Avi Abraham Benlolo
Open Letter to President Emmanuel Macron: RE Justice4Sarah
Att: President Emmanuel Macron
April 25, 2021
Dear Mr. President;
I cannot accept the recent travesty of justice in the acquittal of Sarah Halimi's murderer in Paris.
Even while to your credit, you condemned the court's ruling and asked for the laws to be changed, this is obviously not enough for Sarah to receive the justice she is owed by the Republic of France.
In my conversation over the last week with community leaders in France and friends of the Jewish community situated globally, there is overwhelming outrage over this miscarriage of justice. There is also a movement toward worldwide protests, a boycott of French products and the seeking of global legal remedies.
France's Jewish community and its friends refuse to be silenced. Undoubtedly, it is tired of seeing the unacceptable level of violent hate in France. Having sat across the table from your predecessor, President Hollande several years ago, I know that France's leadership agrees with this perspective and finds this violence reprehensible.
However, the state and its justice system has once again failed not only its local Jewish community, but our entire understanding of human rights in the west. For your reference, I have included my published opinion piece in Canada's National Post, from this Friday.
Mr. President, you have been a supporter of the fight against extremism and hatred. I know you might agree that it would be appropriate for the French government to immediately call for a re-trial and to prosecute Sarah Halimi's killer to the fullest extent. Even with constitutional implications, I am confident there is a way to challenge the court's decision.
I look forward to your reply and if necessary, I would make myself available to assist you in any constructive way possible to bring about justice for Sarah Halimi.
Avi Abraham Benlolo, BA MA, Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa)
Order of Vaughan, Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal, Race Relations Award
ABOUT: Avi Abraham Benlolo has been described as the nation's most prominent and noted expert in Holocaust studies, in countering Antisemitism and promoting human rights. He has dedicated nearly three decades in executive capacities, was founding President and CEO of a major organization in the Jewish community, has raised over $150 million for charities and is a leading voice in Canada. His academic research, graduate degree, Ph.D. coursework and nearly three decades of professional work has focused on these arenas in addition to peace and security in the Middle East. He has published hundreds of articles in these areas. In recognition of his national and international leadership in this area, he has received numerous awards including an Honorary Doctorate from a prestigious Israeli university for his work in Holocaust studies and combating antisemitism; an Order of Vaughan for his distinguished contribution to anti-racism, equity and diversity; the Queens Diamond Jubilee Award for his contributions to Canada and a race relations award for best practice, based on distinguished service in promoting human rights. As a supporter of Israel, he is proud to have established "The Avi Benlolo Scholarship Fund in National Security" at Haifa University.
Latest Travesty of Justice - a Black Stain for France
(Author: Avi Benlolo National Post, April 23, 2021)
Justice was served in America this week as Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd. Comparatively, in Paris, an anti-Semitic killer was effectively acquitted of the murder of a 65-year-old Jewish woman. Sarah Halimi, who has been described as a kind and gentle doctor, was in her apartment when a crazed man broke in, viciously beat her and threw her to her death from her third-floor balcony.
Clearly motivated by anti-Semitic hatred, he was heard by neighbours yelling “Allahu Akbar” ("God is great" in Arabic) and “Shaitan” (evil spirit) during the horrendous attack. However although he was clear-minded enough to yell anti-Semitic slurs, an upper French court, for the second time, refused to charge him with murder last week, saying his judgment was impaired because he was high on cannabis and therefore not criminally responsible.
In America, this hate-motivated crime would have elicited outrage. In France however, where violent anti-Semitism is near-normal, the farcical ruling has not been met with massive street demonstrations. To his credit, President Emmanuel Macron has condemned anti-Semitism many times and has said the laws regarding criminal responsibility must be changed. But the Jewish community currently feels more vulnerable than ever. Its leaders have said this latest ruling allows for attacks on Jewish people with impunity.
A lawyer representing the Halimi family, Oudy Bloch, was right to tell the media after the court's ruling that ,“Today we can smoke, snort and inject ourselves in high doses to the point of causing ourselves an ‘acute delirious puff’ which abolishes our ‘discernement,‘ and we will benefit from criminal irresponsibility. It’s a bad message that has been sent to French citizens of the Jewish faith.”
Jewish French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy wrote that “the derailment inflicted by the high court is revolting.” He added, “Indeed, we live in a country, France, where a man who throws his dog from his fourth floor is sentenced to a year in prison, whereas if he murders an old Jewish woman, he may face no consequences whatsoever.”
In 1898, another well-known French writer and philosopher dared to speak out against anti-Semitism by penning an open letter to the president and the government. Outraged about the clearly false charge of treason against a Jewish military hero named Alfred Dreyfus, Émile Zola wrote an incendiary letter entitled “J’accuse!” — effectively accusing the state of anti-Semitism.
Another witness to this travesty of justice happened to be covering the Dreyfus trial as a journalist. It was this watershed moment that prompted the father of the modern State of Israel, Theodor Herzl, to launch the Zionist movement that would establish the Jewish state as the protectorate of the Jewish people. With a front-row seat at the Dreyfus trial, Herzl was aghast at seeing the dark spectre of anti-Semitism in France. He would foresee the horrible tragedy about to unfold in Europe against the Jewish community (the Holocaust) and earnestly began campaigning for a Jewish homeland.
The famous French slogan — Liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity) did not apply to French Jews, especially during the Second World War. More than 75,000 Jewish citizens were deported from France by the Nazis, having been aided and abetted by the Vichy Nazi-puppet regime. Even while the post-war Jewish community of France has established wonderful communities and contributes incredibly to the nation, it continues to be impacted by anti-Semitism and terrorism on a daily basis.
A recent report surveying 11 European countries found that France is the most dangerous place to be a Jew in Europe. That report, conducted by a former NYPD commissioner, concluded that attacks and threats against French Jews surged 74 per cent from 2017-2018 while data in 2019 showed further intensification. One attack is too many. But estimates indicate there are at least 500 attacks on Jews in France each year.
While anti-Semitism has grown globally, with the European Union announcing this week it would be allocating $1.5 billion to fight the scourge, violence against Jews in France has almost become commonplace: In 2006, Ilan Halimi was brutally murdered by youth on his way home from work; in 2012, three children and a Rabbi were murdered in front of their Jewish Day School in Toulouse; and in 2015, four Jewish shoppers were murdered at the Hypercacher Kosher supermarket in Paris.
And who can forget (or forgive) the 2018 murder of 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll? She was stabbed to death 11 times by two assailants. Her murder has been described as an anti-Semitic hate crime.
When viewed in this historical context, Sarah Halimi’s murder is a travesty of justice that forever puts a black stain on the republic. Civil and human rights have to apply to all people equally and without distinction. America got it right in the case of Derek Chauvin. France got it wrong in the case of Sarah Halimi. May she be remembered for the goodness she brought upon this world and may her children be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. We will never forget.