Anne Frank and the Dangers of Holocaust Appropriation

By  Rolene Marks

A famous celebrity once remarked that social media is “the toilet of the internet”. Okay, so that person was Lady Gaga but whether or not you are a fan of pop culture or spend some time traversing the nonsense posted on various social media platforms, you have to admit there is great truth in her words.

Some weeks are worse than others and this past week really took the cake. For some reason #AnneFrank was trending and this piqued my curiosity. I almost wish it hadn’t because what I found was nothing short of nauseating.

Anne Frank, age twelve, at her school desk. Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 1941. (Anne Frank Stichting)

During this past year as the world has endured a pandemic that has caused immense pain and loss, the disturbing trend of Holocaust appropriation, which is the re-purposing of imagery, narratives experiences from the Shoah to push another agenda or explain other historical crimes and occurrences has found oxygen.

We are familiar with the images of anti-vaxxers or those fed up with lockdowns marching in cities across the world, wearing the yellow stars that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust, saying that their “human rights” are being eroded. Spoiler alert: sitting on your couch watching copious amounts of Netflix while shopping on Amazon or having the right to choose whether or not you wanted to have a potentially life-saving vaccine is not nearly the same experience as being rounded up, forced into a ghetto, beaten, tortured, starved, worked to death, marched to death, gassed and burned because you are Jewish. THAT is what the yellow star signified.

One of the enduring symbols of the Holocaust is Anne Frank. The story of the Jewish teenager has been immortalized in her diary and has been used as an educational tool and translated into many languages for millions around the world.  Anne Frank has both captivated and broken hearts the world over, and through her words and experiences, we have come to better understand what life under Nazi occupation was like for her and her family, as they went into hiding with several others, in a tiny space, hidden for years by righteous gentiles who risked their lives knowing what the penalty for those they hid, as well as themselves.

History Abused. Dreams of a young girl surviving through the Holocaust are ‘re-purposed’ for the agendas of political activists today. (Photograph from UPI / Corbis-Bettmann)

It was certain death!

The millions of us who have read her story have shared in her daily frustrations, the precocious personality of a typical teenager experiencing the changes and her heartbreaks as well as the very real fear and hurt of being targeted for death for the crime of being a Jew. Anne Frank put a name and a face to the 1 500 000 children murdered in the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people. For many people, Anne Frank put a human face to a catastrophe many viewed in the abstract.

Anne and her sister Margot were sent to Bergen Belsen after their secret annex was discovered. They died of typhus and their bodies thrown into a mass grave. Their father Otto Frank, survived them.

So why was she trending on Twitter?

I have seen many appalling things posted to Twitter but a post from Black Hammer (see below) takes the cake. To date, me and many others have reported it. I am still waiting for it to be removed from Twitter for violating community standards.

Black Hammer describe themselves on Twitter as follows “We are an anticolonial organization dedicated to getting our land back! Join us in making a city with no rent, kkkops, rona or colonizers at http://blackhammer.”

Their litany of tweets features appalling spelling and grammar that is almost as offensive as their ribald antisemitism and flagrant racism; but we cannot dismiss the fact that they opened up a discussion and debate. In the context of having important discussions about race and intolerance, this would have been important but we CANNOT fight racism by promoting antisemitism. The above stated tweet (where do I even begin with all the things that are offensive!) just trotted out every vile, racist tropes that is guaranteed to inflame the masses. And inflame them they did.  J-Twitter (that’s Jewish Twitter) responded in numbers expressing outrage and trying as much as possible to debunk the accusations and were joined by others saying it was offensive BUT is also gave a tailwind to the haters and the conversation spiraled downwards to the point where Anne herself was accused of being a “colonizer” and proceeds from the sale of her book going towards “the funding of the genocide of the Palestinian people.”  There was so much discussion that it resulted in the topic being one of the top trending hashtags for the week – for the wrong reasons.

The gross exploitation and appropriation of the image of Anne Frank to promote a political agenda.

In the oppression Olympics there are no winners. There is a very real danger in ignoring, debasing or appropriating the narrative of another to push an agenda which in this case, feeds into people’s distaste for colonization. For Black Hammer, the facts don’t seem to matter – the only thing that matters is demonizing the one so that they can promote the agenda of the other, often with dangerous and deadly consequences.

The dangers are not restricted to social media and the opinions of the haters. As time marches on, we lose more and more of the witnesses to the Holocaust and so we have to be their voice. At a time when the global conscience on racism is acutely aware of its effects, so we have to ensure that all conversations about hatred include the oldest – antisemitism. Holocaust appropriation cannot be allowed to get a free pass. It is an imperative that we fight it wherever it appears. Failure to do so means that not only is our narrative taken from us but that victims of hatred are once again silenced.

Anne Frank once said, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart”. If only the hope expressed through this remarkable young woman – whose story resonates through the generations in the hope that it would educate people and remind them that we were not just numbers but had names, lives and experiences – would be realized. We have to do better by Anne.

We have to be the voice of people who are really good at heart. 

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

China’s One Tweet Too Many!

The tweet of the ‘Grim Reaper’ is a for Jews a Grim Reminder

By David E. Kaplan

China and the USA are in major strategic competition and constantly maneuvering for one-upmanship. Fair enough, but why bring Israel and the Jews into  this quarrel? After all, Chinese investment in Israel has grown significantly in recent years, especially in the fields of software, IT services, and electronics. According to 2018 data from the World Bank, Israel imports the most goods from China ($10.4 billion), with the U.S. a close second ($10.2 billion), and China is the second biggest destination – following the U.S. – for Israeli exports ($4.8 billion).  And despite sound concern and strong opposition from the USA, has Israel not agreed for a Chinese company  –  Shanghai International Port Group –  to run the new Haifa port for the next 25 years?

So while China ranks relatively low on the Anti-Defamation League’s rankings of anti-Semitic countries, it thus came as a surprise that the Chinese Embassy in Japan tweeted  – albeit later deleted – an anti-US meme with strong antisemitic and anti-Israel imagery.

Grim and Grotesque.  The offensive cartoon tweeted from the Chinese Embassy in Japan depicting the partnership of the US and Israel in bringing death and destruction to Muslim counties – beware!

The tweet featured a cartoon image of a Grim Reaper draped around in an American flag and inflicting death with his scythe emblazoned with the Israeli flag of the Star of David.  For those less acquainted, the Grim Reaper is a common enduring image over many centuries of a skeletal figure, usually shrouded in a dark, hooded robe and carrying a scythe to “reap” human souls. It’s eerie, disturbing and frightening!

In the offending tweet, the reaper appears knocking on a door labeled ‘Egypt’  having left a trail of Muslim blood behind after having ‘visited’ through the other doors in the image – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Libya, and Syria. Now if China is so heavily invested in the Middle East including Israel, why sow discord?

