French Convert Dies Fighting for ISIS

Raphael Amar, 22, who converted to Islam four years ago, died last month fighting for ISIS. His father is a secular French Jew.

Cynthia Blank ,

ISIS fighters parade in Raqqa, Syria
ISIS fighters parade in Raqqa, Syria

A young Frenchman whose father is Jewish died last month while fighting for terror organization Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, according to a Tuesday report in Israeli daily Maariv - illustrating the diverse nature of recruits streaming to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamist group.

Raphael Amar, 22, was killed in October during fighting in Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria. Prominent French Jewish leader Sammy Ghozlan, founder of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism (BNVCA), confirmed the report. 

The family received the news of Amar's death on October 17. His body, however, remains in Syria.

Amar's mother was born Catholic while his father is Jewish. He grew up with both parents in the southern city of Montpellier, near the suburb of Lunel. 

“I myself am not very close to religion, but when Raphael was a young boy he attended Passover seders and bar mitzvahs,” Amar’s father, Laurent, told Maariv.

According to Ghozlan, “there is a phenomenon in which some French Jews who were not brought up very Jewish are radicalized.”

Amar, who converted to Islam four year ago, followed a childhood friend to Syria to fight with ISIS jihadists in early 2014. 

Ghozlan told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he has met a 16-year-old Jewish girl in Paris who converted to radical Islam and he knows of at least two other such cases in Lyon.

This is also not the first case of Jewish converts to Islam becoming so radicalized that they depart for Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State fighting. One French official said last month that people "of Jewish extraction" make up a "handful" of projected foreign nationals in Syria.

“With a divided Jewish community and with Israel — once a source of pride for all French Jews — under constant vilification, some young Jews are seeking something to be proud of, and some find that in radical Islam,” Ghozlan said. “It has the power of a cult and the tools to brainwash them.”

“The events in Gaza were a subject for some discussions at home,” Laurent Amar said. “They used anti-Israel propaganda on him,” he added, possibly referring to Muslim friends of Raphael, "telling him Israel was barbaric, but I think he knew Israel was defending itself.”