Why Sarah Halimi Mattered

By Tyler Samuels

Dr. Sarah Halimi studied medicine for seven years and was a family doctor for many years, according to her son. A mother of three, when she retired and her husband died; she went back to work at pre-school in Paris. Some would call this life a boring existence, but it was her own quiet existence she could be proud of. Sadly, Dr. Halimi never got to enjoy her quiet existence with her family. In 2017, in April, her murderer, someone who lived in the same apartment, brutally beat and tortured her. He then threw her off out the window of the balcony. According to French media, the police could not determine if she died being pushed or if she had died long before, to the savageness of her murderer.

One would think of her murderer would be tried, sentenced to life imprisonment for a murder that was a hate crime. As she lay dead outside, her murderer yelled, “I killed Shaytan!” and to add insult to injury said “God is Great” as well. However, that did not happen. Since he smoked marijuana, the court found they could not hold him responsible, and that he was unfit. In 2021, bringing more pain to her family, the Court of Cassation which is France’s last court of appeal; found that Dr. Halimi’s murderer was not criminally liable because of his heavy use of marijuana during the murder.

The sad thing about this is, I find similarities between Dr. Halimi and other people of colour who have been killed unjustly or murdered. Whether the state kills them (police) or whether it is a hate crime and the consequence is the person is murdered, and the state refused to prosecute; it is very similar.

Years ago in an article I wrote for Tablet, I said being Black in America is a death sentence. It is now the case that being Jewish in France is also a death sentence. Some may argue that I am being dramatic, however how does one explain the murder of Mireille Knoll, a 85-year-old French-Jewish holocaust survivor? Who was brutally murdered in which one suspect said, “She’s a Jew, she has money.” A murder that happened in 2018. Or the list of French Jews who have been killed in France for more than a decade now.

We live in a world now that has bred unprecedented levels of Antisemitism. As Jews of Colour we face not just racism from not only the Jewish community. We face the same antisemitism from non-Jews like any other Jew would. There won’t be a special card that we can get out of a violent antisemitic attack, we face the brutal truth that there are those who just despise Jews.

However, we must build a fair world, not a tolerant world. We should never strive just for tolerance, but full accountable acceptance for all those who just want to be left alone with their families in peace. No one deserves to be murdered just because they are Jew, no one deserves to be killed just because they might have fit the description.

We must do better, we must call out hate of all kinds better. Dr. Halimi’s memory should be the one that she had with her family.

Inaction Leads to Unjust Action

By Tyler Samuels

When I was younger, I detested Malcolm X. He was the black supremacist, part of an anti-Semitic organization that disparaged Dr. King and advocated loudly for segregation to remain. My heroes for the racial struggle were total opposites, Dr. King, Mandela, Sojourner Truth, or Samuel Sharpe. However, after recent events both in Canada and the United States where week after week a black person is shot dead or dies mysteriously under the hands of the police, I can no longer say I see Malcolm as a demagogue, a racist, or an angry, violent black man. Years ago when I wrote Why White American Jews Should Rethink Race, I stressed that being black in America was a death sentence. The anger at that statement still shocks me. If we can learn anything from the moment, I published it until now; we see this statement is 100% accurate.

When Sandra Bland died, arrested on no legitimate charges and ending up dead mysteriously in her jail cell, it should have been the alarming bells for Jews that we fellow Jews of Colour face. If the Bland case did not suffice then the Sam Dubose case, where a university campus officer shot Sam point blank in the head, contrary to false statements of the officer who claimed he was being dragged by Sam’s car forcing him to shoot; moreover, now with George Floyd, Adam Toledo, and now Makiyah Bryan. Faced with all this violence, especially now against Black women, Malcolm’s message of no passive resistance needs to be embraced. This does not mean we should go around lynching whites as conservatives claim Malcolm wanted.