While China – through its embassy tweet –  may feel it is justifiably retaliating against the U.S. in its competition for world leadership by warning of the dangers of American democracy, but why bring Jews and Israel into this ‘picture’ by emblazoning on the reaper’s scythe the Jewish Star of David?

It only gets worse. The tip of the scythe is dripping in Muslim blood and the caption in Japanese reads:

If the United States brought ‘democracy,’ it would be like this.”

In other words,  it’s a warning from the Chinese embassy:

Beware of the allure the USA because beneath the veneer, you Muslim countries will receive death and destruction at the murderous hand of  Israel.

This was reminiscent of a Nazi German cartoon circa 1938 depicting the Jews as an octopus encircling the globe.

As reported in the New York based Jewish newspaper, The Algemeiner, the cartoon was featured on several extremist websites and proved popular with white supremacists and Holocaust deniers. The damage was done!

Role Model for China. Nazi propaganda which often portrayed Jews as engaged in a conspiracy to provoke war, depicts here a stereotyped Jew conspiring behind the scenes to control the Allied powers, represented by the British, American, and Soviet flags. The caption reads, “Behind the enemy powers: the Jew”. (Circa 1942. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Helmut Eschwege)

When Israel’s Ambassador to Japan, Yaffa Ben-Ari called her Chinese counterpart, Cheng Yonghua, last Friday saying that “the cartoon demonized Israel”, Yonghua responded that he had not noticed that Israel was part of the image. It is true, the Star of David appears small in relation to the size of the US flag but  the horrific and bloody image draws the viewer closer, and while the U.S. is depicted as the agent of death, Israel and Jews by appearing on the scythe are seen as the instrument of death. Together, “Big Satan” and “Little Satan” are graphically portrayed as cunning, conniving mass murderers of the innocent and vulnerable.

Sounding the Alarm. Israel’s ambassador to Japan, Yaffa Ben-Ari, Ambassador who called her Chinese counterpart in Japan about its Embassy’s antisemitic tweet.

This is something Israelis have become accustomed to seeing in official Iranian social media and on banners at pro-regime mass rallies in Teheran – not from China!

Despite Cheng Yonghua’s ‘failure to notice’ the detail  of the Israel-Jewish connection to the cartoon from his embassy’s website, an hour after the call, the tweet was deleted. It may also have resulted

From Israel’s Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Asia and the Pacific Gilad Cohen contacting the Chinese Embassy in Israel to inform it about the tweet.

However, despite having deleted the grotesquely offending tweet, the Chinese embassy did not tweet an apology!

The incident comes at a time of high diplomatic frictions between China and both Japan and the United States over a broad range of issues, including China’s regional territorial ambitions.

Hence many Japanese Twitter users responded angrily to the tweet, some including the famous June 5, 1989 photo of a man standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. What they failed to respond to  – whether they did not seem to notice or take issue  – was the antisemitic element!

Is This What China wants to be Associated With? German antisemitic cartoon from 1938, using Octopus symbolism of Jewish tentacles  stretching over the entire globe.

Jews need little reminder of the existential danger of cartoons as part of Nazi propaganda to win the support of millions of Germans in a democracy and later in a dictatorship to facilitate persecution and ultimately genocide.

We need to be vigilant and respond.  Its not acceptable to say “We did not notice” like the Chinese ambassador, because to do nothing is to wait until it’s too late!

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)

Is this really the Rainbow Nation?

By Harris Zvi Green

Two South African Jewish lawyers recently offered their candidacy to fill vacant judicial positions in two of South African national courts. The Judicial Services Commission is responsible for judicial appointments in South Africa. The application process includes a hearing with the members of the Commission.

South Africa’s Constitutional Court. Judicial enquiry  of Jewish applicant most ‘unconstitutional!

The Jewish candidates were subjected to intrusive questioning regarding their levels of religious observance, their opinions on the proposed two-state solution to resolve the Middle East conflict and their connections to the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) – the representative body of South Africa’s Jewish community. According to press reports, it was made abundantly clear to the Jewish candidates that traditional observance of the Jewish Sabbath was problematic.

South Africa Exposed. South African judicial applicant Judge David Unterhalter was quizzed about his Jewish identity and subjected to lengthy questioning about observance and support for Jewish bodies.

None of the other candidates were asked questions regarding their levels of religious observance. None of the other candidates were asked for their opinions on the Middle East conflict. None of the other candidates were interrogated regarding their connections with different communal organizations.

The above poses of several serious questions:

(1) Since when is the level of a candidate’s religious observance relevant to the judicial position he is applying for? And if it is relevant, then why is it relevant only to Jews? Why isn’t it relevant to Christians, Muslims or Hindus?

(2) Since when do South African courts of law have jurisdiction on matters relating to the two-state solution in the Middle East?

(3) Since when have the members of South Africa’s Judicial Services Commission acquired the expertise to fully understand and appreciate the multitude of nuances relating to the two-state solution?

(4) Why is it that the SAJBD is singled out by members of the Judicial Services Commission as a pariah communal organization? What about all the other communal organizations who represent the Rainbow Nation’s different religious and ethnic groups?

(5) Surely a judge with an ideologically driven opinion on any issue is expected to recuse himself from adjudicating a case if he encounters a conflict of interests. This is a fundamental requirement for ALL judges regardless of their religion. Apparently, members of the Judicial Services Commission believe that ONLY Jewish judges can’t be relied upon to exercise their judgement.

(6) Where are the judges who serve on South Africa’s judicial system? Their silence is deafening!

Sinister Signs. The late Adv Isie Maisels, who led the defence team in the famous Treason Trial of 1956 to 1961 in which all the accused, including Nelson Mandela, were acquitted and seen here being carried triumphantly from the court,  served as president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.

Why is it always necessary for Jews to prove their loyalty to the countries they choose to serve? Why are different standards always applied to Jews?

In 1961 Adv. Israel Maisels successfully defended Nelson Mandela and 90 other people of all races in the “Treason Trial”. The same Israel Maisels was, for his entire life, involved in Jewish and Zionist causes. He was an observant Jew and served as the president of the United Hebrew Congregation, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, the South African Zionist Federation and the Israel United Appeal.

The questions posed by the Judicial Services Commission suggest that Adv. Maisels would not have been considered to be eligible for a judicial position in South Africa.

Does South Africa – the Rainbow Nation – encapsulate the ideals propagated by Nelson Mandela? Is this what Madiba’s vision was all about? No. It most certainly is not. The Judicial Services Commission is guilty of religious and racial discrimination in its ugliest form.

