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Not-So-Young 'Youth': French Airman Implicated in Anti-Semitic Attack

Friday, July 18, 2008

Late last month, a Jewish teenager wearing a yarmulke was brutally beaten in Paris's 19th arrondissement by a gang of what the French media has widely-described as "youngsters": jeunes. As discussed in my earlier WPR report "'Gang Wars' or Anti-Semitic Attacks?," while the Paris District Attorney's office has identified anti-Semitism as an "aggravating" factor in the attack, both the District Attorney's office and the French media have strongly relativized the charge of anti-Semitism by presenting the incident as the outcome of a series of "clashes" between rival "youth gangs": a black and/or Arab gang, on the one hand, and a "Jewish gang," on the other.

Last week, two suspects in the crime were arrested -- and, as turns out, the "youngsters" are not so young after all. One of the suspects, identified as "Sekou M." in press reports, is 25 years old. The second, identified as "Foued O.," is 26. The Jewish victim of the attack, known in French press reports as "Rudy H.," is just 17. A third suspect who was arrested in connection with a related assault on the same day in the same neighborhood has been identified as "Boubacar C.," a 27-year-old native of Mali. "Boubacar C." is suspected of having been involved in an attack in which a second Jewish victim was cut on the arm with what has been variously described as a "machete" or (per the daily Libération) a "meat cleaver" (feuille de boucher).

While the age of the suspects comes as a surprise, what is most astonishing, however, is that the principal suspect in the crime, the 26-year-old Foued O., turns out to be a corporal in the French air force. As first reported by the daily Le Parisien, after investigators failed to find Foued O. at his family home in the 19th arrondissement, he was arrested at the air force base in Taverny, north of Paris. The French Ministry of Defense has confirmed that a member of the French armed forces has been arrested in connection with the attack on Rudy H. According to eye-witness accounts of the attack, the most serious blows were struck by an assailant wielding a crutch. Rudy would be left with multiple skull fractures and broken ribs. Foued O., who at the time of the attack was on medical leave with a sports injury, is alleged to have been the assailant who beat Rudy with the crutch.

As discussed in detail in my earlier report, the "gang wars" scenario presented by the Paris District Attorney's office -- and unquestioningly repeated by much of the French news media -- does not hold up to scrutiny. On closer inspection of the known facts, the incidents leading up to the attack on Rudy H. appear to have been less a matter of "clashes" between rival "gangs" than of one-sided assaults on individual or largely outnumbered Jewish youngsters. According to all the publicly known eye-witness accounts, the Jewish youngsters were unarmed. (The incidents occurred, moreover, on a Saturday: in observance of the Sabbath, it is forbidden for an orthodox Jew like Rudy H. to carry any objects, let alone a weapon.) The assailants, on the other hand, are reported to have wielded, among other things, "iron bars," the "machete" or "meat cleaver," and, of course, Foued O.'s crutch.

The revelation of the hardly tender age of the suspects is just a further element discrediting what has been up to now the standard depiction of the circumstances surrounding the attack -- or rather attacks -- in the 19th arrondissement. These were men, not "youngsters," and they stand accused of assaulting a teenager nearly 10 years their junior.