I remember hearing about Ilan’s story. I read about this beautiful young man in Paris, targeted by a gang for kidnapping, torture and murder because he was Jewish. I was horrified to hear what happened to Ilan. As I became more familiar with the barbarity he was subjected to, an unsettling feeling came over me as I read about the details and wondered, was this a forewarning of things to come? I had no idea that 9 years later I would be writing about what happened to Ilan Halimi after viewing the chilling & heartbreaking film, 24 Days, directed by the French Algerian born Alexandre Arcady.
Keeping us on the edge of our seats, the film brilliantly chronicles how a French Jewish Moroccan family in Paris lived for three weeks while their beloved son and brother was being held, gagged, beaten and abused for ransom by an Islamist gang.
A Dark Foreboding
Twenty-three year old Ilan goes to work in the phone store in Paris on that day just like any other day. A beautiful girl comes into the store feigning interest in the merchandise. She chats Ilan up and takes his phone number to make a date for later. Little did Ilan know that he was being set-up in a honey trap and the meeting with this girl would lead to his kidnapping, torture and ultimate murder by what would later be known as “gang of the Barbarians,” a mainly Muslim group of individuals.
Ilan receives a call and leaves home one Shabbat evening to meet this young woman. He is to meet her at a coffee shop and then later she invites him to her place. This is where the gang pounces, binding, gagging and shoving Ilan in the trunk of a car to be driven to the destination where he’ll be held.
Ilan’s abductors confine him in an apartment. The gang is headed by Youssouf Fofana or “Django,” a Black Muslim from the Ivory Coast, played with terrifying and exquisite precision by Tony Harrison.
By kidnapping Ilan, a Jew, the captors thought that they would get a good ransom. His family was working class but they figured the “Jews” would stick together and pay it.
Ruth Halimi, Ilan’s mother, played with intense subtly by Zabou Breitman, intuitively knows this is an antisemitic crime and that Islamists have abducted her son after “Django” plays an audio portion of the Quran during one of the ransom phone calls to the family. After a Rabbi is contacted by the gang and a tape of Ilan is given to them begging for his life, some on the team then realize he was targeted for being Jewish but the Chief Inspector will not go along with that. Recent events and clashes with the Muslim community steer them clear from this line of investigation, which puts Ilan in mortal danger. Ruth’s worst fears will soon be realized.
The Chief Inspector took the assumption that if they are patient and do not pay the ransom, they will be successful in rescuing Ilan from the kidnappers. Nothing could be farther from the truth. His captors chose him because he was Jewish and saw his life worth less than nothing.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler explains some of the history behind Ilan’s kidnapping in her brilliantly written article on the subject for Israel National News:
“In a sense, France prepared the ground work for just such an atrocity. It persecuted Captain Alfred Dreyfus which ironically led to the creation of the state of Israel. The very assimilated Austrian journalist Theodore Herzl covered Dreyfus’s trial, understood that the Jews were endangered in Europe and urgently needed their homeland. He pioneered a vibrant Zionist movement.
France is also the country that, under De Gaulle, made deals with Arab tyrants for the sake of oil. In return, France allowed the mass immigration of Muslims as cheap labor—Muslims whom they failed to screen or assimilate. Hostile neighborhoods of increasingly radicalized third and fourth generation Muslims lived in parallel worlds.
This is the country and the culture which embraced Yasir Arafat and the PLO; France supported the “Palestinian” enterprise (aka the destruction of Israel) in the hope that this would appease their own Arab Street; they also put Philippe Karsenty on trial, Dreyfus-style, in 2008, for having challenged the biased and viral French media coverage of the Mohammed Al-Durah affair.
L’Affaire Al-Durah was the staged, faked murder of a Palestinian twelve-year-old for which the Israelis were blamed and which became the justification for Arafat’s long-planned Al-Aqsa Intifada. Long before the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket massacres by French Muslims in 2015, France’s left-wing and pro-Islamist political culture was, in large part, responsible for Ilan Halimi’s kidnapping and non-rescue.”
Ilan’s father, skillfully played by Pascal Elbe, is designated by the investigative team to take the calls from the kidnappers. With psychopathic intensity, Django makes 700 calls over the 3 weeks to the family and demands 500,000 dollars for the ransom, which the police continue to refuse to pay.
Meanwhile, Ilan is being treated with such barbaric sadism that is it a wonder he survived as long as he did. He was kept bound and gagged; was beaten, burned with cigarettes, cut with knives and starved. There were many dozens of people who knew what was happening to Ilan and yet they refused to say anything to help him.
Even more frustrating is that the police actually had Fofana on their radar. They received a tip and located him in a cyber café in Paris. By blustering in with sirens blaring they blew their cover and allowed him to escape.
After this dreadful debacle by the police where they had Fofana and let him get away, Ruth knows the end is coming for her son. She takes his photo from the investigators wall and leaves the police headquarters.
Shadows of the Holocaust
Fofana takes Ilan to a wooded area near some train tracks at Sainte-Genevieve-des Bois on February 13, 2006. After shaving Ilan’s head and pouring bleach on his beaten body, Fofana stabs Ilan and sets him on fire leaving him there to die. With courageous tenacity Ilan manages to make it to the side of the road. A passerby sees him and calls the ambulance but he dies on the way to hospital.
According to the autopsy, Ilan had acid, cigarette and gasoline burns on 80% of his body, multiple hematomas and contusions, a 7 cm box-cutter incision on his left cheek, two knife wounds underneath his throat, multiple broken bones, a missing ear and big toe and wounds to his genitalia. The coroner concludes none of his wounds had been fatal. The report reveals that a combination of inflicted torture, exhaustion and the cold is what eventually killed him.
The authorities fought the entire way but in the end had to determine that this was indeed an act of barbaric antisemitism. Ilan’s mother and the community spoke out so loudly that they had to listen. Even the kidnappers themselves admitted that is what it was. Still, getting the authorities to go against the political mainstream and admit this was like pulling teeth.
Fofana had since escaped back to the Ivory Coast but was arrested and extradited back to France for trial. 29 suspects are charged and 19 convicted. Fofana gets life without the possibility of parole for 22 years. Other gang members get between 5 – 18 years.
Dr. Chesler gives some interesting information about Fofana’s lawyer from her article:
“Fofana’s lawyer was Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, Jacques Vergès’ partner—Vergès is the lawyer who defended Nazi Klaus Barbie. Coutant-Peyre was also the wife of Carlos (“the Jackal”), a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist, whom she had married in jail in a Muslim ceremony.”
One year later, Ilan’s mother, in a final heartbreaking decision, had his casket exhumed and reburied Ilan in Jerusalem. She said that the people who did this to her son will be out one day and she will not have them spit on his grave.
May we never forget Ilan Halimi. Rest in Peace Ilan.
24 Days is available NOW on Video-On-Demand platforms everywhere or Share Ilan’s story: ?#?France‘s 24 Days is coming to DVD & Blu-ray Tuesday, July 14th! Find them @24daysfilm on Twitter and 24 Days on Facebook