The Jews of Toulouse, 10 years after the Ozar Hatorah School attack

In March 2012, an Islamist terrorist targeted the Ozar Hatorah Jewish School in Toulouse, France. For the first time since the Holocaust, there were Jewish children murdered in cold blood in Europe. This week marks the tenth anniversary of the attack in which eight-year-old Myriam Monsonego, Jonathan Sandler and his two sons, Gabriel, three, and Arie, six, were killed. We met with Franck Touboul, the president of the CRIF[1] of Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées.

 

Commemoration outside the Ozar Hatorah school, Toulouse

 

Georges Benayoun: I shot in Toulouse the film Chronique d’un antisémitisme nouveau (Chronicle of a new antisemitism) three years ago and it was aired two years ago[2]. What impact did it have on the community? And what effect did it have on the Toulousan population in general?

Franck Touboul: For Toulousans in general, I don’t know. The people who spoke to me about it said that they liked it a lot, and that they were very moved. But in the community, these are things that people don’t want to see or hear. We showed it in a cinema for the community and I saw the effect: on the street when they left, people wanted to go their separate ways, to not have seen this memory. Unconsciously, they would have preferred not to have seen the film. It’s a reality that people don’t want to see. I will compare it to Alexandre Arcady’s film about Ilan Halimi – 24 days, the truth about the Ilan Halimi affair – which was not successful. It didn’t connect with its audience, not even in the community, whereas his films usually do well there. But that’s because it was too difficult, because it hurts, because it’s something that breaks.

Stéphane Bou: Georges Benayoun’s film in which you were featured came after a period marked by so much denial, so much blindness about the attack in Toulouse, that people had the feeling that, for the first time, things were clearly said. It contributed to the acknowledgement of a reality…

Franck Touboul: Absolutely, but this reaction you are talking about, I saw it mainly from the Parisian Jews who saw the film. I have seen this feeling of recognition among the Parisian Jews, who represent 300,000 people and are influential. I received countless phone calls from people from this world who were galvanised by the film as if the lid had finally been lifted. But in Toulouse, it’s a different story. In Toulouse, the event is an intimate one. It is part of each person’s experience. Every time we talk about this event, it’s like a wound. And I already know that on the day of the commemoration, I will have more non-Jews than Jews because the Jews suffer too much from these ceremonies. This is one of the reasons why I stopped organising them in 2016. Not out of denial, but because the Jews of Toulouse wanted to be able to turn the page, to forget a little, to rebuild themselves.

Stéphane Bou: At the time of the attack, what were the reactions of non-Jewish Toulousans?

Franck Touboul: It’s difficult to answer this question without generalising. The only thing I can say is that Toulouse, in March 2012, at the time of the attacks, was a dead city, petrified. I had never seen anything like it in my life. There was a kind of icy blanket of darkness hanging over the city. People were afraid to go out, the streets were deserted and life was on hold. Everyone was tuned in to their radios and TVs, and the murderer who had just done something hideous had to be found. And probably also, in an attempt not to blame the population that did not go to the white march, people were scared. The peak of the horror had been reached and so, in a way, everyone wanted to keep their distance from this disaster. There were a lot of testimonies, a lot of people who came to leave flowers and so on. I remember that the pavement of the school was covered with flowers, but there was also an instinct of self preservation. In a way, they were afraid for a certain period of time and when the terrorist was killed, they were reassured. They thought “it’s horrible what happened but luckily we are safe”. What I mean by that is that the people of Toulouse had a survival instinct because they were afraid for themselves too.

Georges Benayoun: And how did your non-Jewish audience react when they saw the film? What were the reactions? Were they more conscious or did they react negatively?

