Ritual Murders of Jews in Paris

By Alyssa A. Lappen
FrontPageMagazine.com | December 4, 2003

After a European Union poll found that nearly 60% of Europeans consider Israel the greatest threat to world peace, the British Broadcasting Corp. on November 26, asked if anti-Semitism is really increasing. “There was outrage and shock over the recent EU poll,” observed Robert Wistrich, director of Jerusalem’s Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of anti-Semitism. Many Israelis consider mainstream labeling of “Israel as a Nazi state” a sort of anti-Semitism.

But the BBC gave the final word to Vienna’s Edward Serotta. The increasingly “shrill” debate often “paints the entire European continent as a cesspool of hatred for Jews,” griped the Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation director. “One prominent Jewish leader recently said the climate was just like 1933 – this is absolutely absurd.”

Oh really? Serotta made this bizarre claim precisely a week after two Paris Jews were brutally murdered and disfigured–because they were Jewish. A minor tabloid, Le Parisien, reported the grisly events. But not a single major French newspaper Le Monde, Figaro or Libération covered the stories, according to an interview with a victim’s mother, distributed by Rosenpress in Revue-Politique.com. In one case, the police advised the family not to call the crime anti-Semitic. [1]

Sebastian Sellam, 23, was a popular disc jockey at a hot Parisian night club called Queen. At about 11:45 p.m. on Wednesday November 19, the young man known as DJ Lam C (a reverse play on his surname) left the apartment he shared with his parents in a modest building in of Paris’ 10th arrondissement near la Place Colonel Fabien, heading to work as usual. In the underground parking lot, a Muslim neighbor slit Sellam’s throat twice, according to the Rosenpress interview. His face was completely mutilated with a fork. Even his eyes were gouged out.Following the crime, Rosenpress correspondent Alain Azria reported, Sellam’s mother said the Muslim perpetrator mounted the stairs, his hands still bloody, and announced his crime. “I have killed my Jew. I will go to heaven,” he reportedly said. The alleged murderer’s family was well known for rabid anti-Semitism, Mrs. Sellam reportedly told Rosenpress, a point confirmed by the victim’s brother. Within the previous year, Sellam’s mother reportedly said, the family found a dead rooster outside their apartment door with its throat slit, and their Mezuzah was ripped from their door post. Leaving dead roosters is reportedly a traditional warning of impending murder.

The homicide especially traumatized the Paris Jewish community: According to Rosenpress, another gruesome murder, also allegedly committed by a Muslim, occurred earlier that evening. Chantal Piekolek, 53, was working in her Avenue de Clichy shoe store when Mohamed Ghrib, 37, stabbed her 27 times in the neck and chest.

Piekolek’s 10-year-old daughter hid in the storeroom behind the shop with a girlfriend and heard the entire crime. There was no evidence of sexual assault, according to Rosenpress. Paris reporters believe the cash remained in the shop’s register, but this detail remained unconfirmed at press time.

A report apparently based on Le Parisien  appeared in France’s biggest Jewish newspaper, Actualité Juive, but added little. The report strangely named the DJ’s alleged murderer only by his first name. No surname was given. A reliable Paris journalist says the story is correct.  

Initial reports in small news outlets naturally terrified and confused the French Jewish community. Intense anti-Semitism has been building for more than a decade, according to Nidra Poller, an American expatriate in Paris for several decades. Anti-Semitic crimes frequently go unreported in the major press, she said, suppressed by French authorities, victims fearing retribution–and news agencies. Jewish community members thus usually learn of attacks as they did during previous centuries in North African and Eastern European ghettos–by word of mouth.

In 2001, a rabbi in Poller’s neighborhood was kidnapped and held hostage in a car for two hours. Another religious Jew was kidnapped in similar fashion, Poller reported. A Jewish woman and her husband, whom she had just picked up at a local hospital, were abused and threatened with murder for several hours by their Muslim taxi driver, she said.

The charged, anti-Semitic atmosphere in France engenders panic each time a Jewish community member suffers an attack. Crimes typically include harassment, kidnapping, assault, rock-throwing, arson and other abuse, Poller said. Victims usually report the incidents to officials, families and friends. Stories thus spread like wildfire, terrifying people, she noted. Just as frequently, authorities refuse to investigate. Reports are then followed by official and other denials–stoking the community’s fear. People don’t know what to believe, Poller said. Desperate for verifiable data, they attempt to trace reports through sources back to the victims. But those seeking information are generally told to back off. “They are left wondering whether their sources are correcting wild rumors or covering up dastardly anti-Semitism,” said Poller.

French Jews live in constant fear, Poller said. Everyday activities, such as taking a taxi, going to synagogue or shopping can bring attacks. The entire community is traumatized. This pattern was effectively repeated with the November murders in Paris after initial reports indicated that both cases were anti-Semitic crimes.

Then the respected Guysen Israel News clarified essential details. It seemed, the news service claimed, that Piekolek was not Jewish, although her husband was. In a subsequent editorial, Guysen opined that while Sellam’s murderer was a known anti-Semite, he was also mad and jealous of the successful DJ he had known since boyhood. The news agency insists that it would label the crimes anti-Semitic if they really were. But other reporters and agencies disagree, and label the murders anti-Semitic.

Parisian Jews are frightened and confused, Poller said. If Sellam’s murderer was mad, why wasn’t he previously committed to psychiatric confinement? Were initial Rosenpress and Revue-Politique reports on Piekolek correct? Was her murder verifiably not an anti-Semitic crime? Or are subsequent denials based on terrified rejection of facts? (Her husband was Jewish, so it was not “anti-Semitic.”) Are Paris Muslims really starting to slaughter Jews?

