French Jewish man killed in suspected antisemitic attack buried in Israel

‘Antisemitism in France does not spare any Jew there,’ says Beersheba chief rabbi at funeral for Eyal Haddad; mourners urge French authorities to take strong action

Eyal Haddad, killed in a suspected antisemitic attack in France, is buried in Israel on September 1, 2022 (Screencapture/Twitter)
Eyal Haddad, killed in a suspected antisemitic attack in France, is buried in Israel on September 1, 2022 (Screencapture/Twitter)

A Jewish man killed in France in a suspected antisemitic attack was buried Thursday in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, with mourners calling on the French government to take action.

Several dozen people, including family and members of the French Jewish community, attended the funeral for Eyal Haddad, 34, who was killed in Longperrier, just northeast of Paris, on August 20.

“We share in the grief of the family and the grief of the Jewish community in France,” said Yehuda Deri, chief rabbi of Beersheba.

Though Haddad was originally from Djerba, Tunisia, he has family in Beersheba. Haddad also had Israeli citizenship.

“This is not only a tragedy for the Haddad family, but for the entire community. Antisemitism in France does not spare any Jew there. Eyal was a compassionate and kind man,” Deri said in his eulogy. “I call on the French government to stop these horrific hate crimes.”

“He was a pure soul, always giving charity,” his sister Hannah told Channel 12 news. “The whole house was full of happiness, now they have killed him, what can I say?”

“I want the truth to come to light at the trial,” she said.

Haddad’s neighbor, a Muslim man identified as Mohamed Dridi, confessed to killing him with an axe and attempting to burn and bury the body, according to a statement this week by the National Bureau of Vigilance against Antisemitism (BNVCA).

The BNVCA said the suspect turned himself in to the police and told officers that Haddad, who lived next door to him, owed him 100 euros and had not returned them. He later also confessed that he had killed Haddad because he was Jewish.

Despite Dridi’s confession to killing Haddad because he was Jewish, investigators were reportedly also looking into the possibility that the attack was not fundamentally antisemitic in nature but the result of an argument between the two men, who apparently knew each other well.

Haddad’s brother Elior insisted the killing was antisemitic.

“He was killed because he was Jewish. He did not owe money or anything,” Elior told Channel 12 news. “The murderer worked for him.”

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, in a tweet Wednesday, called on France to take strong action against mounting antisemitism following the “shocking” murder.

“This likely antisemitism-driven murder joins a series of horrifying antisemitic incidents that have recently hit the Jewish community in France,” Shai said.

“I call on the authorities in France to bring the killer to justice and impose the most severe sentence,” he added, sharing his condolences with Haddad’s relatives in Israel and in France.

Despite outcries from the Jewish community over the brutality of the murder and the apparent antisemitic motivation, French authorities have been silent about the case, drawing the ire of Jewish groups and of Tunisia’s chief rabbi.

Eyal Haddad, a Tunisian-Israeli Jewish man who was killed by his neighbor in August 2022. (Courtesy)

French authorities have come under significant scrutiny and criticism in recent years for failing to recognize the antisemitic nature of crimes against Jews in the country and properly prosecute them.

Two Jewish people were killed in France earlier this year in alleged antisemitic attacks.

Near the end of May, a French prosecutor said 89-year-old René Hadjaj, who was pushed out of his 17th-story window, may have been killed because he was Jewish. On May 17, his 51-year-old neighbor was arrested, but investigators did not charge him with a racist crime.

In February, relatives of Jeremy Cohen, a 31-year-old French Jew who died after being hit by a tram in the town of Bobigny, near Paris, said that his death was not an accident, but the result of an antisemitic attack.

Initially, his death was reported as a “pedestrian being run over,” but video footage released by Cohen’s family showed the moments leading to his death and indicated that the incident could have been triggered by an assault. In the video, Cohen is seen being attacked by several members of a large group before running away from the crowd and being hit by an oncoming tram.

France has grappled with a sharp rise in violence targeting its roughly 500,000 Jews, the largest community in Europe, in addition to jihadist attacks in recent years.

The 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old thrown from her window, sparked a national outcry.

Halimi’s murder drew particular outrage after the killer, who had shouted “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic) at the time of the attack, avoided trial because a judge determined he was under the influence of cannabis and was therefore not criminally responsible.

That prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to seek a law change to ensure people face responsibility for violent crimes they commit while under the influence of drugs, which was adopted in December 2021.

In 2018, 85-year-old Mireille Knoll was brutally stabbed to death by two men said to have been looking for “hidden treasures” in her Paris apartment.

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