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Murder of a Jewish man near Paris reignites fears about antisemitism in France

Eyal Haddad was murdered by his neighbor, according to a Jewish watchdog group that says antisemitism was a motive

(JTA) — The recent murder of a Jewish man near Paris, allegedly by a Muslim man, has reignited concerns about homicidal antisemitism in France — including from Jewish leaders in his native Tunisia.

The alleged killer, Mohamed Dridi, turned himself in to police on Aug. 23 and confessed to having killed Eyal Haddad, 34, three days earlier over a debt of about $100, according to an account shared Monday by the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Antisemitism, or BNVCA, a prominent French watchdog group. Dridi and Haddad knew each other and lived in the same apartment complex, according to the group.

The group’s head, Sammy Ghozlan, says he believes the killing was an antisemitic murder. Ghozlan is a one-time Paris-area police commissioner who moved to Israel in 2015 and believes that French police do not take antisemitism seriously enough.

In the Haddad case, Ghozlan’s allegation is based on multiple posts on social networks by Dridi, he told Qualita, an Israel-based organization that assists immigrants from France to Israel, in a public interview on Tuesday. Dridi wrote about hating France, hating Jews and hating Israel, Ghozlan said.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has not been able to verify the posts, which include an image of a man said to be Dridi burning an Israeli flag that is circulating on social media. BNVCA turned the posts over to police but is not sharing them because of the ongoing investigation, Ghozlan said.

The prosecutor’s office of Paris has not replied immediately to JTA’s query about the Haddad case.

Other Jewish groups are taking a more cautious approach to denouncing the murder as antisemitic. Yonathan Arfi, the head of the CRIF umbrella of French Jewish communities, said that his group, the foremost group representing French Jewry, is waiting for more information about what happened to Haddad, who was born in Djerba, Tunisia. Authorities have released no information about the case, he said Tuesday.

“If the information about the alleged killer’s internet posts is accurate, I think the police and the prosecutor’s office should treat this as an antisemitic hate crime,” Arfi said. “Either way, we want the authorities to examine this angle and are waiting to hear updates.”

The case is reminiscent of several others that have caused alarm among French Jews and others about whether French police are adequately concerned about antisemitism. The most prominent was that of Sarah Halimi, a Jewish woman murdered by a neighbor, Kobili Traore, 31, in 2017.

Traore reportedly shouted about Allah and called Halimi a demon as he pummeled her in her third-story apartment before throwing her out of a window to her death. CRIF and other Jewish groups accused the media of not reporting on Halimi’s murder to deprive right-wing parties in the country’s presidential election at the time from using it in their campaigns as evidence for more law enforcement in majority-Muslim suburbs.

Last year, France’s top court determined that Traore was unfit to stand trial because the marijuana that he had consumed before the act made him psychotic. Jews in Paris staged a major protest in response.

In 2018, Holocaust survivor Mirelle Knoll was killed by her Muslim neighbor, Yacine Mihoub, and an accomplice. They had targeted her because she was Jewish, a court ruled in 2021, before sentencing Mihoub and the accomplice to life imprisonment and 15 years in prison, respectively.

Earlier this year, French authorities said after being alerted to social media posts by an alleged perpetrator that they were considering antisemitism as a motive in the murder of a 91-year-old Jewish man by a neighbor who was Muslim. In a different case, the family of a young man who died after being hit by a tram alleged that he had been chased there in an antisemitic attack; police ultimately charged two men with assaulting Jérémie Cohen but did not cite antisemitism as a motive.

Ghozlan said he believes a thorough investigation will show that Haddad’s murder was antisemitic in nature.

“My impression is that this person, he knew the Haddad family well, prepared his actions for a long time and has made it his mission to kill a Jew,” Ghozlan said in the interview with Qualita.

That sentiment has animated countless social media posts from Jews around the world who are concerned about the dangers presented by antisemitism.

For now, though, people watching the case closely say they want to hear more from French authorities.

“We ask that the French government bring the murderer to justice, perform a transparent investigation, and press full charges against this low murderer to prevent similar incidents,” Tunisia’s Chief Rabbi Chaim Bitan said in a statement, according to a Times of Israel report. Haddad was reportedly buried in Israel, where his family now lives.

This article originally appeared on JTA.org.

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