Thousands in homage to murdered Holocaust survivor

29 03 18

From our Special Correspondent Jean-Yves Camus in Paris

At least ten thousand people marched yesterday in memory of Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, the 85-years-old victim of a vile antisemitic murder.

Mireille Knoll lived in the same quiet neighbourhood of Paris where I have been living for more than ten years now. She was not wealthy but was stabbed 11 times with a knife at the very time of Shabbat, last Friday evening.

Two people are now in jail, who are placing responsibility for her murder on each other. One is a 27-years-old man of North African origin, the other is a homeless person whose nationality or ethnicity has not been disclosed.

In their frenzied assault, they tried to rob their victim, on the grounds that, according to them, she was “supposed to have money because she was Jewish”.

It is not the first time such an antisemitic murder has taken place in Paris since 2006. Each time, the Jewish communal organisations, among others CRIF, the French equivalent of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Consistoire, which is the main Orthodox religious body, have staged silent marches in the memory of the victims, and the top political leaders of the mainstream parties have attended, as well as members of the Cabinet. Attendances were rather low and mostly consisted of Jews.

This time, though, there were between 10,000 and 30,000 marchers, in my estimate, at least twice the number I saw in 2006 after Ilan Halimi was abducted and killed by a gang, on the same assumption that because he was Jewish, he was rich (he was in fact a salesman in a cell phone shop).

Another difference is in the number of non-Jewish people (including Muslims) I met, suggesting that this atrocious murder, taking place a few days after the terrorist attack in which a police colonel was slain by an Islamist terrorist, means a real awakening against Antisemitism and Islamic Radicalism.

Nevertheless, a fierce controversy erupted the night before the event, when CRIF issued a press release saying that the Front National and the radical left-wing party, “La France insoumise” (LFI), were not welcome because they represented two sides of the same anti-Israel, anti-Jewish ideology.

CRIF has, over the years, maintained a policy of avoiding contacts with Le Pen’s FN. Since the start of the second Intifada, it has also severed ties with the Communist Party and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s LFI.

Despite of the ban imposed by the organisers, the leaders of FN and LFI decided to show up. Mélenchon had to be led out of the demonstration because a group of Jewish Defence League (JDL) extremists threatened him, shouting slogans against his supposed “support for Islamism”.

Later on, Marine Le Pen had to leave, this time because of the angry reaction from the crowd. Together with MEP Louis Aliot, MP Gilbert Collard and a few other lower-ranking elected officals, she was later able to join on to the tail end of the march but had to run to her car quickly under the protection of JDL people (not all of them, it should be noted), amidst hostile heckling.

Meanwhile Florian Philippot, now leader of the FN’s rival party, Les Patriotes, was able to march without trouble.

The troublesome fact, here, is that the CRIF seemed to break the kind of national unity which has prevailed since the terrorist attack of last week when police lieutenant-colonel Arnaud Beltrame, who is now seen as a hero by people from all ideological backgrounds, voluntarily offered himself as an hostage in place of those who had been captured by the ISIS-affiliated terrorist.

The decision to ban FN from the march was a mistake, Le Pen said, because Mireille Knoll’s killer, Yacine M. had allegedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” when stabbing her, thus showing his religious bias. As the killer is or may be, an Islamist, and not an extreme-right activist, she says it is unfair to make her party an outcast.

Finally, CRIF’s decision to ban Mélenchon, and its inability (or unwillingness) to prevent JDL troublemakers from ousting him, was an error. While several LFI elected officials have maintained contact with the BDS boycott Israel campaign and with militants Islamists (in campaigns against Islamophobia), it is certainly unfair to but the blame on Mélenchon, a staunch defender of secularism, personally.

At the end of the day, mixing Israel-related issues with what should have been a dignified, silent and strong moment of remembrance was certainly unwise.




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