The French Muslim Ignored by Israel

The African man who saved the lives of at least six Jews in Paris has gone largely unacknowledged by the Jewish state, which judges people not by their acts but by their color and religion.

Kobi Niv
Kobi Niv
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Lassana Bathily holds his French Passport following a ceremony at which was awarded French nationality in Paris on January 20, 2015.
Lassana Bathily holds his French Passport following a ceremony at which was awarded French nationality in Paris on January 20, 2015. Credit: AFP
Kobi Niv
Kobi Niv

Lassana Bathily’s name probably does not mean very much to many people. He is a black Muslim immigrant, a 24-year-old Malian citizen who....

You might have thought that the above sentence was going to continue with a verb, such as “murdered,” “raped” or, at the very least, “stole” — but no. Bathily, the 24-year-old black Muslim immigrant, is the man who saved at least six Jews from being murdered during the terror attack at the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris, where he worked, by hiding them in the walk-in freezer and turning off its power switch.

Within a week, the French interior minister granted him the citizenship he had applied for six months earlier. This was after about 300,000 French citizens who regarded Bathily as a national hero signed a petition asking that the government do so.

And what about us? How did Israel, the media, the government and Israeli citizens respond to Bathily’s act of courage and selflessness — terms we apply to any firefighter who rescues a cat from a tree — in saving Jews from murder?

The Israeli media wrote about Bathily, even calling him a hero, for a single day only. And what about the prime minister, the government ministers in general, who dropped everything to go to Paris for the solidarity march, speak in the synagogue there and bring the four victims, who in their deaths seemingly bequeathed Zionism to themselves and to all Jews, to Jerusalem for burial? Did any one of them have a good word for Bathily? Did any one of them thank him, or anything of the kind?

Perhaps Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned Bathily and his action during his visit to the scene of the crime in Paris, as was written on an obscure website. But nothing more than that, if that even happened at all. While it is true that Bathily, the black Muslim, is not one of the Righteous among the Nations by the canonical definitions customarily used in the Jewish state, does he not deserve at least thanks, praise, recognition and appreciation for his courageous act in saving Jews?

It would seem that he does not. The prime minister made no speech lauding his act. The Israeli government issued no statement praising him. No Israeli minister went to visit him. No ambassador, not even an ambassador’s secretary, was sent to Bathily to convey gratitude, a gift, or anything at all. No Knesset member called to invite him to Israel for a trip to Masada or a vacation in Eilat. No Israeli citizen organized or signed any petition calling on our government to express gratitude to him in some form. Nothing.

Because the truth is that we are a racist country, from the prime minister on down to the grassroots citizen. If the person who saved Jews at the Hyper Cacher supermarket had been a French white Christian instead of a black Muslim immigrant, we would have done for him, a thousand times over, what we did not do for Bathily. And if Bathily had immigrated to Israel by mistake instead of to France, we would not have allowed him to work in a supermarket, and we certainly would not have granted him citizenship. Instead, we would have locked him up in some awful “facility” in the desert. After all, we, government and citizens alike, regard and treat human beings not according to their actions, but solely according to their color, origin, nationality, religion and ethnicity.

Every other language on earth calls this racism. We call it Zionism.

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