Franck Touboul: I didn’t feel any negative reactions to the film. At the time of the attack, we had sympathetic looks, as if people weren’t affected. This is what explained the lack of national support for the Toulouse attack, which was the first in a series of attacks in France. But when the film was shown, I got mainly distressed glances, which basically said: “we’re in deep shit”. What they meant was that we are all affected. So even though this film focuses on the theme of anti-Semitism, it automatically associates those who are not Jewish in the acknowledgement of an evolution of French society. And at the time of the film, it was no longer a sympathetic outlook such as “We are with you, we sympathise, you are in deep shit”, it was a more all-inclusive outlook. In 2012, a lot of people thought that it was a matter between Jews and Islamists and that somehow, as horrible as this crime was, it didn’t affect France. When it started to touch journalists, people thought “oh, right, we are affected”. So, this film took the temperature, in a provincial town that experienced what it experienced, of a social situation in its entirety from the perspective of antisemitism.

Georges Benayoun: There are several scenes in my film that struck and deeply touched the audience. In particular the one that shows soldiers, with their military equipment, eating in the school cafeteria with the children. Do they still do that?

Franck Touboul: No. What you need to know is that at the beginning the soldiers occupied the gymnasium. They had set up a military camp there. They slept there on camp beds and they were in the playground with the children. Can you imagine that? It’s complete madness. Today, in hindsight, when you see an image like that, you wonder how such a thing was possible… There were trucks with wheels that were my height. I would go into the school and find soldiers with weapons in the schoolyard playing football with the children. The mothers brought them cakes… They were in the school day and night. Imagine parents who, in the morning, drop their children off at school, the very apple of their eyes, with such fear. I’ll tell you a secret: I was going to have lunch between 12 and 2 with the headmaster of the school, Myriam Monsonego’s father, and I saw parents on the corner of the school’s street, crying out of fear in their cars. It’s a terrible trauma. Many children today have grown up differently because they lived through the attack, because they were hiding behind a bush, behind a car, because they texted their parents: ” Mum, I’m going to die… “. This event had an effect on their destiny and the paths they took in their lives.

Soldiers eating in the Ozar Hatorah school cafeteria, from the documentary ‘Chronicle of a new antisemitism’ by Georges Benayoun (2020)
Georges Benayoun: Marc Sztulman, the spokesman for the CRIF in Toulouse [the Jewish community in Toulouse], said: “We live permanently with the idea that this could come back at any moment”. Do you share this feeling?

Franck Touboul: Of course. We think about it all the time. I have never lowered my financial standards for security guards. I try to see the General who is in charge of the Sentinel security system[3] as often as possible and above all I tell the prefect: “Never take the soldiers away from me”. Today, the system in France has become more proactive – the soldiers are no longer stationed in front of buildings, they move around everywhere – but here, they remain static, even ten years later. And if the soldiers arrive late, I have families who harass me. At 7.30 in the morning, I receive dozens of phone calls from parents who drop their children off at school if they see that the soldiers are not there. So I push the prefect, the general of the gendarmerie and the general of the army to ensure that the soldiers are always there on time and I have their schedule. I know at what time they arrive, at what time they leave and I point out when there is a problem with this schedule because anxiety is always present. You can’t imagine to what extent.

Georges Benayoun: At the end of the documentary, you said that you were aware that you were elected to manage the decline of the community. What is the current situation?

Franck Touboul: The provincial communities have an extremely low level of demographic growth. Already in the two or three years after the attack, there was a considerable number of people who left. But above all, until today, the young people of my community, whether they are in Jewish schools or in public schools, decide – 80% or 90% – to leave France after finishing high-school. And I don’t see by what miracle they could come back.

Georges Benayoun: Where do they go?

Franck Touboul: Most of them go to Israel. In any case, they go to study out of Toulouse and even when they stay in France for their studies, they often go to Israel afterwards. Just recently, I spoke with a young doctor who finished his internship in France before going to Israel to take another degree to become a military doctor. So there is perhaps a distorted angle on Toulouse and this generation that experienced the attacks directly, but this is symptomatic.

Stéphane Bou: The picture you paint of an unstoppable decline concerns the Jewish communities in the French provinces in general…

Franck Touboul : Absolutely…

Stéphane Bou : … But what was the particular effect of the attack on the Toulouse Jewish community in regards to this overall decline? 