My late father served in the South African Armed Forces in World War II. He was seriously wounded. He lost most of his fingers. His sight and hearing were badly impaired. He underwent 19 operations in 11 months. He bore the scars of his loyalty to his country of birth until the day he died. Some Jews paid a higher price. Other Jews paid the ultimate price.

What gives the 23 members of South Africa’s Judicial Services Commission the right to question the loyalty of Jews to South Africa? Not only isn’t it constitutional. It’s unethical. It’s immoral. It’s racist.

South African Justice Unmasked. Peel off the veneer of enlightenment and what is revealed in the writer’s view appears  “unconstitutional”, “unethical”, “immoral” and  yes – ”RACIST”.

In an official statement, the SAJBD claims the process conducted by the Judicial Services Commission was “overtly prejudicial” and “unconstitutional”. I can’t disagree with that but I believe the situation is far more serious. The actions of the Judicial Services Commission are discriminating and reek of anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism has become politically correct.

I urge my Jewish friends in South Africa and around the world not to engage in the age-old battle of striving to prove your loyalty to the country in which you reside. Generations of Jews tried doing just that. They assimilated. They compromised their identities. They did their utmost to conceal their Jewish roots. They all failed. Dismally so. This is a war that can’t be won.

The statement of the SAJBD is important. It expresses the outrage of the Jewish community but the ball remains in the hands of the applicants for whom I have the following message.

Guys, I recognize your professional ambitions. I appreciate your desire to serve your country and its judicial system. However, if I were in your situation, I would withdraw my candidacy. I’d tell the hacks serving on the Judicial Services Commission to take a hike. I certainly wouldn’t compromise my identity or my heritage.

Your action on this issue is far more important than resolving any case you might be called upon to adjudicate.

About the writer:

Harris Zvi Green, born in Cape Town / South-Africa. Graduated from the University of Cape Town with a B. Com. degree and immigrated to Israel 51 years ago. He served as the Chief Financial Officer at a number of Israeli hi-tech companies. He is now retired. Married with three married children and is the proud grandfather of 13 grandchildren.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)

Sarah Halimi : une déroute judiciaire programmée

Par Dr. Gad Amar

Les faits:

Dans la nuit du 3 au 4 avril 2017, dans un quartier populaire de Paris, Sarah Halimi, 65 ans, médecin de formation et directrice d’une crèche juive à la retraite, est attaquée par son voisin, Kobili Traoré, qui s’introduit chez elle par le balcon et la roue de coups pendant 35 à 40 minutes aux cris d’Allah Akbar, récitant des sourates du Coran et la traitant de « Sheitan » (Satan), avant de la jeter vivante par la fenêtre du 3eme étage. Elle meurt sur le trottoir de ses multiples traumatismes.  

Mère de famille, médecin et directrice de crèche à la retraite, Sarah Halimi a été battue,torturée et assassinée – mais la justice française a fermé les yeux

La veille, Traoré se rend à 5 reprises à la mosquée Omar, une mosquée salafiste voisine. Il la quitte à 22 heures, dîne au restaurant et va dormir chez un ami, dans l’immeuble mitoyen de celui où il réside chez ses parents et où vit aussi Sarah Halimi.

Il se lève à quatre heures du matin, monte pieds nus au 3° étage avec son tapis de prières, sonne chez des amis de sa famille, les Diarra, qui le laissent entrer, ferme la porte à clé, met les clés dans sa poche et crie « ça va être la mort, ça va être la mort ». Le matin, il avait dit à ses parents « J’ai tout raté dans ma vie, ce soir tout sera terminé ». Devant son état d’excitation, les Diarra s’enferment dans une pièce de leur appartement et appellent la police, comme le feront d’autres voisins réveillés par les cris. Traoré fait ses ablutions à la cuisine, récite quelques prières et va sur le balcon dont il enjambe la balustrade pour entrer chez Sarah Halimi qui dort dans son lit. Il prétendra être devenu fou en découvrant chez elle un chandelier à sept branches (les menorot en ont 9…) et des livres de judaïsme.

Les policiers arrivent rapidement, ils sont neuf, ils sont armés, mais n’interviennent pas.

L’assassin, âgé de 27 ans, d’origine malienne, est un toxicomane baraqué d’1m90 qui deale dans le quartier depuis des années. Il a déjà été condamné à 22 reprises pour trafic et usage de stupéfiants, outrage et rébellion. Il a à son actif une cinquantaine de gardes à vue et a fait 2 ans de prison en tout par périodes de 3 et 6 mois (selon William Attal, frère de Sarah Halimi, qui rapporte des éléments du dossier).

Après son forfait le meurtrier retourne chez ses amis maliens. Il est calme et récite son Coran. Il est interpellé à 5heures35 par la police. Arrivé au commissariat, il se rebelle contre les policiers (au moment de la prise de sang ?) et il faudra huit hommes pour le maîtriser. Il en blesse deux. Le médecin juge son état psychiatrique incompatible avec la garde à vue et le fait interner en hôpital psychiatrique sans qu’il ait été entendu une seule fois par la police.

La France incapable de protéger ses juifs, mais aussi ses prêtres, ses policiers, ses enseignants…à cause d’une immigration incontrôlée. Sarah Halimi a été massacrée puis jetée du haut du balcon de son appartement, rue de Vaucouleurs à Paris

Pendant des jours, seuls les médias communautaires font état de l’assassinat de Sarah Halimi. On n’en parle pas dans les medias français. La France est en pleine campagne présidentielle ; François Hollande est le Président (socialiste) sortant jusqu’au 14 mai 2017, Jean-Jacques Urvoas son ministre de la Justice jusqu’au 10 mai 2017. Une médiatisation de ce nouvel assassinat par un islamiste fanatisé risquerait-elle d’apporter des voix à l’extrême droite ?

Le 7 avril le Procureur de la République François Molins déclare qu’en l’état de l’enquête, il n’apparaît pas qu’il s’agisse d’un acte antisémite, mais que cette hypothèse reste à examiner.

Les expertises :

La juge instructrice Anne Ihuellou demandera trois expertises psychiatriques, fondées sur des éléments glanés auprès du criminel, de sa famille et de la famille Diarra. L’enquête ne sera pas élargie à l’entourage moins proche de l’accusé, malgré les demandes des avocats. 

La première expertise, confiée au Dr Zagury (psychiatre d’origine juive) conclut à une bouffée délirante aigue, mais sans abolition du discernement. Le parquet demande à la juge de requalifier le meurtre en acte antisémite.

La seconde, demandée à un collège de trois experts (dont le Dr Bensussan, d’origine juive) conclut à une bouffée délirante avec abolition du discernement : cela implique l’irresponsabilité pénale du criminel.

