French Jews Stunned by Claims That Rabbi Faked Own Stabbing

The French Jewish community is in an uproar over allegations that Reform Rabbi Gabriel Farhi, who was stabbed on January 3, may in fact have faked the stabbing.

The French Jewish community is in an uproar over allegations that Reform Rabbi Gabriel Farhi, who was stabbed on January 3, may in fact have faked the stabbing.

The allegations surfaced in a report this week by the weekly magazine Marianne, which was then picked up by Le Figaro. The journal reported that police officers investigating the stabbing said it is not clear whether Farhi was actually stabbed by an unknown assailant, and they are not ruling out the possibility that Farhi in fact stabbed himself.

The report stunned French Jewry, which for the past two years has been vociferously protesting law enforcement agencies' failure to take effective action against the hundreds of anti-Semitic attacks the community has suffered.

"You can imagine what a destructive effect this affair could have on the Jewish community," said one community leader, who asked to remain anonymous. "For two years we have been screaming about the attacks against us and the rise of anti-Semitism in France. If, God forbid, it turns out that the stabbing was staged, not just Rabbi Farhi is in trouble, all the Jews are in trouble. Who will take us seriously? And that is without even mentioning the enormous shame caused by the thought that four former prime ministers took the trouble to support the rabbi and the Jewish community. What will we do now? Apologize to them?"

The Reform community is backing Farhi fully. When its executive board met Monday night to elect a new president, all 18 members made a point of shaking Farhi's hand and offering their support. "I assure you that if I or my colleagues in the community had any doubts at all, we would not be expressing our support," said Francis Lentschner, the newly elected president. "There is no doubt that the affair has greatly hurt the community, but I'm certain we'll get over it."

The rumors began to surface immediately after the attack, when police came to investigate. "I've seen assaults and stabbings as part of my job, but I must say that this was a rather strange stabbing," Marianne quoted the officer who led the investigating team as saying. A few days later, the doctor who examined Farhi submitted a report to the police in which he wrote that "the wound does not match the rabbi's version of the assault."

On Wednesday, Farhi and his lawyer, Michel Zaoui, held a press conference to refute the allegations and accused the police of deliberately trying to frame the rabbi. Zaoui, for instance, charged that it was not the doctor's job to draw conclusions about the attack.

Lentschner also cast doubt on the police's motives. "The very day after the attack, rumors circulated in Paris that the rabbi was responsible for his own injury," he said. "The rabbi himself told me that during his interrogation, the police treated him as a suspect rather than as a victim."