Franck Touboul: It’s difficult to define the effects of the attack in this way, because there is not a Jew in France who hasn’t experienced, emotionally at least, the Toulouse attacks. And I am firmly convinced that many young French Jews said to themselves at that moment that they had no future in France, and not only the youth. You have to imagine what it meant for the parents and grandparents to put their children in a Jewish school with the now obvious risk that this entails. But it’s true that in Toulouse in particular, you had to have a lot of courage, and it’s not possible for the generation I’m talking about not to have had an effect. How could they have imagined something lasting in France in this context?

Georges Benayoun: But you believe that the impact of the attack goes far beyond Toulouse…

Franck Touboul: Of course, it’s like seismic waves. Toulouse is at the heart of tectonic plates, where people leave as quickly as they can. And that’s really what happened here. A lot of people left, and as quickly as possible. There have been departures almost in a frenzy. People have sped up their departure plans, which they already had, in a hurry. And then there are the waves, the more distant tremors: communities around Toulouse, in Montpellier for example, and so on until Paris. And in Paris too, there are people who have decided that they have to leave.

In my opinion, there are three things that have happened. Firstly, what I would call a ” hidden Judaism “, especially for those who do not have the financial means to leave, has become stronger; it affects those who have chosen to hide. Then there is what is often described as an inner Aliyah. And finally, there is the Aliyah in general, where some Jews went to Israel and others to Canada, London or the United States. It’s mainly the older ones who stayed and that’s why I say that I manage the decline. My community is not growing. Its renewal forces have decided to leave. So beyond the two years that followed the attack, you have to see the tidal wave… The outcome is simple: since 2012, a community of 12,000 people has lost over 30% of its members.

Evening prayer at the Jewish community center of Toulouse, from the documentary ‘Chronicle of a new antisemitism’ by Georges Benayoun (2020).
Georges Benayoun: You asked me not to talk about it in the documentary, but the children of the Jewish community of Toulouse are today mainly enrolled in Jewish schools, in a proportion that we don’t find in Lyon or Marseille, because enrolment in public schools has led to many problems. This is perhaps the reason for the tendency towards hidden Judaism that you mentioned. Could you specify what you mean by that?

Franck Touboul: It has always existed, whether it is conscious or unconscious. There are those who, throughout history, have always chosen not to have any ties with the Jewish community in the sense that they didn’t take part in the holidays, either because they believed that these practices were something intimate or because they were driven, probably unconsciously, by an instinct of self-preservation or a reflex of precaution. It was something you could hear in their voice when they said “I am Jewish”, but they lowered their voice, they said “I am an Israelite from France” and it sounded like Zemmour’s horrible ideas. My parents are from Algeria and when we arrived in France, we were in this culture. We lived like French people, quote-unquote, and my father, before he became religious again, ate pork. In short, Jews who choose not to live as Jews, who don’t have a community life, who send their children to secular schools and whose Jewishness is only shown on the occasion of specific events: when death is near or when a loved one dies, they have to go back to the synagogue for kaddish.

Stéphane Bou: Some Ashkenazi families experienced a similar phenomenon after the Shoah. It was no longer necessary to say or show that one was Jewish. This identity was concealed in the secret of the family…

Franck Touboul: What I’m talking about is perhaps not the same thing, but there was undoubtedly a survival and preservation instinct, which consisted of saying: “We go to public schools, we try to live normally, we blend in and above all we don’t cause trouble. This is a constant phenomenon but it became more pronounced after the attacks and today I know a couple of community activists who have chosen, for this reason, to put their daughter in a public school. There are Jews who are gradually retreating from the community, who are fleeing an anxiety-inducing climate, an objectively anxiety-inducing environment, anxiety-inducing Jewish schools because they are threatened, etc. Even in my family, my mother tells me: ” That’s enough, my son, stop, don’t put yourself out there, it’s too dangerous “. I have two older brothers, who are otherwise daredevils, who also tell me: “That’s enough, Franck, stop it, you’re going to get yourself into trouble” Fortunately, the more people tell me that, the more I want to persevere in my mission…