What Malcolm wanted was for Black people to remove themselves from the “yes masa, no masa” attitude with challenging state authority abusing them. Michael Eric Dyson in his book, The Myth & Meaning of Malcolm X argues Malcolm had five different stages of learning throughout his life however it did not change his resolve to see Blacks empowered.

As Jews we have learned that passive reluctance has led to the greatest tragedies that no other people except Blacks have faced. So I question why is there such opposition for Blacks to embrace the right for self-defence by not only the white community but elements of the Jewish community? If we look at the Sandra Bland case, she followed the law and when she saw she was unjustly being blighted by the same law that is supposed to protect all Americans; she resisted within her constitutional rights. Resistance to a wrongful authority should never lead to a person’s death. If it does, it shows that the authority is by any means necessary, the consequences of social contract theory should remove no longer. However, as usual the Jewish response is quiet, except for the few liberal & orthodox Jewish rabbis who have publicly shared their outcry for these recent events..

Previously when I mentioned this wide range of indifference to the community, responses claimed I did not know what I was talking about. Things like, I was very ignorant not to recognize all those rabbis protesting for #AllBlackLivesMatter. Ironically, these are the same people who in different conversations claim the same rabbis they’re so “proud” of are not even rabbis. The ultimate irony is when the Jewish community feels threatened by BDS, they call up their black allies and ignored Jews of Colour to write speeches and star in videos talking about Israel. Unfortunately when we, the Jews of Colour need our Jewish brethren that benefit from white privilege, they fail us consistently. So I say no more, no more to police brutality or quotes of peaceful protest. It is now time for resistance with honour like Malcolm preached, not passive, docile resistance hoping the white community will shake their heads in approval. 

*JOC Canada is looking for those who have a passion to write about any topic concerning JOC, Judaism, and the wider Jewish community

We Must Be Bold With Police Accountability

In 2020, we saw the brutal slaying of George Floyd over a counterfeit $20. A Black man’s life was cut short due to $20, in the moments where he cried out for his mother and told his murderer he couldn’t breathe as a camera rolled, video taping his last moments, it made it clear Black life just was not worth it. Today’s verdict in Minnesota is not justice but a reckoning that we as a society need to hold police accountable for their actions and that we must condemn police brutality in all means.

As Canadians and Jews, we insult our traditions by pointing our finger at the United States and condemning their sickness of police brutality, when we suffer from the same disease. Black and Indigenous people in Canada face exactly the same issues with police like our counterparts in the states. However, while American Jews and American Jewish institutions mostly have made great strides in fighting against police brutality against racialized people, Canadian counterparts have mostly been silent.

JOC Canada is an organisation run by Jews of Colour. We have dealt with racism and microaggressions within the Jewish and non-Jewish Canadian society. We have also dealt with the death cult that is police brutality like so many other Canadian POC who have had negative interactions with police across this country.

We struggle and fight for our Canadian Jewish organizations to be diverse and have Jews of Colour represented. However, why are they silent in most cases of police brutality not just in the United States but here? There was silence when Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Afro-Indigenous Toronto woman, fell to her death from her balcony after the police entered her balcony.

There was silence when D’Andre Campbell, 26, an Afrikan man, was shot and killed in Brampton, Ontario in his home. After he called police for help due to his mental health issues.

There was dead silence when Sean Thompson, 30, of Little Saskatchewan First Nation and Pinaymootang First Nation, died in the custody of unnamed Winnipeg police officers. His family stated they saw many injuries on his body after finally being able to see his body.

Releasing statements condemning anti-Black racism when the societal moral compass has swung towards speaking out is not an excellent ally. The wider Jewish community of this country must look deep and asking themselves whether silence or near silence is the best outcome for police brutality and accountability within this country, not just the United States.

At JOC Canada we mourn the fact that while George Floyd got his own justice of seeing his killer convicted, ultimately he had no justice as he is dead.

Like many persons of colour in Canada where police are hardly ever even tried and convicted.

We as a Jewish community must do better and demand change rather than point to the United States.