mardi, février 28, 2006

Age of Barbarians?

The grim, abject and appalling murder of Ilan Halimi has stopped me sleeping the last few days. It has, quite apart from the terrible few details that we know of his imprisonment and torture, forced a lot of people to ask some challenging questions about contemporary France. One friend, a journalist based in Prague, called me up on Monday morning to check some facts, and I told him that although it was clear that the crime was antisemitic, that doesn't mean that you can extrapolate anything from that. I said to him then that the murder of Stephen Lawrence didn't tell you anything that you didn't know - in other words that there is racism in Britain, both in wide society and specifically in the police force. And this crime tells us that there is antisemitism amongst the Muslim population in the banlieues, and probably - for no-one loves the police here - institutionalised in the policeforce too.

The same day another friend, a Frenchwoman, told me that she would have marched on Sunday in solidarity with the family but that once it was 'highjacked' by Jewish and antiracist organisations she felt uncomfortable with it. For her this murder was also just a simple act of barbarism, and shouldn't be used to try to explain anything regarding any possible antisemitism deep within the culture that we live in.

Today I feel rather stupid for not having challenged her. Ilan Halimi was kidnapped, tortured and killed because he was Jewish. The 'gang de barbares' believed that because he was Jewish his family would put up the ransom. The police did not act for several days because they didn't want to inflame the muslim community - days that, had they acted earlier, might have saved his life. An anonymous police officer has suggested that the idea that Jewish community has money is not in the slightest antisemitic, implying that it is moreover a perfectly reasonable notion to hold.

In Britain the Guardian, Independent and Observer resisted noting in their reports on the murder that Halimi was Jewish.

And people are uncomfortable with calling this antisemitism?

Halimi lived and worked in the heart of Paris. Don't tell me we have nothing to fear.


Blogger just a girl said...

Is it that they assumed his family was rich and would pay up? Is this what happened here?

My dad and I were having a conversation re this issue >> "An anonymous police officer has suggested that the idea that Jewish community has money is not in the slightest antisemitic, implying that it is moreover a perfectly reasonable notion to hold."

It's anti-Jewish, no matter which way you cut it. It's a stereotype, but we couldn't figure out from where it came. What're it's roots?
- Simply another reason to hate / envy?

Any thoughts on the roots of this particular stupidity (it would be comical were it not so hurtful and inciting) would be enlightening...

cheers (& nice blog :))

8:55 PM  
Blogger englishwoman said...

I heard Helene Cixous and Jacques Derrida speaking not long ago (just before Derrida died) and was really intrigued by a comment she made about the Cremieux decree from 1880 or so, wherein Jews in Algeria were given French citizenship and Arabs weren't. This led to the distinction between 'pieds noirs', a nice bit of French racist terminology that means 'black feet' literally and refers to people who are now French but who used to be colonised in Algeria, and Jews from Algeria, who've been technically French for well over a century and never subjected to this kind of racist labelling. She suggested that this was the moment when Jewish-Arab solidarity amongst Algerians (and eventually between all former French colonial entities like Morocco and Ivory Coast, where the head of this particular gang came from) was smashed and hostility between the two communities set it. Of course this would only be a part of the story - but it's an interesting way of considering the particularity of French Jewish-Muslim relations (which are pretty awful). Then the policeman's comment - well, it's funny how the police all over the world seem to incarnate all that is most base and ugly about their society, isn't it?

9:01 AM  

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