Stéphane Bou: It’s like a sort of post-traumatic syndrome that is shown in this withdrawal you speak of…

Franck Touboul: Yes, and hidden Judaism can be found among both the wealthy and the poor. On the wealthier side, it’s the affirmation that “I’m a French citizen, I have a normal life, I don’t want to be labelled with an identity” and on the poorer side, it’s people who stay away from the community because they are so vulnerable that they don’t have the means to defend themselves as Jews. It takes a lot of social strength to be Jewish, to show it publicly. You need strength of character but you also need to have material strength. You have to be completely in control of your resources in order to assert your Judaism. For example, less than a month ago, I met a woman who said to me: “I live in the Mirail district – a rough neighbourhood in Toulouse – I am in social housing, I want to leave”. She said, “You know, I can see the insinuations, the threats, the mezuzah has been taken away from us, and when we do the kiddush we do it quietly…” I went to see the mayor with her and I made her say it again so that the mayor would understand her situation. A case like this concerns people with very little, simple people, who go into hiding because the external affirmation of their Judaism is too costly for them. This makes me feel terrible, but I understand that you have to be in full control of your financial resources to be a public, exposed and assertive Jew.

That being said, post-traumatic syndrome, to use your expression, does not only show itself in the withdrawal… I’m thinking of an elected member of the CRIF, a former deputy mayor of Toulouse during thirty years, who has always lived as an “Israelite”, in the way we were talking about above, but whose granddaughter now goes to a Jewish school. He is now harassing me. He has become unrecognisable. Now he’s resigning from the CRIF, even though he’s one of my closest friends, because he can’t stand the fact that Macron didn’t condemn the Amnesty International report. He also goes to take photos at BDS protests, etc. He’s someone who has been in politics all his life, who obviously knows that politicians are not committed to us, that we have to fight all the time, that we have to compromise sometimes.

Franck Touboul in the documentary ‘Chronicle of a new antisemitism’ by Georges Benayoun (2020)
Stéphane Bou: To continue more about this family from Mirail who wanted to move but didn’t have the financial means to do so… Since the attacks, has the Toulouse city council addressed these problems?

Franck Touboul : The current mayor, Jean-Luc Moudenc, is perfectly aware of the problems, whereas his predecessor, Pierre Cohen, a socialist, had a lot of trouble identifying the issues, for the reasons we mentioned earlier of the ideological blanket on antisemitism and radical Islam. I remember Jean-Luc Moudenc, then an opposition municipal councillor, making extremely clear statements about the Islamist threat. I have nothing to criticise on that point. But the question is: what can a mayor do? It’s the whole city policy that should be redone. So obviously it’s sad that this family has been forced to leave. But what else can we do? We can’t rebuild the population…

Georges Benayoun: The tenth anniversary of the attack will give way to a major national commemoration with the participation of French President Emmanuel Macron and Israeli President Isaac Herzog. What is the attitude of the Jewish community of Toulouse regarding this occasion?

Franck Touboul: I can’t say what its attitude is. I haven’t yet assessed the mood of my community on this subject. But you should know that I decided, after my election as president of the CRIF Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées, to stop the commemorations of the attack. Not to turn the page, obviously, but to allow the community to refocus on itself and to rebuild. I wanted to avoid the major commemorative masses that constantly replay the traumatic event and I preferred to maintain the happier conditions necessary for the rebirth of community life. And in fact, even if Covid recently interrupted this community life, the events we organised – community Shabbats, Tsedaka day, etc. – were always well attended. – In all the events we organised – community Shabbats, Tsedaka day, etc. – there were always many people and a real desire to get together.

