A few months ago in Paris, an immigrant from Mali beat and murdered his neighbor Sarah Halimi, a sixty-six-year-old Jewish widow. Halimi’s killer, Kobili Traore, had a history of yelling anti-Semitic epithets at her and her family, and everything about the murder suggests he was motivated by his own religious beliefs. Yet the French government, in collusion with the French press, has refused to acknowledge that anti-Semitism had anything to do with this crime, and French television has declined to air a documentary on anti-Semitism because of the attention it pays to Muslim anti-Semites. Ben Cohen and Benjamin Weinthal write:
[A]fter dozens of attacks on Jews ranging from street violence to kidnapping to a terrorist massacre at an elementary school, much of France, on the right and left, still [denies] that the country has a problem with anti-Semitism. That’s particularly true when it comes to the approximately seven-million Muslims living there. . . .
Traore has no record of mental illness. He is known to have harassed Halimi and her relatives. His killing of Halimi bore all the fervor of a jihadist attack. And yet this monstrous attack is not being treated as a hate crime. As of now, if Traore goes on trial, it will be on a charge of voluntary manslaughter, mitigated by the mental-health problems from which his lawyers claim he suffers.
There was no public outcry for many reasons, but perhaps the most important one is that Halimi was tortured and murdered at a rather inconvenient time: the climax of the French presidential elections and the widespread fear in much of the French media that Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front would emerge victorious. . . .
[I]f France is finally to overcome its unsettling silence around anti-Semitism—broken occasionally by . . . denials that there is a meaningful problem in the first place—it has first to accept that many of its leaders and opinion-formers are responsible for maintaining it.