A 17-year-old Jewish adolescent, Rudy Haddad, was beaten to a coma by a group of adolescents on Saturday night in the north of Paris in an attack initially described as anti-Semitic by French authorities.
“A gang of 15 adolescents attacked the young Jew with metal bars as he was walking down the street wearing a skullcap,” Sammy Ghozlan, from the Vigilance Bureau against anti-Semitism, told the JC. “We have issued warnings earlier this month regarding dangerous gangs in this multi-ethnic quarter of Paris.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said “the aggressors had to be severely punished”. However, police has yet to determine the exact circumstances of the incident.
The attack occurred in a neighbourhood where rival black, Arab and Jewish gangs confront each other regularly and police revealed that Saturday’s beating was preceded by scuffles, apparently over a stolen motorbike.
They also revealed that Haddad had, in the past, participated in a fight and investigators are trying to determine whether the boy, who came out of the coma on Monday, took part in the street fights that preceded his beating.
“The exact motives of the assault haven’t been determined yet,” said police sources.
France’s new chief rabbi Gilles Bernheim said “investigators had to complete their inquiry” but evaluated that “there is no doubt the attack was anti-Semitic”.
Police have detained five black adolescents spotted during the beating.
Racial violence and anti-Semitic assaults committed by ethnic minorities have multiplied in France in recent years.
In 2006, a gang kidnapped and killed 23-year-old phone salesman Ilan Halimi. In 2003, only streets away from the area where Haddad was attacked on Saturday, 23-year-old DJ Sébastien Selam was murdered by his neighbour who told police he would go to heaven because he killed a Jew. The murderer pleaded insanity.
There’s an ongoing debate over Jewish gangs, such as the Jewish Defence League and Beitar, which confront other gangs in the Paris area. One of JDL’s leaders, who presents himself as Michael Carlisle, told me in April that his gang participated in street battles but he said JDL only “fought against gangs that threaten Jews”.
The Jewish community has never openly condemned gangs such as JDL, although the topic was debated in April in the national and Jewish press.