But, obviously, the time came to decide what to do on the tenth anniversary of the attack, with the added aspect that the commemorative event would take place shortly before the presidential elections. If the Toulouse attack is obviously worth remembering for its own sake, it also marks the beginning of a series of Islamist terrorist attacks in our country. In this regard, we felt it was our responsibility to hold this memorial and political meeting not only to continue to pay tribute to the victims, but also to try to give a form of constructive resonance – I am of course aware of the sensitivity of this expression, but you will understand its meaning – to this horrible attack. Our responsibility is, on the one hand, to look at the past and to highlight what was a form of French blindness in 2012 and in the years that followed. But it is also, at the same time, to look to the future and to avoid, in the middle of the presidential campaign, that some people refuse to see the radical Islamic threat in our country and that others use this threat of radical Islamism for political purposes that are much more dangerous, that is to say, by using it to the disadvantage of a population which, admittedly, on the margins is involved in radical Islamism, but the vast majority of which lives, like any normal French citizen, with a religious belief in its private life.

Georges Benayoun: Can you clarify who these ” certain people ” are?

Franck Touboul: What I mean is that the republican fringe of the French political class is shrinking and today we can see that the so-called republican parties, those that do not give in to the temptations of the extremists, are less and less common. The very arrival of Emmanuel Macron on the political scene, with all that it has generated in terms of destruction of traditional parties, has contributed to this fragility. From that point on, our responsibility, as French people and as Jews, is to preserve this republican pact with all that this implies in terms of being lucid about reality on the one hand, about the troubles and threats that weigh on our country and with which we unfortunately, as Jews, have a head start; a responsibility to say that we must confront them with great determination, with a great deal of courage, but with the weapons of the Republic and without ever falling into amalgam and rejection. We also have a responsibility, as French citizens, not only to warn about the Islamist danger but also about the temptation of the extremists.

Georges Benayoun: Were all French politicians invited to this commemoration?

Franck Touboul: No, not at all. Why should I invite candidates on the grounds that they have 500 signatures when they are the very opposite of what I consider to be the purpose of this commemoration? Very clearly, this commemoration refuses to use the victims as instruments. It is an opportunity to remember the challenge that must drive us in the years to come, with the lucidity and clarity to say that this challenge can only be taken up with a certain number of parties, and certainly not with those who instrumentalise those who killed our children to serve a political project that has nothing to do with our vision of the French Republic.

Commemoration in front of the school, March 19, 2019, from the documentary ‘Chronicle of a new antisemitism’ by Georges Benayoun (2020).
Stéphane Bou: You were implicitly mentioning Éric Zemmour. We would like to know how the Toulouse Jewish community reacted to his comments on the attack and on the victims? And furthermore, is the sensitivity to Zemmour’s speeches, which instrumentalise the victims of Islamism, a sensitivity that has been seen among some Jews, found in the Jewish community of Toulouse, which was directly victimised?

Franck Touboul: The Jewish community in Toulouse, notably because of its number – it is not very large – is quite united. There are no chapel or ego quarrels, or tensions between figures, as there are in other communities. On the contrary, we have a certain form of political discipline with members of the community who are, year in, year out, on the same page. This is an important prerequisite because it marks a difference with other communities where individuals can make their particular voice heard more than is appropriate. Secondly, there is a specific sensitivity here to the attacks on which Zemmour wrote. I would like to insist on this, what you are referring to is not a slip of the tongue, Zemmour wrote it. And you have to see how he wrote it. He set in motion the problematic stricto censu of the victims’ burial, which relates to the classic accusation of double allegiance. He proceeded with this symmetry between the victims and their executioner which is despicable. But there is also his statement referring to Les Tontons flingueurs[4]on the garbure…

Stéphane Bou: It is important to remember the violence of these statements that you refer to, which can be found in La France n’a pas dit son dernier mot [France has not said its last word]. Éric Zemmour writes: “Mohammed Merah’s family asked to bury him in the land of his ancestors, in Algeria. We also knew that the Jewish children murdered in front of their religious school in Toulouse would be buried in Israel. Anthropologists have taught us that you are from the country where you are buried. I remember the hilarious tirade of the mafia boss in Les Tontons flingueurs: ‘America is good for making garbure or, at the very least, for living there, but for what it is to leave one’s bones, there is only France’. Murderers or innocents, executioners or victims, enemies or friends, they were willing to live in France, to ‘make garbure’ or whatever, but as far as leaving their bones behind was concerned, they certainly did not choose France. Foreigners above all and wanting to remain so beyond death.

