Monday, March 13, 2006

Rising Among
French Muslims

Why is it that evil people so often focus their hatred on Jews?

BAGNEUX, France -- In the bleak housing project where a young Jew named Ilan Halimi was held captive and tortured before being dumped in a vacant lot to die, there's scant sympathy for the victim.

''It's too bad this happened, because we immigrants are always blamed," said Ibrahim Ag Ahmalou, a lanky man of West African heritage who shares his girlfriend's apartment in the project. ''But Jews have all the money and power. Everyone knows this and resents them. That's why they have these problems."

Last week there were three more attacks on Jews by Arab and African immigrants in suburban Paris, according to police. None of the latest victims was seriously injured, but the attacks heightened the nervousness of French Jews. There is alarm that the antipathy of French Muslims toward Jews, long based on opposition to Israel, is reverting to the even more sinister prejudices that once pervaded Europe, making Jews the scapegoats for all social ills.

''Anti-Semitism is rising in our country," said legislator Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Halimi, 23, son of Moroccan-born Jews of modest means, sold cellphones at a shop in Paris. He disappeared on Jan. 20, allegedly abducted by a predominantly Muslim youth gang dedicated to crime, street fighting, rap music, and virulent anti-Semitism. The thuggish crew sought a cash ransom of more than $500,000 because they assumed all Jews were rich, according to French authorities. And when Halimi's hard-strapped family could not produce money, they killed their captive because he was a Jew.

In taunting calls to Halimi's family, the abductors addressed his parents with anti-Semitic slurs and told them to get cash ''from your synagogue." They also contacted a French rabbi, boasting, ''We have a Jew." Even more shocking, investigators believe that many inhabitants of the project were aware that the youth gang was holding a Jewish captive, but none called police or urged the abductors to show mercy.

Everyone knew, and no one said anything, which indicates there must be an awfully deep hatred of Jews among the French Muslims.

Why would that be?