History of threats against Bataclan for pro-Israel events

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Before the Nov. 13 bloodbath at Le Bataclan, the 19th-century Parisian  concert hall had received numerous threats over events it hosted in support of Israel.

From 2006 to 2009, Le Bataclan was the venue for the annual fundraising gala of Migdal, the French Jewish nonprofit group that supports Israel’s Border Police. Last month, the theater served as the meeting place for some 500 Zionist Christians who gathered in support of Israel.

In one case involving threats against Le Bataclan — which until September was owned by a French Jew, Joel Laloux — approximately 10 men with Arab kaffiyehs covering their faces marched to the theater in December 2008 demanding to speak to management.

“This is something we cannot continue to accept,” one of the men from the group told security guards in a filmed confrontation, which ended peacefully. “You will pay the consequences of your actions,” the same person, his voice electronically distorted, told the camera, citing pro-Israel events held at the theater. “We came here to pass along a small message: Be warned. Next time we won’t be coming here to talk.” (www.tinyurl.com/youtube-bataclan-2008)

Onlookers outside the Bataclan theater after the attack photo/jta-getty images-christopher furlong

The massacre at Le Bataclan took place during a rock concert by the Eagles of Death Metal, an American band that performed in Israel in July. It was by far the deadliest of the six attacks that French security forces said were perpetrated by at least eight terrorists — 89 of the 129 deaths that evening took place inside the club.

Acting on a plan that French President Francois Hollande said was organized outside France by the Islamic State and carried out with accomplices inside France, the assailants struck two cafés, two restaurants and a soccer stadium north of Paris, using automatic firearms and explosive charges.

At Le Bataclan, two terrorists fired at patrons at random but in a calm and deliberate manner, survivors said. Police stormed the building approximately 40 minutes after the killing began. The terrorists were killed in the raid.

Whereas the men who showed up at Le Bataclan in 2008 presented themselves as “residents of the area,” threats of attack against the concert hall as payback for Israel’s actions have included foreign players, according to a 2011 report by Le Figaro.

That report cited a French woman named Dodi Hoxha who in 2010 told French counterterrorism officers of a plot by Jaish Islam, al-Qaida’s branch in Gaza — its name means “the army of Islam” — to organize an attack at Le Bataclan. Hoxha said the theater had been selected because “the owners are Jewish.”

According to the website of Le Bataclan, the venue was run by Jules Frutos and Olivier Poubelle for Laloux, whose father, Elie Touitou, bought it in 1976. He owned most or all of the theater until September, when the media group of the billionaire Arnaud Lagardère bought a 70 percent stake. Laloux told Israel’s Channel 2 that he sold Le Bataclan because he recently immigrated to Israel.

The Anti-Defamation League in a statement Nov. 14 expressed “shock and horror” at the attack, as well as “deep concern” that Le Bataclan had been targeted over Israel or the supposed Jewish affiliation of its owners.

“We hope the French authorities will investigate the possibility that virulent anti-Semitism was a motive in the attack,” wrote Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the ADL.

Yet Nicolas Shashani, a prominent French pro-Palestinian activist, said that despite the previous threats, Le Bataclan is not generally associated with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Le Bataclan may have had a Zionist link in the past, but if the perpetrators wanted to select a site tied to Israel to send a message, it doesn’t strike me as a very effective target,” Shashani said. “To the general population, Le Bataclan is just a concert hall and nothing more.”

Shashani noted that “unsubstantiated rumors” also linked the attack to the Eagles of Death Metal band because it performed in Tel Aviv in July. During the concert, lead singer Jesse Hughes recalled how Roger Waters, the former frontman for the band Pink Floyd and a promoter of a boycott against Israel, asked the band to stay away.

“I answered with two words: F— you!” Hughes told the cheering audience, adding: “I would never boycott a place like this.”

Cnaan Liphshiz, Netherlands-based Europe Correspondent for JTA
Cnaan Liphshiz

JTA Europe correspondent