A rape in Paris

We need to start protecting ourselves because our enemies are clear on one point: It’s us or them.

By Ben Cohen, JNS

Antisemitic violence is horrifying wherever it takes place, but in France, as we’ve learned time and again over the last two decades, a disturbing intimacy defines many of the worst incidents in that the victims were known to the perpetrators, and in some cases, even socialized with them.

In 2003, for example, a young Jewish DJ named Sebastien Salem was murdered by Adel Amastaibou, a Muslim neighbor with whom he’d been friends since childhood.

The murder itself was shocking in its brutality, as Salem’s body was found with multiple stab wounds caused by knives and forks.

After Amastaibou was arrested by police shortly after the murder, he told them: “I’m happy if he died, that bastard, if he’s dead, I’m too happy, this f**king Jew, dirty Jew.”

Three years later, it was the turn of Ilan Halimi, a young French-Israeli cellphone salesman, to undergo a terrifying ordeal that involved kidnapping, torture and murder at the hands of a mainly Muslim gang appropriately known as “The Barbarians.”

Halimi ended up in their clutches after he flirted with an attractive young woman who was sent to the store where he worked with the express purpose of entrapping him.

He subsequently spent three weeks in captivity, during which he was constantly beaten and burned with cigarettes while tied to a radiator.

The gang attempted to extort 450,000 Euros in ransom money from Halimi’s relatives, believing them to be wealthy because—as one of the gang members later explained to the cops—“Jews have money.”

On Feb. 13, 2006, Halimi was dumped, barely alive and with burns on 80% of his body, near a railway track on the outskirts of Paris. Discovered by a passerby who called for an ambulance, Halimi died on his way to the hospital.

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Then, in April 2017, Sarah Halimi (no relation to Ilan), a widow who lived on her own in public housing in Paris, was beaten to death by her Muslim neighbor, Kobili Traoré, a petty criminal and drug dealer who had started hanging out at a local Islamist mosque.

In the most abject denial of justice to French Jews since the notorious Dreyfus Affair of the 1890s, France’s highest court ruled that Traoré would be excused from a criminal trial on the grounds that his intake of cannabis on the night of the murder had rendered him temporarily insane.

After that execrable decision, more than a few observers asked ironically whether stoned or drunk drivers responsible for causing fatal car accidents would be granted the same privilege.

The following year, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, was murdered by two men whom she invited into her Paris apartment, having known one of them—Yacine Mihoub—since his childhood.

Mihoub stabbed Knoll 11 times before setting her body alight, as part of a robbery executed because, as was the case with Ilan Halimi, she was Jewish, so she had to be wealthy.

In this case, at least, Mihoub and his accomplice Alex Carrimbacus were imprisoned, as was Mihoub’s mother, who assisted the pair by cleaning the knife that was used as a murder weapon.

In 2024, the horror continues. As with other countries, antisemitic incidents in France, already at worrying levels, exploded following the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom in southern Israel.

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In the first three months of this year, according to Le Monde, outrages aimed at Jews increased three-fold compared with the same period in 2023.

Last week, news broke of an assault every bit as nauseating as those described above—only this time, the target was a 12-year-old girl.

The victim had been sitting in a park with a friend when she was approached by three boys between the ages of 12 and 13.

According to a police account, the girl was dragged into a shed where she was beaten and then forced to submit to vaginal, oral and anal penetration.

Throughout the rape, her assailants—all boys at the beginning of puberty, remember—showered her with antisemitic abuse.

The two boys who carried out the rape have remained in custody, while their accomplice, who engaged in the beating and the insults but not, apparently, the rape, has now been allowed to return home.

The young girl’s ordeal, which will scar her for life, generated the usual breast-beating among French politicians, led by President Emmanuel Macron, who railed against the “scourge of antisemitism.”

No doubt the rape will also be a factor in the forthcoming French elections, with far-right National Rally (RN) already exploiting it for messaging purposes, and the far-left La France Insoumise (LFI), whose parliamentarians have frequently and justly been accused of antisemitism in the wake of Oct. 7, feeling obliged to denounce “antisemitic racism.”

Yet the issues here run deeper than the statements of politicians in France and, indeed, other countries.

Antisemitic violence has always exposed the particular vulnerability of Jewish women trapped in these hellish situations.

Jewish women were raped and sexually humiliated during the 19th and 20th century pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, as they were during the Nazi era, too.

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More recently, the abiding memory of Oct. 7 consists of the rapes of young women by Hamas terrorists, many of them at the Nova dance music festival, where more than 350 revelers were murdered.

Meanwhile, other young women were carried off into Gaza by their Hamas captors. The testimonies of those who have been released leave no doubt that sexual violence was part of their experience as hostages.

Rape is, of course, an act of misogyny—a grotesque means for men to remind women of their physical power. But it is also an act of dehumanization.

And it is that dehumanization that binds the rapes of Oct. 7 with the rape of a young Jewish girl in Paris. It is also a reminder that the invective that Jews encounter on social media on a daily basis has real-world consequences.

New York City has seen pro-Hamas demonstrators riding the subway and demanding to know if any of their fellow passengers are “Zionists.”

Just last week, an elderly man wearing a kippah on the corner of 72nd Street and Broadway was spat on by a thug yelling “Free Palestine.”

Can we honestly say that such people would shy away from even more bestial acts, like rape? Can we trust that they will stick to verbal abuse alone, as bad as that is?

What happened in Paris may seem like an isolated act, but in reality, it could happen anywhere.

And if the authorities won’t protect us and our children, then we need to start protecting ourselves because our enemies are clear on one point: It’s us or them.