Face à ces deux expertises contradictoires, les avocats de la victime demandent une troisième expertise, dont les conclusions extrêmement nuancées laissent planer le doute sur l’origine de l’abolition du discernement : « la bouffée délirante aigue (en l’occurrence exotoxique) et la motivation délirante de l’acte sont deux critères qui font discuter l’abolition du discernement, dans la mesure où l’on considère que cet état émerge en dehors de toute volonté du sujet » (arrêt du 19 décembre 2019).

En d’autres termes, cette troisième expertise pose deux questions : si l’abolition du discernement est une conséquence de la bouffée délirante provoquée par une consommation volontaire de cannabis, peut-on la considérer comme un état pathologique indépendant du sujet ? La motivation antisémite, cultivée par Traoré et qui déjà faisait trembler Sarah Halimi à chaque fois qu’elle le croisait, n’est-elle pas une volonté réfléchie du sujet qui trouve dans le crime son aboutissement ?

Le 17 juillet 2019, le Parquet de Paris demande le renvoi aux assises du meurtrier pour crime antisémite. Les juges d’instruction au contraire disent qu’il faut retenir l’irresponsabilité pénale. 

Le 27 novembre 2019, le débat est ouvert en audience publique devant la chambre d’instruction sur la responsabilité pénale du meurtrier.

Meurtrier défoncé, la justice s’enfonce. Kobili Traoré s ‘acharne sur une femme juive de 65 ans et la jette par la fenêtre en criant Allah Akhbar mais pour les tribunaux il n’est pas responsable: défoncé au cannabis au moment des faits, il ne sera jamais jugé.

Les jugements :

Le 19 décembre 2019, la Cour d’Appel de Paris reconnaît la circonstance aggravante du crime antisémite commis par Traoré, mais conclut à l’irresponsabilité pénale du meurtrier, au motif qu’« aucun élément du dossier d’information n’indique que la consommation de cannabis par l’intéressé ait été effectuée avec la conscience que cet usage de stupéfiants puisse entraîner une bouffée délirante aigue »

Le 14 avril 2021, la Cour de Cassation confirme ce premier jugement. Tout en reconnaissant le caractère antisémite du crime, elle confirme l’irresponsabilité pénale du meurtrier.

Les protestations des avocats et de la famille

Les insuffisances de l’enquête sont soulignées par les avocats : pas de reconstitution des faits sur les lieux du crime, pas d’examen du portable de l’assassin qui aurait pu révéler son antisémitisme ou la préméditation, aucune confrontation. Les policiers présents pendant le drame et qui ne sont pas intervenus n’ont pas été auditionnés. Et il n’y a eu ni auditions ni perquisition dans la mosquée salafiste fréquentée assidûment par le criminel.

Sur son compte Facebook, Traoré s’est choisi le nom de « Boubaker Fofana ». Fofana, c’est le nom du meurtrier d’Ilan Halimi en 2006. Un deuxième Fofana annonce-t-il le massacre une deuxième Halimi ?

La barbarie en France. Ilan Halimi, 23 ans, a subi des semaines de torture avant d’être poignardé et incendié par le chef du «gang des barbares», Youssouf Fofana, qui a siégé au tribunal en souriant avec défi et en déclarant: «Allah sera victorieux».

Le meurtrier, qui séjourne depuis 4 ans en psychiatrie, ne suit plus de traitement depuis 18 mois et attend sa libération d’un feu vert du préfet. Pourtant, le second collège d’experts avait affirmé que le meurtrier entamait une schizophrénie. Elle n’a pas été confirmée depuis. Le cas aurait dû être réexaminé de sorte à écarter la maladie et ainsi pouvoir retenir uniquement la bouffée délirante secondaire à la prise de cannabis et au fanatisme islamiste.

La justice française en question et l’inquiétude des juifs de France. Manifestation Place du Trocadéro à Paris dimanche 25.4.2021.

Les conclusions contradictoires des psychiatres sur l’abolition du discernement du criminel permettaient aux juges d’exercer leur liberté d’appréciation pour prononcer leur jugement. Ils ne l’ont pas fait.

Pour éclairer toutes ces zones d’ombre, la magistrate en retraite Danielle Khayat suggérait il y a plus d’un an la création d’une enquête parlementaire (Mabatim, 13.1.2020). Sa proposition n’a pas encore été retenue.  

Les réactions de l’opinion publique :

Nombreuses ont été les réactions indignées de la population juive de France, de ses représentants, de plusieurs hommes politiques dont le Président français Emmanuel Macron, de journalistes, penseurs et hommes de lettres. La consommation de drogue, considérée jusqu’ici par la loi comme un facteur aggravant, devient tout d’un coup une échappatoire. Le Président Macron demande à réécrire la loi sur laquelle les juges se sont fondés qui permet au meurtrier d’éviter le procès devant une cour d’assises et de ressortir libre dès que les esprits se seront calmés. Libre surtout de récidiver grâce à cette nouvelle jurisprudence « cannabis » et sans que justice ne soit rendue à la victime.

Une nouvelle loi « Sarah Halimi »? Le Président Emmanuel Macron souhaite un changement de loi. Il déclare au Figaro: «Décider de prendre des stupéfiants et devenir alors « comme fou » ne devrait pas à mes yeux supprimer votre responsabilité pénale.Sur ce sujet, je souhaite que le Garde des Sceaux (Éric Dupond-Moretti) présente au plus vite un changement de loi ».

Dans le Journal LA CROIX (21 avril 2021), Dominique Durand, Président de l’Amitié Judéo-chrétienne de France, écrit : « L’antisémitisme est une bouffée délirante aigue qui dure depuis des siècles et qui n’a jamais cessé de se renouveler au cours du temps ».

Effectivement, en France, l’irresponsabilité pénale est reconnue dans 15% des cas lorsque la victime est juive, dans 1% lorsqu’elle ne l’est pas (Maître Marc Sztulman dans La Règle du Jeu, 22 avril 2021).

Le dimanche 25 avril 2012, des manifestations de protestation ont réuni 26000 personnes à Paris, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Strasbourg et Toulouse.  Et à Tel-Aviv, New-York, Los-Angeles, Miami, Londres, Rome, les manifestants se sont rassemblés pour réclamer justice pour Sarah Halimi. La maire de Paris a annoncé vouloir donner le nom d’une rue à Sarah Halimi.

20 000 personnes rassemblées au Trocadéro le 25 avril 2021 pour réclamer justice pour Sarah Halimi

Une déroute judiciaire

1. L’instruction de l’affaire souffre de nombreuses lacunes. La préméditation a été écartée d’emblée, qui aurait orienté l’affaire, y compris les expertises, dans une tout autre direction.

