We hope the widespread dismay over last week’s ruling by France’s highest court in the Halimi murder case will lead to some serious thinking about how much anti-Semitism is now part of the French mindset.

The court ruled that a man who beat to a pulp and then threw out a window his Orthodox Jewish neighbor, retired physician Sarah Halimi, while screaming “Allah Akhbar” and anti-Semitic epithets was not responsible for his actions and so could not be brought to trial. This because he had been too “high” after smoking large quantities of marijuana and his powers of “discernment” had been compromised.


According to The New York Times, the court noted that under French law, “a person is not criminally responsible if suffering, at the time of the event, from psychic or neuropsychic disturbance that has eliminated all discernment or control” over his acts. The court also said the law, as currently written, does not distinguish between the reasons for that person’s condition. Even someone like Halimi’s killer who entered a delirious state because of voluntary drug use cannot be tried.

“The judge cannot distinguish where the legislator has not chosen not to make a distinction,” said the court.

Nonsense. As we understand it, the ”compromised discernment” notion is the functional equivalent of our own criminal justice doctrines relating to whether a perpetrator is able to tell the difference between right and wrong or to exercise control over his or her actions. But where the French court ruling departs from other judicial systems – indeed, even prior precedent in its own judicial history – is in its refusal to take into account the perpetrators voluntarily having caused his diminished mental state.

Thus, while it’s universally accepted that a person is not to be held responsible for any criminal acts committed while in the diminished mental state he or she had not brought on himself or herself, there is responsibility if the diminished mental state is self-imposed. And interestingly, in France and elsewhere, self-intoxication has long been deemed an aggravating factor in damages caused by people driving under the influence, for example.

Unfortunately, we don’t think it’s mere coincidence that such a departure from established jurisprudence came in a homicide case involving a Jewish victim and a Muslim perpetrator. We cannot imagine that the French judiciary would have indulged its overzealous and ever-so-cute intellectualism in a case involving, say, a Muslim victim at the hands of a pot-smoking Jew.

We wish Jewish organizations worldwide would take a break from their preoccupation with distracting non-Jewish problems and seize on the tragic death of Dr. Halimi and its aftermath as an opportunity to pursue the question of why the lives of Jews in France seem to matter less than the lives of others.


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