[This guest post is a follow-up to Dr. Soller’s earlier guest post on the Ilan Halimi murder.]
Blame The Victim:
A Similar Story about the Handling of a Murder of a French Jew
Jerome Soller, Ph.D.
One of the biggest issues for Ilan Halimi’s murder is whether the initial response by the French police was impacted by the victim’s religion and ethnicity and whether there is a resistance to identifying the crimes against Halimi as antisemitic. Today, I spoke to Howard Copelan, who is the owner and publisher of the High Desert Advocate Newspaper and the owner of Coyote television, as well as a member of our synagogue (www.shaareitefila.com) . He had a brother-in-law, Frederique Chekroun, who was murdered in France 15 years ago. While the crime against Fredo was motivated by robbery, there are parallels to the French police response to these crimes against Sephardic Jews.
Mr. Copelan stated the following :
"Distrust of Jews is widespread in the non-Muslim French world (in the right and the left). When a crime is committed in France against a Jew, there is a suspicion that the Jews caused the problem. The police might ask, ‘Are you sure he is kidnapped?’ There is a pervasive belief all Jews have money, are dishonest, and not trustworthy.
My own personal experience was when Fredo was robbed and murdered in 1991. Fredo was a successful jeweler in the South of France. The family notified the police. The police assumed that he had run away from town with some of his stock and money. They wrote it off as a runaway husband, and they told everyone that he had run away. He became the suspect in his own disappearance. They went through all of his financial records ad stocks. They interrogated his wife. He was a rich jeweler, and it did not even cross their minds that he was robbed and murdered. They did not look for any other evidence that would support the possibility of murder. So, they destroyed his reputation. His wife had to live with that. His children had to live with that. When we were in France, a teller at a bank wanted to talk about Fredo’s "running away". Do you know how disgusting that was?
For ten years, they did not treat it as a possible murder. He was the most successful case of disappearance in French history (because he was dead). About 8 years ago, there was a huge storm and his body was uncovered from a sandbar two miles from his home. At that point, the French police had no leads or suspects. They did not even apologize. I believe if he had been a gentile Frenchman, it would have been a totally different story. Like Halimi (a North African name that means "My Hope"), Checkroun also has North African origin. They were both Sephardic Jews, so you get both the latent antisemitism and the dislike of all Algerians in France."
It important to see how the experience of the Chekroun family fifteen years ago was similar to the experience of the Halimi family. It is consistent with the following issues raised in an article from the European Jewish press  (which could have been more accurately titled: "Blame the Victim"):
"The French government was wary about drawing too heavy a link between the criminal gang responsible for Halimi’s murder and anti-Jewish sentiment, however. Past incidents in which apparently anti-Semitic crimes turned out to be staged or committed for other motives seemed to lie behind its cautious stance. A government spokesman, Jean-Francois Cope, told French radio that while there were ‘strong suspicions’ of anti-Semitic motives in ‘this horrible affair’, investigators were still getting to the bottom of the case. ‘Absolutely everything must be done to know all the details’ before conclusions about racism or anti-Semitism were drawn, he said. "
Meanwhile, Marie Helene Amiable, communist mayor of Bagneux, the suburb where Ilan was murdered, organized a silent march on Thursday evening and refused banners against anti-Semitism. It is ironic that some in France will censor signs that protest about antisemitism, but not recognize the existence of antisemitism or criticize the causes of antisemitism. Thankfully, on Sunday approximately 100,000 people protested .
Likewise, I hope that Jews in other parts of the world will start to rally behind the French Jewish community, as this is an issues that impacts all Jews everywhere. Israeli media, such as the Jerusalem Post and Ha’Aretz, have also heavily covered the events in France. For example, an Israeli newspaper wrote
"As was the case in World War II, today the Jewish people in Israel and throughout the world is being targeted for annihilation by an enemy bent on world domination. Ilan Halimi’s monstrous murder is just the latest sign of this disturbing reality. "
1. European Jewish Press, Tens of thousands denounce racism and anti-Semitism in France, February, 2006,
2. Carolyn Glick, JPOST, Israel’s non-reaction to the antisemitic murder of Ilan Halimi, February, 2006,
3. Shirli Sitbon, European Jewish Press, Jewish community pushes inquiry on Ilan Halimi murder, February, 2006,
4. Jerome Soller, Interview with Howard Copelan on the Murder of Frederique Chekroun, February, 2006.