L’antisémitisme de Traoré, de sa famille et de ses fréquentations a été sous-estimé. Ce n’est pas le cannabis qui est antisémite et lui attribuer l’origine du crime antisémite commis est une duperie, voire un déni. Pour avoir été des millions de fois assassinés par des antisémites, les Juifs savent que la haine antisémite tue. Au vu des insuffisances de l’instruction il appartenait à la Cour de demander un complément d’enquête pour que soit établie la préméditation. 

2. Sur les trois expertises, l’une penchait pour l’abolition du discernement, l’autre pour la non abolition et la troisième laissait planer le doute. La Cour d’Appel de Paris puis la Cour de Cassation ont retenu l’abolition du discernement. Manifestement, on a préféré enterrer l’affaire.

3. La Cour de Cassation admet les motivations antisémites du crime, mais considère que la bouffée délirante, seule en cause d’après elle, a pu être favorisée par la prise de cannabis.

En France, la loi dit pourtant que la possession ou la consommation de cannabis est strictement interdite. Le jugement qui exonère Traoré de tout procès fait ainsi de ce délit une circonstance exonérante, alors que dans toute autre situation, elle serait aggravante.

4. Mais disent les juges, rien ne prouve que le meurtrier ait su que la prise de cannabis le mettrait dans l’état où son discernement serait aboli. Le procureur Molins réagissant au choc dans l’opinion du jugement de la Cour de Cassation, s’insurge : « Toute personne qui consomme de l’alcool ou du cannabis n’a pas une bouffée délirante et ne voit pas son discernement aboli » (Le Figaro, 24.4.2021).

En effet, le déroulé de la nuit du crime semble refléter au contraire toute la logique, la réflexion, l’organisation et la détermination de l’assassin pour massacrer une voisine qu’il détestait parce qu’elle était juive. Un antisémitisme cultivé au sein de sa famille et nourri par sa proximité avec une mosquée salafiste.

Tel-Aviv dans la rue Forte participation de la communauté française à la manifestation devant l’ambassade de France à Tel-Aviv pour demander justice pour Sarah Halimi, assassinée par un voisin dans son appartement à Paris

La notion d’« abolition du discernement » doit aussi être discutée : un chauffard qui écrase un enfant après avoir consommé du cannabis est jugé responsable avec circonstance aggravante, un assassin drogué qui massacre  une vieille dame ne l’est pas ?

5. Les juges se réfèrent à l’article 122-1 du code pénal français qui ne distingue pas selon leur origine les troubles psychiques conduisant à l’abolition du discernement. A l’émoi suscité par l’affaire Sarah Halimi autant que par celle de Viry-le-Chatillon où des policiers avaient été brûlés par des « jeunes », le Conseil Supérieur de la Magistrature (25.4.2021) vient au secours des juges, rappelant « que le juge a pour mission d’appliquer la loi, et se doit, en matière pénale, de l’interpréter strictement ».

La loi considérerait que l’abolition du discernement, quelle qu’en soit la cause, maladie subie ou consommation choisie de stupéfiants, exonère de la faute ? Elle ne le précise pas et laisse ainsi la porte ouverte à l’interprétation.

A ce propos, un des avocats de la famille Halimi, Maître Gilles-William Goldnagel (le Figaro, 26.4.2021) rappelle que dans une affaire similaire à celle de Sarah Halimi – le coupable avait poignardé sa compagne sous l’emprise de la drogue, trois expertises avaient été ordonnées dont deux concluaient à l’abolition du discernement et il était reconnu souffrant d’« une fragilité psychique dans le registre de la persécution », le meurtrier avait aussi plaidé son irresponsabilité pénale au titre de l’article 122-1. La Cour considéra que la prise de drogue était « une circonstance aggravante », nonobstant l’article 122-1 (arrêt devant la Cour d’Appel de Versailles du 13 février 2018) et renvoya le prévenu devant la Cour d’Assises.

Ainsi, contrairement à ce qu’affirme le Conseil Supérieur de la Magistrature, « la Cour Suprême a bien plus de latitude qu’elle ne le prétend » dans l’affaire de Sarah Halimi.

 (Paule Gonzalès, Le Figaro, 26.4.2021). 

6. Le refus de la justice française d’interpréter la loi en lui donnant un sens rationnel rappelle la rigidité des tribunaux islamistes qui appliquent la charia, à la différence près que les juges islamistes appliquent une loi qu’ils croient divine. Les juges français n’ont pas cette excuse.

7. En se rangeant à une lecture littérale de l’article 122-1, les juges ont manqué de courage. Un nouveau projet de loi sera bientôt déposé par le Garde des Sceaux, qui évitera dorénavant de tels égarements. Il s’appellera peut-être loi Sarah Halimi. Cette loi rappellera à tous que les juges de l’affaire Sarah Halimi ont absout d’avance un criminel fanatique et raciste.

Sarah Halimi. Que sa mémoire soit une bénédiction.

A propos de l’auteur:

Dr. Gad Amar, Chirurgien retraité, hébraïsant et arabisant, auteur d’études juives en hébreu et en français .

Alors que la mission de Lay of the Land (LotL) est de fournir une perspective large et diversifiée des affaires en Israël, au Moyen-Orient et dans le monde juif, les opinions, les croyances et les points de vue exprimés par ses différents écrivains ne sont pas nécessairement ceux des propriétaires. et la gestion de LOTL mais des écrivains eux-mêmes. LotL s’efforce au mieux de sa capacité de créditer l’utilisation de toutes les photographies connues au photographe et / ou au propriétaire de ces photographies (0 & EO)

Sarah Halimi Murdered but no Trial for Murderer – Why?

A French Jew’s insights of the events surrounding her killer’s “escape from justice”

By Dr. Gad Amar, retired French surgeon and writer in Jewish and Arab studies (translated from French)

On the night of April 3/4, 2017, in a popular district of Paris, Sarah Halimi, 65, a doctor by training and retired director of a Jewish crèche, was attacked by her neighbour, Kobili Traoré. Traoré broke into her home via the balcony and beat her up for 35 to 40 minutes to the shouts of Allah Akbar while reciting suras (chapters) from the Quran and calling her “Sheitan” (Satan), before throwing her from the 3rd floor window. She died on the sidewalk from her multiple injuries.

Blind to Jewish Suffering. Jewish mother, retired doctor and head of a kindergarten in Paris, Sarah Halimi  was beaten, tortured and killed — yet France turned a blind eye.

The day before, Traoré went to the Omar Mosque, a neighbouring Salafist mosque five times. He left the Mosque at 10 p.m., dined at a restaurant and slept over at a friend in the apartment building next to the one where he lived with his parents and where Sarah Halimi also lived.

