Paris, 23 May 2022

Mr. Darmanin,

First, permit me to congratulate you on your confirmation to the Interior Ministry in the new Government Cabinet.

You will recall our conversation praising your decision to close those Mosques whose Imams had preached antisemitism. Your position has consistently been in defence of the rule of law and therefore of French Jewry.

Our Centre is now gravely disturbed at the murder in Lyon last week of 90-year old René Hadjadj. This act is reminiscent of the case of Sarah Halimi, thrown from her third floor balcony after being savagely beaten by her neighbour yelling “Allahu Akbar!”

Apparently, René Hadjadj was taken by his neighbour from his second floor apartment to the 17th of the high-rise building, to be then hurled to his death.

The building is in the “La Duchère” suburb, sadly viewed as part of the so-called “Lost Territories” as the majority of its population is of Middle Eastern origin. Recent firefights between gangs are reportedly pushing citizens to exasperation.

The police, detaining the 51-year old suspected murderer, have so far discarded the hypothesis of the act being “antisemitic,” though the victim was known to be an Orthodox Jew, generally wearing a kippa.

Only two months ago, the 31-year old Jérémie Cohen was attacked by a group of young men in suburban Paris. He fled from his aggressors and was inadvertently killed by an oncoming tramway. Despite his seemingly wearing a kippa, the local police had first considered the case as a mere accident, and the Investigating Magistrate so far disclaims the charge of antisemitism against the confessed suspects.

Mr. Minister, we suggest a simple change in procedure. Such attacks must be first identified by the police as “possibly antisemitic” – or as a “hate crime” for non-Jewish victims... It should be then the responsibility of the Investigating Magistrate to determine whether the murder was engendered by group hatred – thus aggravating the nature of the crime and the consequent penalty – or not. Both police and magistrates would do well to be trained in the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) Definition of Antisemitism, adopted by the Assemblée Nationale (Parliament) and available from the Centre’s Office in Paris.

Mr. Minister, there cannot be a repeat of the court dismissal of Sarah Halimi’s murderer, deemed legally irresponsible because under the influence of narcotics. Easy sentences in such cases are, in fact, invitations to heroization of the perpetrator(s) and further copycat violence.

Most respectfully,

Dr Shimon Samuels
Director for International Relations
Simon Wiesenthal Centre