On the last Sunday of May, 30 angry black men stormed into the heart of the old Jewish quarter, terrorizing residents, shopkeepers, and Sunday strollers. The self-styled militia of the Ka Tribe, a black separatist group originally connected to the no-longer funny black comic Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, embodied the worst fears of a Jewish community exposed, since January 2006, to a new rise in anti-Semitic attacks.
Three months after the torture-murder of Ilan Halimi, the intimidating incursion of the Ka militia into the narrow “Jewish” street of the Marais looks like an ominous sign of worse to come. The Ka Tribe is the lunatic fringe of a broad anti-Semitic movement originally inspired by Dieudonné, who has become a hero to a segment of black French society by focusing resentment on Jews. But Dieudonné, with a French mother and Cameroonian father, was not black enough for Stellio Capochichi, the Tribe’s leader, whose origins are Haitian and Ivoirian.
A self-serving interview with the college-educated leader, who calls himself Fara (pharaoh) Kemi Saba, appeared on the Ka website until the government shut it down two days after the rue des Rosiers incursion. Deftly manipulating the terms and gestures of French intellectual discourse, Kemi Saba, flanked by two husky bodyguards, lays out his latter-day ideology of “negritude,” a rehash of the worst of Cheikh Anta Diop, Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, born-again Africanism, and Malcolm X, served up with the nastiness of the Black Panthers and Nation of Islam. Though Kemi Saba preaches total separation from leucodermes (anything less than 100 percent pure blacks) and rejects both Christianity and Islam, he has a soft spot for Islamism. In a communiqué attacking “Sarkkkozy the Jew,” the Fara’s spokesman lashes out at “[whites] who make caricatures of the prophet of Islam.”
Kemi Saba’s resentment is all-embracing: the injustice that rankles him began with the very origins of humanity. The kémites (the term replaces leucoderm words like blacks, Africans, or Antilleans) are the true chosen people, destined to rule the world. Victims of oppression of mythical proportions, they will liberate themselves by returning to original sources of spirituality and social organization. Ka males—medzatones—are noble warriors; the females—Aset—are sublime beauties and perfect mothers; the children learn to be true kémites in the “School of Hor” (Horus).
Eyewitnesses concur about the incursion: 30 men in paramilitary formation stormed into rue des Rosiers, shouting threats and insults against Jews. Some wore boxer’s mouthpieces and leather gloves with brass knuckles. They burned with anger and itched for a fight. Frantic calls to the police met with laconic replies: “Yes, we have been informed.”
The men stomped and shouted for what seemed an endless 20 minutes. People who had seen the interview with Kemi Saba on the Ka website recognized him, protected by his bodyguards and visibly directing the operation according to plan. Some shopkeepers lowered their metal shutters as soon as they saw the hostile group round the corner at rue Vieille du Temple and march into rue des Rosiers. Others took people into their fragile boutiques. Men, women, and children felt totally defenseless, delivered up to a storm of uncontrollable rage. Some witnesses report seeing baseball bats, sticks, knives; others suspected their presence under thick black jackets; all believed that these men were capable of committing a massacre. The police did not come until the militia had left. They did collar some members of the group later, close to their Belleville headquarters; they questioned and released them.
The capture of Youssouf Fofana—leader of the gang of barbarians accused of the torture-murder of Ilan Halimi—and his extradition from the Ivory Coast had provoked the Ka’s wrath. They sent a message to various Jewish groups and individuals, threatening to kill other Jews if anyone dared to touch a hair on Fofana’s head; it has circulated on the Web since late February. Another communiqué warns interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy of dire consequences if Fofana does not get a fair trial. Can he possibly get a fair trial from a “leucoderm” court? Can he be guilty in the eyes of kémites?
Veiled threats led to aggressive action even before the incursion as the Ka went after real or imagined members of Betar (a group that provides security for Jewish events) and the Jewish Defense League, accused of persecuting blacks and Muslims who penetrate their turf—rue des Rosiers—and beating up kémites during the memorial march for Ilan Halimi. On May 19, the Ka militia stormed a gym in the 9th arrondissement, looking for Betar and Jewish Defense League “strongmen.” There they terrorized kids (non-Jewish ones, as it happened) who were learning an Israeli martial art. The Ka packaged the rue des Rosiers incursion as a pre-arranged showdown with the “Zionist extremists” and announced a knockout victory—because the “extremists” didn’t show up.
This fantasized warfare is no less outlandish than the esoteric Ka mythology, built around worship of Aton, a smattering of hieroglyphics, and imitation of Jewish identity. The French government has tolerated the Ka for years, but their hero worship of Fofana, the increasingly vehement threats against Interior Minister Sarkozy, and, now, this show of force in the Jewish quarter has provoked signs of severity. The interior minister visited the rue des Rosiers this Wednesday to show his support and promise results. He has called for a criminal investigation and eventual dissolution of the group. Greeted in Montfermeil with shouts of anger, he found himself welcomed to the Marais with hurrahs and “Sarkozy for President.”
Outside the ORT school, where the minister met with residents, a dapper gray-haired shop owner said, with dignified regret, “It’s over for Jews in France.” And added, “The police told me . . . they said it’s over for us . . . they can’t handle this problem. . . . It’s too late.”