He arose at 04:00am, went barefoot to the 3rd floor with his prayer rug, rang the bell at his family’s friends, the Diarra’s, who let him in, locked the door, put the keys in his pocket and shouted:

 “It’s going to be death! It’s going to be death“.

In the morning, he had said to his parents “I missed everything in my life, tonight it will be all over.” Reacting to his disturbing state of agitation, the Diarra’s locked themselves in a room in their apartment and called the police, as did other neighbours who were awakened by his screaming. Traoré carried out his ablutions in the kitchen, recited a few prayers and went to the balcony where he steped over the balustrade to enter Sarah Halimi’s apartment. She was asleep in her bed. He will later claim to going crazy when he comes across the Jewish seven-branched candelabra and books on Judaism.

The police arrive quickly. They are new to the force and they are armed, but fail to intervene.

France cannot Protect its Jews. Sarah Halimi was thrown from the balcony of her flat in Vaucoloeurs Street (Le Parisien).

The 27-year-old Traoré an African immigrant from Mali, is a six foot tall drug addict who has been dealing in the neighbourhood for years. He had already been convicted 22 times for drug-related offences and resisting arrest. He had to his credit, been held in police custody more than fifty times and served two years in prison in periods of three and six months, according to William Attal, the brother of Sarah Halimi.

After perpetrating the murder, Traoré returned to his friends. He was calm and recited from the Koran. Arrested at 5:35 am, he was brought to the police station where he behaved aggressively and would take eight policemen to subdue him. He injured two. The doctor considered his psychiatric condition and committed him to a psychiatric hospital without hearing testimony from the police.

Accused High, French Justice Low. While Kobili Traoré beat a 65- year-old Jewish woman and threw her out of a window while screaming “Allahu Akhbar”, the courts found he was not responsible for his actions because he was high on marijuana.

For days, it was only the Jewish community media that reported the murder of Sarah Halimi. The French media did not mention it at all. France was in the middle of a presidential campaign.  François Hollande was the outgoing (socialist) President until May 14, 2017, Jean-Jacques Urvoas was his Minister of Justice until May 10, 2017. Possibly factoring in: Would media coverage of this new murder by a fanatic Islamist risk creating support for  the far right Marine le Pen  who was also a candidate in the elections?

On April 7, the Public Prosecutor, François Molins, declared that at that stage of the investigation, it did not appear to be an anti-Semitic act, but remained to be further investigated.

The investigating Judge, Anne Ihuellou, asked for two psychiatric – later three – evaluations, based on elements gleaned from the criminal, his family and the Diarra family. The investigation was not extended to those less close to the accused, despite requests from lawyers.

The first expert, Dr Zagury concluded his analysis. The prosecution asked the judge to reclassify the murder as an anti-Semitic act.

The second, after engaging with further colleagues in the profession, concluded that the accused bore no criminal responsibility.

Faced with these two contradictory testimonies, the victim’s lawyers requested for a third expert opinion.

Underlying the enquiry was the prevailing legal view that if the accused at the time of the commission of the act was in the grip of a drug-induced “delusional fit”, he was not in control of his actions and hence not criminally responsible.

The third expert asked two questions:

Firstly, in the execution of the ‘delusional’ act that culminated in the murder of Sarah Halimi, did the accused’s voluntary consumption of cannabis undermine his ability to formulate criminal intent?

Secondly, should not past conduct of the accused such as causing fear to the deceased every time she met him, be considered to show a pattern of anti-Semitic behaviour explaining the motivation of the crime?

On July 17, 2019, the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office requested that Traoré be charged for an anti-Semitic crime.  However, the examining magistrate ruled that Traoré was not criminally responsible because his heavy cannabis use had put him in a state of temporary psychosis known in France as Bouffée délirante. 

France on Trial. With France showing a traditional indifference to Jewish suffering, protesters hold placards as people demand justice for Sarah Halimi in Trocadero Plaza in Paris on Sunday. (Photo: AFP)

This was affirmed at the end of 2019 by the Paris Court of Appeal and in 2021 by the Court of Cassation, which is the final court of appeal in France. Lawyers for Halimi’s family subsequently announced their intention to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The shortcomings of the investigation have been exposed by lawyers. There was no reconstruction of the facts at the scene of the crime and no examination of the killer’s cell phone, which might have revealed evidence in conversation of his anti-Semitism or indicators of premeditation. The police officers present during the commission of the crime and who did not intervene, were not interviewed. And there was no investigation of the Salafi mosque frequented by the Traoré.

On his Facebook account, Traoré took the name “Boubaker Fofana”. Fofana is the surname of a gang leader who in 2006, kidnapped, tortured and murdered a young Jewish man, Ilan Halimi.

What is to be deduced from this?

Does not taking the surname of the previous murderer and then killing a Jew with the exact same surname indicate a thoughtful pattern of intentional murderious behaviour rather than a “delusional” act brought about by drug taking?

Barbarism in France. Twenty-three year-old Ilan Halimi suffered weeks of torture before he was stabbed and set alight by ‘Gang of Barbarians’ leader Youssouf Fofana, who sat in court smiling defiantly and declaring: “Allah will be victorious”.

The murderer, who had previously been in therapy for four years, had been out of treatment for eighteen months. However, the second panel of experts had claimed that he was developing signs of schizophrenia. This diagnosis was never confirmed. The case should have been reopened to dismiss this unsubstantiated claim, and to proceed only on the facts that included the accused’s Islamist fanaticism.

The judges should have exercised discretion in pronouncing their judgement. This they failed to do.

To shed light on all these gray – if not dark – areas, retired magistrate, Danielle Khayat, suggested more than a year ago that a  parliamentary inquiry be conducted (Mabatim, 13 January 2020). The magistrate’s proposal was never considered.

Public Reaction

Most of the justifiably aggrieved reactions came from the Jewish community of France and its representatives, as well as from several politicians including French President Emmanuel Macron, journalists, intellectuals and those who wrote letters to the media. Drug use, considered by law to be an aggravating factor, suddenly became a loophole.

France Unmasked. Following Jewish groups reacting with outrage to the decision by France’s highest court  that Kobili Traoré was not criminally responsible for the murder in 2017 of Sarah Halim, French President Macron told the newspaper, “Le Figaro”,  “I would like Justice Minister (Eric Dupond-Moretti) to present a change in the law as soon as possible.” (© Christian Hartmann, Pool/AFP)

In a rare critique of France’s justice system, President Macron said that taking drugs and “going crazy” should not take away criminal responsibility and has called for a change to laws to prevent such a case from happening again.

