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Gender: Female
Home country: USA
Current location: BC, Canada
Member since: Wed Jan 13, 2016, 01:00 AM
Number of posts: 2,520

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Sept. 19, 2012, was the morning after Rosh Hashanah and the fridge was empty. Joël Benguigui, 57, and his wife, Joëlle, were heading home after a stop at the kosher hypermarket in the city of Sarcelles, near Paris, when Joëlle realized she’d forgotten to buy chicken. The couple did a U-turn, but instead of driving all the way back to the kosher hypermarket they decided to stop at its rival, the Naouri store, into which two fragmentation grenades were about to be thrown.

Joël remembers that as his wife walked into the store, he waited for her near the smoked-glass doors in front of the checkout where his phone worked better so they could exchange text messages. “All of a sudden I heard a great ‘boom!’ I saw some smoke. I thought of a firecracker,” he remembered. “Then the glass door just caved in. It simply fell on itself.”

The smoked-glass windows meant that the outside of the store wasn’t visible from where Joël stood. Yet between the explosion and the collapse of the doors he’d had the time to discern two silhouettes running. When the door fell, he jumped outside by reflex, in search, he would later rationalize, of what he thought to be two foolish kids. “I think I thought of running after them. But they had already vanished,” he remembered.

On the sidewalk, a small crowd attracted by the commotion had started to gather. Some people approached Joël and told him he was hurt. “No, I’m not,” he replied. “It’s a firecracker. But as I said that,” he continued, “I felt my arm was beginning to tickle and I looked and saw some blood. The back of my leg right behind the knee was bleeding as well. I said it probably was some piece of glass. Then I went back in to look for my wife and she was safe. But then that’s when I realized what had actually happened.” One of the two M75 fragmentation grenades had in fact landed right at Joëlle’s feet as she was approaching the checkout. Although the spoon had detached itself from the weapon, the grenade had miraculously misfired.

The second grenade had worked fine. M75 grenades are antipersonnel weapons of Yugoslavian fabrication. Their core contains some 3,000 steel balls with a 3-mm diameter and an effective killing radius of 30 to 50 meters. Yet miraculously, Joëlle received only two of those balls and no—one else was hurt—though Joëlle was later diagnosed as having permanently lost 20 percent of her hearing capacity because of the noise.

Joël and Joëlle Benguigui are Sephardic Jews from the Maghreb who define themselves as “a little bit more than just traditional Jews.” They attribute their good fortune in avoiding more serious injuries to “a miracle, a divine will.” One can also assume that the assailants threw the grenades blindly and that one landed near the door, which served as a shield. These details emerged progressively after Joël called 911 and a skeptical police arrived on the scene.

In 2011, 67.4 percent of the under-18 population of Sarcelles was of immigrant descent, compared with 19.7 percent for the French population at large. One third of the town’s population was Jewish, which is how Sarcelles acquired the nickname in France of the “small Jerusalem.” The town’s mayor from 1995 on had been Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who had conquered the town with the help of his wife, the journalist star Anne Sinclair, and the then all-powerful Socialist Party. His politics of harmonious cohabitation between the city’s various communities had been less charitably labeled vote-catching by some of his critics. In any case, in 2012, when the attack occurred, DSK’s political career—smashed by the accusations of sexual assaults against hotel maid Nafisatou Diallo in New York and the journalist Tristane Banon in Paris—was already in shambles, and so was the Socialist Party. In Sarcelles, there were concerns that, deprived of its leader, the town’s harmonious multiculturalism would go south. (Anti-Jewish riots would, in fact, explode two years later, during the summer of 2014.)

Does this local context partly account for the police reluctance to label the Naouri attack an anti-Semitic act? “When I said to the police officer who was interviewing me that I was the victim of an anti-Semitic aggression,” recalled Joël Benguigui, “he simply refused to write the word down. He said that at this point, no evidence could point out in that direction. Which I found especially amazing since he was recording my own statement, not discussing the result of an investigation.

More: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/240727/torcy-cannes-gang-anti-semitic-islamist-france

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