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A French Daniel Pearl?

The centre-right New Majority has a piece on Ilan Halimi, whose murderers are presently on trial in France.  

A few photos  of Ilan Halimi’s torture by a gang knowns as the Barbarians and lead by Youssouf Fofana have now been leaked to a voyeuristic French magazine, Choc (“Shock”). 

There has been some debate as to whether Halimi’s murder was merely a robbery-gone-wrong with a racist overtone, or whether it was from the very start, a plot to murder a Jew. 

There is no doubt that the Barbarians were racists, however:

 Jean-Christophe G., nicknamed “Zigo,” was one of the “jailers” who took turns guarding Ilan. He was seventeen at the time of the crime. Zigo has admitted to putting out a joint on Ilan’s forehead. One of his fellow “jailers” is reported to have explained the gesture by the fact that Zigo didn’t like “feujs” (Le Monde, 21 March 2006). Feuj is French slang for “Jew.” Fofana himself, moreover, has made no secret of his anti-Semitism. For example, when questioned by investigative judge Baudouin Thouvenot, Fofana is reported to have expressed a preference for Thouvenot’s colleague Corinne Goetzmann. “I like you a lot,” Fofana told Thouvenot, “But I prefer Madame Goetzmann, because she’s a Jew and I prefer to deal with my enemies face to face rather than via an intermediary” (L’Express, 23 January 2008). Such remarks have been dismissed by French media commentators as an “act.”

It is also well known that Youssouf Fofana had declared an interest in hunting down a Jew, and had made various attempt to capture other Jews. The widely reported rationale for catching a Jew was said to be Fofana’s belief that Jews were wealthy, and therefore would be rich pickings, and good hostages. 

That is, of course, an intrinsically racist reason for choosing a Jew as your victim. Nevertheless, in minimal sense, pure greed might be said to be a mitigating factor. Youssouf Fofana’s motivation, it has been argued, was to make money: the choice of target was informed by a racist belief in the wealth of Jews. 

The thesis of the New Majority article is that Halimi’s Jewishness was not incidental, in this sense. Rather, it is argued, Youssouf Fofana is a murderous antisemite who specifically set out to torture and murder a Jew, as an end in itself. Moreover, the way that Halimi was photographed and recorded, indicates that Fofana sought to re-enact the murder of Daniel Pearl. 

halimi_pearl

Here is the argument:

Under the title “An Anti-Semitic Crime: Same Scenario, Same Target”, Choc usefully juxtaposes the photo of Ilan Halimi with three photos of Daniel Pearl in captivity. What the juxtaposition reveals is that the Halimi photo is a kind of composite of the Pearl photos. The newspaper as proof of date, the bound hands, the pistol emerging from outside the frame, the background drape: all these elements are present as well in the Pearl photos. The only major differences are the tape around the head and the bloodied nose. 

In her recently published memoir “24 Days” [24 jours], Ilan’s mother Ruth recalls that the kidnappers also dispatched an audio cassette. On it, Ilan can be heard saying the following: “I am Ilan. Ilan Halimi. I am the son of Halimi Didier and of Halimi Ruth. I am Jewish. I am being held hostage.” “How could one not think of Daniel Pearl, who was forced, like Ilan, to recite…that he was a Jew?” Ruth Halimi comments. 

Moreover, the macabre parallels continued, in effect, right to the end. It is Youssouf Fofana himself who is alleged to have stabbed Ilan and set him on fire on the day of his “release” south of Paris. According to the deposition of Samir Ait Abdelmalek, one of Fofana’s lieutenants, Fofana told Abdelmalik that after stabbing Ilan twice in the throat, he in fact then tried to “cut his neck” (Le Monde, 21 March 2006).

New Majority reports that Choc has now under investigation, for reporting this matter, by the public prosecutor with the support of Ilan Halimi’s mother.  

I can understand that Mrs Halimi might very well be mortified by the release of these images in a magazine whose name indicates that its mission is the peddling of horror-porn. 

Now, it might be argued that the similarities are incidental. The pointing of guns, the use of newspapers, the binding of the hands are common to many kidnappings and murders: not just that of Daniel Pearl. But the format of the taped ‘confession’?  I am now finding it increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that Ilan Halimi’s death was not a robbery that ended in the murder of a Jew, but a plot to murder a Jew, simpliciter.