Exposing the different treatment when victims are Jewish, Dominique Durand, President of the Amitié Judeo-Chrétienne de France, writes in Journal LA CROIX (21 April 2021) that “in France, when victims are Jewish, the accused is failed to be held accountable  in 15% of cases compared with 1% when they are not Jewish.” (Maître Marc Sztulman in La Règle du Jeu, April 22, 2021)

On Sunday April 25, 2012, protests brought together 26,000 people in the French cities of Paris, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Strasbourg and Toulouse, while in Tel Aviv, New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Rome and Brussels, protesters gathered too to demand justice for Sarah Halimi. The Mayor of Paris announced that she proposed to name a street after Sarah Halimi.

Paris is Burning. A mass of protesters at the Trocadero Plaza near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, April 25, 2021 horrified at the message of French justice  – ‘Snort cannabis to kill a Jew!’. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The Judicial Route

The investigation of the case suffers from numerous shortcomings. Premeditation was ruled out from the outset, which would have steered the case, including the expert reports, in a completely different direction.

The anti-Semitism expressed by Traoré, his family and his associates was completely ignored. Cannabis is not anti-Semitic and attributing the drug as the cause of the murder while ignoring the anti-Semitic nature of the crime was a deception, even a denial of the truth. After thousands of years of violent persecution, Jews recognise anti-Semitism and its lethal implications. In view of the shameful inadequacies of the investigation, it was up to the Court to request a further investigation in order to establish premeditation.

Indeed, the course of events during the night of the crime shows a determination of the killer to end the life of a neighbour whom he hated – simply because she was Jewish. His anti-Semitism was cultivated within his family and nourished by his association with a local Salafist mosque.

Tel Aviv Reacts. Heavy turnout of the French community at the protest outside the French Embassy in Tel Aviv to ask justice for late Sarah Halimi who was murdered by her neighbour in her apartment in Paris, seen on April 25, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The notion of the accused’s “diminished responsibility” following the use of cannabis should also have been vigorously re-examined. After all,  why should a driver of a motor vehicle who knocks down and kills a child after consuming cannabis be found responsible for his actions with aggravating circumstances, while a drugged out murderer who slaughters a JEWISH old lady is not?

In this regard, one of the lawyers of the Halimi family, Maître Gilles-William Goldnagel (le Figaro, 26 April 2021) referred to a case similar to that of Sarah Halimi, where the accused had stabbed his companion under the influence of drugs, and the Court found that the taking of drugs was “an aggravating circumstance”.

Not only did  the judges in the Sarah Halimi murder case lack courage to pursue the truth, but it was also obvious that:

France preferred to bury the matter!

Sarah Halimi. May her memory be a blessing.

About the writer:

Dr. Gad Amar, Retired surgeon, Hebrew and Arab scholar, author of Jewish studies in Hebrew and French who has published the Sefer ha-Malkhouth in Hebrew by Rabbi David Halévy, the great Kabbalist who took refuge from Spain in Morocco.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)

J’ Accuse!

By Craig Snoyman

The famous words have outlived their equally famous author. Author, Emile Zola published his open letter to the French President accusing the government of anti-Semitism and convicting Alfred Dreyfus without cause, simply because he was a Jew.

Alfred Dreyfus

An assimilated Jewish Staff officer in the French army, Dreyfus was found guilty of treason. Then, in front of 5000 soldiers, he suffered the public degradation. The buttons of his military tunic were cut off, then the stripes of his trousers. Next came the removal of the insignia on his cap and sleeve.  The final humiliation was his sword being broken in two – all performed with excruciating slow military precision. He was then marched around the Ecole to calls for his death and that of the Jews. Stripped of rank and dishonourably discharged from the army, he was deported to Devil’s Island to serve a sentence of life imprisonment. Following Zola’s J’ Accuse, a public outcry and evidence of an army cover-up, he was brought back to France for a retrial – and again found GUILTY!

Falsely Accused. An illustration of the public military degradation of Jewish officer, Alfred Dreyfus.

The relationship between the French government and its Jewish citizens has always been a little uneven. Emancipated by dint of happenstance as a result of the French Revolution, the Jews were not trusted by the Revolutionaries that had unintentionally freed them. This distrust remained until Napoleon reconvened the Sanhedrin to satisfy himself that Jews could be good Frenchmen. It should then have been a case of Liberte, Fraternite and especially Egalite. It was not!

At the Dreyfus trial.  there was another assimilated Jew present. A correspondent for the Austrian newspaper, Neue Freie Presse, he had been sent to cover the trial. Watching the Paris mob baying for Dreyfus’ blood and with shouts that “The Jew must burn” ringing in his ears, he left with a changed world view.  He formed the opinion that the Jew had no place in the Diaspora. He concluded that the only hope for the submissive, discriminated, wandering Jew, was for them to have their own Jewish state in Palestine. That man was Theodor Herzl.

Storming French Injustice. Zola risked more than his career when on  the 13 January 1898 published “J’Accuse…!” as an open letter to President Félix Faure, accusing the highest levels of the French Army of obstruction of justice and antisemitism by having wrongfully convicted Alfred Dreyfus to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island. (“J’accuse” postcard, 1902, Bibliothèques de la Ville de Paris, Public Domain)

Fast-forward about 120 years.  Herzl’s vision has been realised. France’s relationship with its Jews is still uneven. France’s recent record is something like this:

2006 – a young Jew, Ilan Halimi is kidnapped, tortured and murdered by a Muslim gang, who proclaim that “all the Jews in the world are enemies”. The French police reject the idea that the murder was motivated by Jew-hatred.

Life Cut Short. 23-year-old lan Halimi, kidnapped, tortured and murdered by an anti-Semitic gang in Paris in 2006.(Courtesy of Stephanie Yin/JTA)

2012 – an Islamist gunman shoots dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in the southern city of Toulouse, because “the Jews kill our brothers and sisters in Palestine”.

Terror in Toulouse. On March 25, 2012, a Jewish scout places flowers under a banner paying tribute to the victims of jihadist Mohammed Merah who killed three children and a teacher at the “Ozar Hatorah” Jewish school in Toulouse, southwestern France. (AFP / ERIC CABANIS)

2015 – Islamic gunmen take their hatred to the Hypercacher kosher supermarket and kill four Jewish customers at a kosher supermarket. One declares that he was murdering the people he hated most in the world. (or as then-president Obama called it “randomly shooting a bunch of people in a deli”).  The attack on Bataclan theatre is played down (sic). The Jewish ownership of the theatre is concealed from the public.