Franck Touboul : The garbure is this all-in-one dish, around which you sit, which you eat together, and you can see very well all the imagery it carries. Quoting Les Tontons Flingueurs, a popular comedy, to talk about the attacks, it’s extremely crude… And above all, the implication here is that these murdered children come to eat, to stuff themselves in France – these children were between six and ten years old – but afterwards, as far as their bodies, their skeletons, are concerned, they go somewhere else… Nicolas Sarkozy reacted with an extremely simple statement, which deserves the praise of being quite clear: From the moment he said what he said about children, I don’t even ask myself the question of whether or not I should vote for Zemmour, he is disqualified from the presidential election. On this point, I agree with Sarkozy: Zemmour is disqualified.

That said, I have two people here who talk to me about Éric Zemmour all the time. Two people blinded by the problem of radical Islam, by the problem of terrorism, obsessed by those who killed our children. So I tell them and I repeat that Zemmour is totally disqualified, that we have nothing more to do with this guy and that he has nothing more to do with us. He is in a totally irrational delusion whereas we must, on the contrary, restrict his speech. We need to limit him to what he says about the evil that threatens us, the evil that the French people feel, and that we have seen here for a long time and condemned. But we have never done it and must never do it in the proportion and with the radicality that he has. Zemmour’s speech is not the solution at all. At the very least, it can have a benefit: that of waking up the republican parties, which for a long time wanted to sweep the dust under the carpet and refused to see what could destroy French society, what could damage the social link between us. But the solution must come from the Republican parties. It must come from the former presidents of the Republic, from the current president of the Republic, from Valérie Pécresse, from the governing left and from the social democracy of tomorrow. And above all, we must not stop at the calendar of today’s presidential election, because Emmanuel Macron will be re-elected and the day after his election all his supporters, all the members of parliament, will go and look for a new home for next time. We have to work on this political staff beyond the presidential election. This commemorative event is therefore also intended to contribute to an intellectual structure of our entire political class, of all the political and civil society figures, to tell them that there is a problem, it is radical Islam.

Stéphane Bou: Do you think that the political class is still insufficiently structured on these subjects?

Franck Touboul: It has to be said and repeated, over and over again, because as you both know, before, we didn’t say it or we hardly dared to say it out loud. Let’s take the left, for example, to which I belonged for a long time. In the 2000s, I saw the Jospin government and its sadly remembered Minister of the Interior, Daniel Vaillant, incapable of raising awareness of this subject, which has been explained over and over again. We have seen the long-term incompetence of the left to think that victims of racism could also be guilty of antisemitism. But there is a lot more to be said, beyond this one example… This is why we wanted this event to be more than just a commemoration, but also a conference, a moment of exchange and reflection, to work on these questions. In the organisation of the event and its timing, there will first of all be, on the tenth anniversary, a moment of exchange and reflection to build something for tomorrow, and then a commemorative part to pay tribute to the victims, which the President of the Republic will attend. Tribute to all the victims, including those of the Toulouse and Montauban killings, for which the CRIF alone is responsible.

The school today, renamed “Ohr Torah”, from the documentary ‘Chronicle of a new antisemitism’ by Georges Benayoun (2020).
Georges Benayoun: What is the theme of the conference?

Franck Touboul: It is about the ten years to come, about the national unity around the fight against radical Islam with the Muslims of France. You have to put yourself in the shoes of the Muslims of France for a minute. I would like to say this without any kind of traditional or watered-down language: we Jews in particular have a need for discernment while our Muslim compatriots, who work, who are nurses, doctors, taxi drivers, company directors, etc., are being subjected to this kind of globalisation, this amalgam, all day long, on certain news channels in particular. But we must also demand something of them: they must make themselves heard and insist that they should not be amalgamated.