“In Paris, a lot of Jews already had to leave countries in North Africa,” Poller said. “Now, they are told not to talk about anti-Semitism. And they are going to have to flee again?”

Alas, it is easy to believe the worst. A few days earlier, an anti-Semitic arson attack hit the Jewish Merkatz Hatorah boys’ school on the outskirts of Paris. Prime-Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin later said he hoped to identify “those who carried out this shameful attack.”

Given intense and worsening anti-Semitism in France and Europe, there seems little hope that the government will actually investigate the arson, much less prosecute the perpetrator if it finds one. After all, EU officials deny the severity of the problem. Last week, they shelved an EU report on the subject for fear of antagonizing Muslims, who were behind many of the incidents examined.

Two Muslim students at Paris’ well-regarded Lycée Montaigne recently beat an 11-year-old Jewish classmate while reportedly yelling at him, “We’ll finish Hitler’s job.” Headmaster Jean-Marie Renault sued the accused aggressors and plans “a debate on the dangers of xenophobia” next term. Complaints rarely produce criminal sanctions, however. Many anti-Semitic crimes are never even reported, Poller said–especially in the housing project cités that ring Paris, where residents are one third North African Muslims. “La Zone is foreign country,” writes Theodore Dalrymple.

But is it? Poller left France for a U.S. speaking tour in November with one week’s news publications to read on her flight–two weekly magazines and three major newspapers. All of them, she said, were “reeking with hatred [for Jews].” They also sympathized extensively with terrorists. News reports are not factual. “They are sermons,” Poller said. A profile of philosopher Gilles Deleuze in the weekly Nouvel Observateur, for example, praised his defense of the Palestinians, citing an article he wrote on “le grandeur de Arafat,” despite his personal responsibility for more than 1,000 civilian murders.

EU officials may not want to admit it. But attacks on Jews have been mounting since the terrorist war on Israel began in September 2000. In the last year, however, anti-Semitic attacks in France have grown increasingly bold. In January, Paris Rabbi Gabriel Farhi was attacked several times. In April 2002 alone, the French Interior Ministry recorded nearly 360 anti-Semitic crimes against Jews and Jewish institutions, according to Washington Times reporter Al Webb. [2] In May 2002, a mysterious fire erupted at the Israeli embassy in Paris.

“Yes, a synagogue was burned,” Frenchmen routinely admit, according to Poller. “But how do we know this was anti-Semitic?” Sellam’s murder was handled in much the same way, she said, although 2,000 mourners attended the popular young disc jockey’s funeral. Le Parisien, according to Poller the only print newspaper to report the crime, noted that Sellam was Jewish and his alleged murderer Muslim, but explained the crime as an outburst of jealousy by a lifelong friend. “Sebastian was successful and his murderer was unsuccessful and jealous.”

Something considerably darker than professional jealousy must be at work, however, when a murderer completely mutilates his victim’s face with a fork and gouges out his eyes or stabs a 53-year-old mother 27 times in the chest and neck.

Indeed, in Sura 8, verse 12, the Qur’an instructs Muslims, “Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): ‘I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them’.”

Evidently, some Muslims take this literally. The theme repeats in Sura 47, verse 4: “Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks.“Citing this verse, Shafi’i jurist al-Mawardi (d. 1058) prescribes exactly such behavior. When Allah gives Muslims victory over mushrikun in “The Amirate of Jihad”–the non-Muslim region of war, or Dar al-Harb–he advises, “their women and children are taken prisoner, and their wealth is taken as booty, and those who are not taken captive are put to death.” [3]

Meanwhile, in Germany, neo-Nazis were arrested in September for planning an arson attack on a Munich synagogue to commemorate Hitler’s November 9 Kristallnacht of 1938, in which thousands of Jewish homes and shops were destroyed, hundreds murdered and thousands arrested and sent to concentration camps.

Right. And two grisly ritual murders last week in Paris, France were not anti-Semitic.


[1] Digital video film interview by © Alain Azria / Avi Rosen / Rosenpress Agency

For further information:

[2] Al Webb, “Synagogues Burn as Europe Rages,” Washington Times, Apr. 23, 2002

[3] Abu’l Hasan al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah: The Laws of Islamic Governance (Ta-Ha, 1996), p. 76.

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Alyssa A. Lappen is a U.S.-based investigative journalist. She is the former Managing Editor at the Leeb Group (2012-2017); a former Senior Fellow of the American Center for Democracy (2005-2008); and a former Senior Editor of Institutional Investor (1993-1999), Working Woman (1991-1993) and Corporate Finance (1991). She served six of her 12 years at Forbes (1978-1990) as an Associate Editor. Ms. Lappen was also a staff reporter at The New Haven Register (1975-1977). During a decade as a freelance, her work appeared in Big Peace, Pajamas Media, Front Page Magazine, American Thinker, Right Side News, Family Security Matters, the Washington Times and many other Internet and print journals. Ms. Lappen also contributed to the Terror Finance Blog, among others. She supports the right of journalists worldwide to write without fear or restriction on politics, governments, international affairs, terrorism, terror financing and religious support for terrorism, among other subjects. Ms. Lappen is also an accomplished poet. Her first full-length collection, The Minstrel's Song, was published by Cross-Cultural Communications in April 2015. Her poems have been published in the 2nd 2007 edition of Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust and both 2007 issues of Wales' award-winning Seventh Quarry: Swansea Poetry Magazine. Dozens of her poems have appeared in print and online literary journals and books. She won the 2000 annual Ruah: A Journal of Spiritual Poetry chapbook award and has received a Harvard Summer Poetry Prize and several honorable mentions.

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