Violent death of French Jew prompts political mudslinging ahead of elections

Was there an attempted cover-up of the brutal death of yet another Jew in France?

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

With French elections coming on Sunday, another violent death of a Jew in that country is making headlines and possibly affecting the outcome.

Jérémie Cohen, a 31-year-old disabled man, was struck and killed by a tram in the northern Parisian suburb of Bobigny on February 16 while trying to escape a gang of roughly a dozen young men who were beating him.

His family needed to find evidence to prompt the police to investigate the incident, prompting accusations of an attempted cover-up by would-be replacements for President Emmanuel Macron.

After it was initially reported as a simple traffic accident, the family spread fliers throughout the area asking for help in finding out what had really happened. Unnamed witnesses answered the call, providing them with a video clip of the last minutes before Cohen’s death, with the assailants appearing to be Middle Eastern.

The police finally began an official investigation last Tuesday.

Cohen’s father, Gerald, approached the far-right candidate Éric Zemmour on Sunday in hopes of gaining publicity for the case, which in his opinion had been too slow to develop, possibly for nefarious reasons.

“They are in the process of covering up the affair,” French media reported that he wrote to Zemmour.

Zemmour, who is Jewish and is running on a platform that blames much of French society’s ills on Arab and Muslim immigrants, publicized the video the next day.

He also began tweeting statements such as, “Why is no media, politician or government official talking about the death of Jérémie Cohen, beaten up by scum?” and, “Did he die because he is Jewish? Why has this affair been covered up?”

Other would-be presidents jumped on the story as well.  Candidate Valérie Pécresse of the Republican party denounced the “despicable lynching.”

Marine Le Pen (National Rally), whose far-right party has been accused of harboring antisemites, demanded a parliamentary inquiry over whether the authorities had tried to hush up the incident.

Macron’s office called the Cohens after the video surfaced to express “solidarity” with the family, and in a campaign stop on Tuesday, he demanded “transparency” and “the fastest possible investigation.”

“There are human tragedies every day,” Macron said. “They should not give rise to political manipulation of any kind.”

In a Tuesday press conference, the Bobigny prosecutor insisted that police are treating the case seriously, but at this stage, he said, it was as yet unknown if there were “discriminatory” motives behind the attack.

Cohen’s skullcap was found at the scene, and the prosecutor said it has yet to be determined whether he was wearing it at the time.

“A week before the first round of the French presidential election, it seems that a new affair against the background of hidden anti-Semitism is gaining momentum,” Jewish MP Meir Habib commented. “A sad coincidence, today we mark five years since the horrific anti-Semitic murder of the late Sarah Halimi.”

Habib had initiated a parliamentary inquiry into the 2017 case of Halimi, a 65-year-old doctor who was beaten and her body thrown out of her third-floor window by a Muslim neighbor who screamed antisemitic epithets during the deadly attack.

Last year, France’s highest court of appeal upheld lower court decisions that Kobili Traore, the assailant, could not be held criminally responsible because he was so high on marijuana at the time that it had rendered him temporarily insane.

There have been other serious attacks on members of the French Jewish community since then, including the murder of Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll. I

n a December attack that was publicized in January, a 74-year-old French woman whose apartment had a mezuzah on the door, marking her as Jewish, was severely beaten and robbed by two teens who gained entry by pretending to be members of the building’s security detail.