We Jews have spent our time, in our own history, trying to conceive responsibility in its essence, both individual and collective. We have tried, as much as possible, to take actions, positions, that always took into account the image we would give individually but also collectively. We were educated towards this individual responsibility for the Jewish community. We must offer the Muslims of France the opportunity, not to justify themselves and say “I am not a radical Islamist”, definitely not that, but to love the French Republic and to say so. They love the French Republic because none of them want to go and live in Algeria today, or anywhere else. There is no debate, and I believe that the French, on the whole, are happy in their country, and it is difficult not to be, apart from personal conditions which can be difficult from time to time. But we must give Muslims the opportunity to make their voices heard more on this point. So I invited many imams to this commemoration and I am very happy that Latifa Ibn Ziaten[5] is participating. This was my intention, this is what I wanted to do on the occasion of this day. It is not the heart of the event, but it is a very important aspect.

Georges Benayoun: What are the relations between the Jewish community and the representatives of the Muslim community today in Toulouse? I ask this question because, when I was there to shoot the documentary, I could see a certain division: I had the opportunity to interview the imam of the Mirail mosque, but I also remember the famous statement of the imam of the Empalot mosque who quoted the anti-Semitic hadith by excellence, that of the Jew and the Rock[6]

Franck Touboul : There is this trial, which is under appeal, with the imam of the Empalot mosque, which is supposedly the main mosque of Toulouse, even if a bigger mosque is opening soon in Mirail… Generally speaking, there is no relationship with the Muslim community. But there is no organisation of the Muslim community as such, so it is very difficult. There is a representative of the Muslim Regional Council, but he is a municipal employee and he does the best he can to try to represent something but otherwise there is no centralised Muslim community organisation. The city of Toulouse has taken the initiative of a fraternity council: anyone can come, but we don’t know exactly who they represent. The prefecture has also taken an important step with the charter of secularism.  But on a daily basis, especially since the Empalot mosque affair, relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities are at a standstill.


Interview by Georges Benayoun and Stéphane Bou

Notes

1 Le CRIF — Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France [Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France] — brings together, under a single umbrella organization, the various political, social and religious trends present in the French Jewish community.
2 At the beginning of the year 2020, French public television devoted a special program to the fight against anti-Semitism. Georges Benayoun’s documentary, Chronique d’un antisémitisme nouveau (Chronicle of a new antisemitism) was broadcast on this occasion. The director set up his cameras in Toulouse, the scene of the 2012 Ozar Hatorah school attacks. Among the various interviewees: inhabitants of the city, politicians, association leaders, imams and, already, Franck Touboul, who he meets again for this interview conducted for K..
3 ”Operation Sentinelle” is a French army operation deployed on French territory in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo and HyperCacher attacks in January 2015. Since its creation, armed soldiers have been patrolling the national territory, particularly around sensitive points, to discourage and prevent attacks.
4 Les Tontons flingueurs (English: “Crooks in Clover”, also known as “Monsieur Gangster”, literally Gun-toting Uncles) is a very popular 1963 French film directed by Georges Lautner? Many of its lines have become cult favorites in France.
5 Latifa Ibn Ziaten is the mother of Imad Ibn Ziaten, a French soldier, officer of the 1st parachute regiment of Francazal, assassinated by the same terrorist as the victims of the Ozar Hatorah school. Latifa Ibn Ziaten founded the association “Imad pour la Jeunesse et la Paix” [Imad for Youth and Peace.]
6 On December 15, 2017, Imam Mohamed Tataï delivered a sermon at the Empalot Mosque in Toulouse before 3500 worshippers in which he quoted the hadith known as The Rock: “The Jews will hide behind the rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will say: oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.” In the summer of 2018, the preaching was posted online and shocked the Jewish community of Toulouse. The prosecutor’s office of Toulouse then seized the case and several associations (LICRA, the CRIF, etc.) filed as civil parties. During the hearing, in June 2021, the imam was judged for “incitement to racial hatred”. The prosecutor had requested a six-month suspended prison sentence, but the imam was acquitted by the judicial court of Toulouse. The imam still practices at the Empalot mosque.

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