‘Should We Decriminalize Antisemitism?’: French Satirical Magazine Charlie Hebdo Protests Shock Decision in Sarah Halimi Murder Case
The latest cover of France’s world-famous satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo features a devastating cartoon about the case of Sarah Halimi — the Jewish woman beaten to death in her Paris apartment in April 2017 by Kobili Traore, an antisemitic intruder — alongside a headline that asks, “Should we decriminalize antisemitism?”
Traore was excused from a criminal trial by France’s highest appeal court earlier this month, on the grounds that his consumption of marijuana on the night that he killed Halimi had rendered him temporarily insane. The decision rocked France, with politicians from across the spectrum condemning the court for allowing an alleged antisemitic murderer to walk free, and thousands of people attending demonstrations demanding justice for Halimi in several cities last weekend. One senior judge even resigned in protest on Tuesday, asking, “What is this justice, that takes up the cause of what appears to be an antisemitic assassination?”
The cartoon on the cover of the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo reflects the widespread mix of fury and bewilderment that greeted the Court of Cassation’s decision, using the coarsely-drawn imagery which the magazine is known for to maximum effect.
The image depicts a highly stereotyped, knife-wielding Muslim man wearing traditional garb. There are seven large marijuana joints stuffed into his mouth which he lights using the candles of a menorah — a possible reference to the claim that Traore made to court-appointed psychiatrists that he had been traumatized by the sight of a menorah and other Jewish symbols in Halimi’s apartment.
Alongside the cartoon, the text asks sarcastically, “Faut-il dépénaliser l’antisémitisme?” — “Should we decriminalize antisemitism?” Another headline above the image reads, “Sarah Halimi: A ‘delirious puff’ in the Court of Cassation.” The phrase “delirious puff” was coined by the psychiatrists consulted by the court to supposedly explain how Traore’s ingestion of marijuana led him to lose all mental awareness and self-control.
The magazine also featured a hard-hitting editorial by its editor-in-chief, Gérard Biard. “The martyred corpse of this poor woman had hardly cooled when they were already questioning the antisemitic motive of her murderer,” Biard commented, in a reminder of the widespread indifference and skepticism that the Halimi family faced from law enforcement and the media in the days and weeks after the murder.
“Crazy or not, the assassin did not strike at random,” Biard wrote. “He went up to his Jewish neighbor, whom he murdered chanting ‘Allahu akhbar’ and yelling that he had killed the ‘demon.’ And, despite the evidence, we nitpick, we smirk. Sure, we’re dealing with a killer who doesn’t like Jews very much, but hey, that’s not the most important thing. Most importantly, he didn’t do it on purpose. He succumbed to a stroke of madness, as they say…”
Charlie Hebdo became an international household name in Jan. 2015, when the magazine was the first target during a week-long killing spree by Islamist terrorists that culminated in a massacre at a kosher market in eastern Paris.
Twelve people at the magazine’s offices in Paris were murdered on Jan. 7, 2015 by two gunmen, the brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi. Both terrorists were later killed following a stand-off with police. Charlie Hebdo was accused of blasphemy by several Islamist organizations after it published cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad, in contravention of strict Islamic law which forbids any portrait of Islam’s founder.
In a separate development in the Halimi case on Wednesday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin wrote to his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, expressing disappointment at the decision not to try Traore for Halimi’s murder.
“I have sadly heard the decision of the court to uphold the decision of the previous courts, which ruled that the accused in the antisemitic, brutal and harrowing murder of Sarah Halimi is legally incompetent to stand trial,” Rivlin wrote.
“Every effort must be made as to send a clear message that there is no forgiveness for acts of despicable and morbid antisemitism, and for attacking Jews on the basis of their origin and religion,” he stressed.