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On April 4, 2017, Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old retired Jewish teacher and doctor in Paris, France, was murdered in her apartment. Her attacker, Kobili Traoré, an immigrant from Mali, brutally assaulted her and threw her out of a window in an unprovoked attack.
Halimi was the only Jewish resident in her apartment building, and when her attacker murdered her, he allegedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” and “I killed the Satan”, leading to the widely held conclusion that Halimi’s murder was motivated. by anti-Semitic motives.
Given the horrific nature of the murder, one would think that anti-Semitism was a factor in the murder, and that a murder conviction would be virtually guaranteed, but unfortunately that did not happen.
The murder gained international attention and Traore was initially charged with murder by police. However, after a long process in French courtrooms, on April 17, France’s highest court of appeal ruled that Traoré was unfit to stand trial because he was consuming a lot of marijuana and therefore could not not be held criminally responsible for their actions.
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Just like that, Sarah Halimi’s murderer will go unpunished, with the French legal system giving individuals the green light to murder Jews with impunity.
The verdict is inconceivable in itself, but more tragically still, it is just one of many violent anti-Semitic attacks on French Jews in recent years. Other incidents include:
* On February 13, 2006, a 23-year-old French Jew, Ilan Halimi, was kidnapped and tortured for three weeks before being murdered. His captors belonged to a gang who believed that all Jews were rich and therefore could pay a large ransom.
* On March 19, 2012, Mohammed Merah attacked the Ozar Hatorah School in Toulouse, France, murdering a rabbi and three young students. After the murders, the school was subjected to anti-Semitic harassment.
* On January 9, 2015, Amedy Coulibaly entered the HyperCasher kosher grocery store in Paris and murdered four customers inside, during an extended hostage situation.
* On March 23, 2018, Mireille Knoll, a Holocaust survivor in Paris, was murdered by two assailants, one of whom shouted “Allahu Akhar” and who told investigators: “She is a Jewess. She must have money. Knoll was stabbed 11 times and her body was found partly burned after her attackers attempted to set her apartment on fire.
Unfortunately, this list is far from exhaustive. There are hundreds of anti-Semitic attacks on Jews in France – on average, one each day, but dozens of attacks on Jews are more than graffiti or verbal harassment – nearly 50 were of a physical nature.
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As French Jews have seen in recent years, anti-Semitism can quickly shift from swastikas scrawled on a synagogue to Jews murdered in their homes. This is precisely why the Canadian media must make it a priority to cover these stories, however horrific they are.
With Canadian Jews representing a disproportionate number of hate crimes across the country according to Statistics Canada, they are very at risk. Fortunately, although the vast majority of attacks on Jews in Canada are not physical assaults, the lesson from France is that when anti-Semitic attacks are ignored, downplayed, or otherwise treated with the seriousness they demand, murderers and anti-Semites feel emboldened.
After the decision of the French court of appeal not to continue the charges against the murderer of Sarah Halimi, even French President Emmanuel Macron spoke out against this serious miscarriage of justice.
“On this subject, I would like the Minister of Justice to submit a change to the law as soon as possible,” Macron said. “I would like to say to the family, relatives of the victim and to all fellow citizens of the Jewish faith who were awaiting this trial of my warm support and the determination of the Republic to protect them.”
Anti-Semitism in France is a direct attack, not only against French citizens, but against the entire population. When the French legal system decides that the use of marijuana by an abuser can stand in the way of justice, the only conclusion is that it is the season open to French Jews.
Such abuse of the justice system does not happen in a vacuum. This is happening because French law allows it and because there is not enough public outrage to ensure that the law is changed. If Canadians want to ensure that our own legal system never falls into the same trap, the first step is to learn about what can happen when anti-Semitism is not properly controlled.
– Mike Fegelman is Managing Director of HonestReporting Canada, a non-profit organization providing fair and accurate media coverage of Israel. www.HonestReporting.ca.