’s cartoons, published in a 2002 compilation of his works, shows a Muslim girl walking with her mother down a war-ravaged street in the Middle East. The daughter asks what it means to be a free woman. The mother replies by presenting her daughter with a copy of a book titled Hello Sadness.
Hollande asked Netanyahu not to attend unity march
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the site of the deadly Paris kosher supermarket attack less than a day after reports surfaced that the French president asked him not to attend the unity march. Netanyahu on Monday met with French Jewish community leaders, calling the memorial service the previous night at the Great Synagogue in Paris “a moment of genuine Jewish solidarity” and the march through the streets of Paris “a moment of general solidarity with humanity.”
“If the world does not unite now against terrorism, the blows that terrorism has struck here will increase in a magnitude that can scarcely be conceived. Therefore, I hope that Europe will unite. I hope that it will also take action,” he said.
In his visit to the Hyper Cacher market, Netanyahu paid tribute to the four Jewish men who were killed in Friday’s attack by a radical Islamist. He also met with one of the hostages, Celine Shreki, who told the Israeli leader about what transpired during the attack. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman joined Netanyahu at the market.
Israeli media reported early Monday that French President Francois Hollande in a conversation with Netanyahu on Friday night following the end of the hostage standoff at the Hyper Cacher said he did not want Netanyahu to attend the march for fear it would divert attention from the unity message by adding a focus of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Muslim-Jewish relations. According to the reports, when Netanyahu decided to attend, Hollande extended an invitation to the prime minister, as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas also attended the march.
Soldiers to protect Jewish schools in France
(JTA) — France will deploy soldiers at Jewish schools to increase security, the country’s interior minister said. Nearly 5,000 security forces and police will help protect the country’s 700 Jewish schools, Bernard Cazeneuves said Monday during a meeting with parents at a Jewish school south of Paris near the site of last week’s deadly attack on a kosher supermarket, the French news agency AFP reported. The promise of more protection came a day after French President Francois Hollande said in a meeting with French Jewish leaders in the wake of the attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket that the country would move to protect synagogues and Jewish schools, including using the military.
Columnist was killed for being Jewish, cousin says
(JTA) — A Charlie Hebdo columnist was killed because she was Jewish, the victim’s cousin said. Elsa Cayat was the only woman killed in the targeted attack Jan. 7 on the satirical magazine’s Paris headquarters by two al-Qaida operatives, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi. Cayat received threatening phone calls in the month before the attack on the magazine, Sophoe Bramly said.
“You dirty Jew. Stop working for Charlie Hebdo. If you don’t, we will kill you,” the phone calls said, Cayat’s cousin told The Independent in an interview published Monday.
“It seems she was selected to be executed because she was Jewish,” Bramly said. “They had a list of who they wanted to shoot and said they weren’t killing the women. But she was the only woman who wasn’t spared.”
Sigolene Vinson, a writer, told reporters that one of the masked gunmen pointed his gun at her and did not shoot, saying, “Don’t be afraid, calm down. I won’t kill you. You are a woman.”
Cayat, a psychoanalyst, wrote a column for the magazine and was there the day of the shootings for the weekly editorial staff meeting. She was born in Tunisia and moved to suburban Paris when she was a toddler.
French comedian Dieudonne sympathizes with supermarket gunman
(JTA) — French prosecutors are investigating the comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala for a Facebook comment that shows sympathy with the Paris kosher supermarket gunman. “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly,” he wrote, a takeoff on the French expression for “I am Charlie,” widely used to support the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the French news agency AFP reported. Amedy Coulibaly killed four Jewish men at a kosher supermarket in Paris on Jan. 9 after killing a policewoman the previous day. He reportedly had maps in his car marking the locations of Paris Jewish schools. Dieudonne later removed the comment from his Facebook page. He has been convicted seven times for inciting racial hatred against Jews and is facing an eighth trial for suggesting during a show that the French Jewish journalist Patrick Cohen belonged in a gas chamber. Dieudonne also is the originator of the quenelle, the increasingly popular gesture in France and Europe that has been called anti-Semitic and a quasi-Nazi salute.
BBC reporter in Paris apologizes for comment
(JTA) — BBC reporter Tim Willcox apologized after saying at the Paris unity march on television that Palestinians “suffer hugely at Jewish hands.”
Willcox, who works for BBC News and BBC World News, on Twitter Monday morning tweeted, “Really sorry for any offence caused by a poorly phrased question in a live interview in Paris yesterday – it was entirely unintentional.”
He was covering the unity march against terrorism in Paris on Sunday when he responded to a woman’s comments about the state of Jews in France, “Many critics of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.” The Telegraph identified as a daughter of Holocaust survivors. “You understand everything is seen from different perspectives,” Willcox told her. Before his comments, the woman Willcox addressed at the unity march had said, “We have to not be afraid to say that the Jews are the target now.”
A BBC spokesperson told The Telegraph: “He had no intention of causing offence.”
White House says it should have sent higher-level rep to Paris
(JTA) – The White House acknowledged that it should have sent a higher-level representative to the anti-terrorism rally in Paris. “I think it’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday at a news conference, a day after the rally. The United States was represented by Jane Hartley, the American ambassador to France. President Obama came in for criticism for not attending the rally.
Over 40 world leaders and more than 3.7 million people attended the rally.
Earnest also said that the extensive security procedures needed for Obama’s participation in the rally may have prohibited some average French citizens from joining the march, ABC News reported. Secretary of State John Kerry noted that he would stop in France on his way home from his current diplomatic trip to India to “make it crystal clear how passionately we feel about the events that have taken place there.”
Free Gaza Movement: Israel behind Paris massacre
(JTA) — Following the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, two co-founders of the Free Gaza Movement suggested the attack was carried out by the Israeli Mossad spy agency to malign Muslims. Greta Berlin wrote on Facebook: “Mossad just hit the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo in a clumsy false flag designed to damage the accord between Palestine and France,” the website honestreporting.com reported. Another co-founder of the movement, Mary Hughes-Thompson, wrote on Twitter: “#Hebdo killings indefensible. Can’t help thinking #JSIL Mossad false flag though.”
CRIF and other Jewish organizations have criticized Charlie Hebdo in the past for publishing material deemed offensive to Muslims and Jews, including a front-page cartoon in 2012 that showed a haredi Orthodox Jew and a Muslim saying, “No mocking.”
In 2009, a French court acquitted a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist of incitement to hatred charges over a cartoon that suggested that the French former president Nicolas Sarkozy was converting to Judaism for financial reasons.
Citing the Sarkozy case, Wikileaks on Thursday, Jan. 8 said on its Twitter account that “the Jewish pro-censorship lobby legitimized attacks on Charlie Hebdo for ‘offensive’ speech.”