Jews Marked for Death. Republican guards stand outside the Hyper Cacher supermarket ahead of a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the deadly terrorist attack against the store in Paris on January 5, 2017 that murdered four Jewish customers. (AFP/Christophe Archambault

2017– a 65-year-old Jewish retired doctor and schoolteacher, Sarah Halimi, is murdered in an anti-Semitic attack by her Muslim next-door neighbour. While torturing her, he is heard shouting the Arabic phrase Allāhu ʾakbar (meaning “God is the greatest”), and calling her a shaitan (Satan, in Islamic belief, a “demon” or ‘devil”). Then he throws her out of her third-floor window. The French authorities refused to classify this as an anti-Semitic attack.  The media ignored it.

French Justice! The sister of an Orthodox Jewish woman murdered in France in 2017  by being thrown out of her window of her Paris flat in 2017, is to file a legal claim in Israel in the hope of getting a trial against the killer, Kobili Traoré who cannot stand trial in France after a court deemed he was not criminally responsible due to his mental state  affected by drug-taking.

2018 – two men stab Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, set her on fire and throw her out of the window of her Paris apartment. One of the men is heard shouting Allāhu akbar.  

Grotesque Hate of Jews. Police red tape and a photograph of Mireille Knoll on the door of her apartment in eastern Paris where the 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, who escaped anti-Jewish purges in Paris during World War II, was stabbed and burned to death in 2018.

Writer, Marc Weitzmann, then writes that French authorities have repeatedly denied the anti-Semitic nature of these crimes, calling them “lone wolf” attacks or resulting from psychotic episodes.  But then he’s not an Emile Zola, and the French government don’t have to listen to him. Neither do the French press or the French public. Lone wolves and psychotics can proliferate.

Émile Zola

It goes further than that. The French Courts don’t listen either. In 2021, the Country’s highest court, the Cour de Cassation, upholds a  lower court decision that  the anti-Semitic murderer of Halimi could not be held criminally responsible because his “discernment”  had been compromised . He is held to have attacked and killed Halimi not because he hated Jews, but because he was in a “delirious fit” (what we might term a “psychotic state”) brought on as a result of his cannabis abuse. 

The court did see fit to mention that he had anti-Semitic tendencies!

I could find no reference as to whether he was using drugs in any  of his  previous (12) offences where he had been convicted. Nor was there any reference to a previous history of drug-induced “delirious fits”.

I have done more than my fair share of criminal cases and defended many substance abusers. Neither I, nor any of my colleagues that I have spoken to, can ever remember a marijuana abuser aggressively fighting.  Marijuana is a “downer,” a depressive drug, not one that is likely to render one both temporarily insane and violently aggressive.  The most aggressive behaviour that any of my clients ever showed while under the influence of marijuana, was throwing a bottle of pickles at the police who came to arresting him for housebreaking while he was trying to satiate his “munchies”.

In South Africa, and I suspect in most other countries, the voluntarily abuse of an abusive substance before committing a crime is an aggravating factor. It does not criminally absolve the abuser.  Even if you are in a “delirious state” or in a state mental incapacity, there are other competent charges that can be laid. Temporary insanity is a defence to be raised and proved by the defence. It’s an extremely difficult defence to sustain. While France’s legal system is different from ours, there was still an expert report of a psychologist before the Cour, which stated that this murderer was not temporarily insane.

And now we come up to speed. The French government’s relationship with its Jewish citizens is still uneven. However today, there are no big-name Frenchmen – no Emile Zola standing up for Halimi, no press shouting about injustice. A small voice of President Emile Macron, tainted by his politics and by his previous employment with Rothschild et Cie, can be heard calling for a change in the law.  But there are Jews protesting – in Paris and London and New York and Tel Aviv and elsewhere.

Vive la difference! The humiliated, cowering Jewish community had been too scared to protest the Dreyfus decision, either in Paris or at Rennes.  The voice of reason had to come from the Gentiles.  Now, thanks to the vision of Herzl, the existence of the State of Israel has given the Jews of the Diaspora a backbone and a voice. The fearful “Ghetto Jew” has disappeared. The new breed of Jew, in the knowledge of the support of the Israeli government is prepared to stand up and call for justice on their own. The murder of Sarah Halimi will never hit the world headlines like the death of George Floyd, but it will not be forgotten. It is not clear just how much Jewish Lives Matter to non-Jews and European governments. But Jews have very long memories, as Napoleon can attest – for those of you who remember your Gemarrah. So while the twitter-tags such as #JeSuisSarah and #JusticeforSarahHalimi may trend, a phrase not often used in the Diaspora, comes to mind which might be equally apt:

“Hashem yikom damma“(“May Hashem avenge her blood”)

Twice the French legal system has looked into the murder of Sarah Halimi and twice has been found wanting.

The double shadow of Dreyfus looms.

But now it is no longer an anti-Semitic murderer that is now on trial, it is again the French and their legal system. The scandal remains.  The Jews again have reason to distrust the French authorities, but they have a voice.  Where once there was the voice of an author proclaiming “J’Accuse”, it is now the voice of one nation shoutingJusticeforSarahHalimi”.  #MayHashemavengeyourbloodSarahHalimi

We, the Jews accuse!

About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)


By Craig Snoyman

Every now and then I have occasion to use the word “timeous” when typing on my computer. The automatic spell-checker will spew out the word “timorous” as a substitute for the word that it did not have in its dictionary. Both of these words came to mind when watching the interview of Judge David Unterhalter, as he applied for a position as judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Judge David Unterhalter

I have never been a great fan of watching job interviews. I have never watched the Judicial Services Commission ever interview candidates for the position of judge, although there have been many live transmissions of this. This all changed when a WhatsApp group to which I belong, published a letter from the South African BDS Coalition objecting to the candidacy of Unterhalter on the grounds of his association with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBOD). (In full disclosure – I am a proud Jew, but with only a passing interest in the Board). Viewing this letter as an anti-Semitic attack by a bigoted organisation, I resolved to watch the interview.

The interviews before Unterhalter’s were sometimes personal, but the was a marked emphasis on the need for (racial) transformation of the judiciary. One expected a similar pattern to be followed with the Unterhalter interview.

After the opening “comforter” questions in the interview by the Chief Justice, it was the chance of the commissioners to ask questions. First off the bat was Commissioner Lutendo Sigogo. He wasted no time in raising the issue of Unterhalter’s association with the SAJBD, referring to a letter from the Black Lawyers Association which had requested that he resign from the organisation. Unterhalter acknowledged the letter stating he had considered the grounds in the letter but had chosen to resign from the Board on the basis of a possible perception of judicial bias. He also explained the non-political nature of the Board. This was not satisfactory to Sigogo, who then questioned the necessity of Unterhalter’s resignation.

The situation didn’t get much better with some of the other Commissioners. Commissioner Mmoiemang asked Unterhalter about a “two-state solution” to the Palestine-Israel question while Commissioner Notyesi asked him why he shouldn’t take a cooling off period because of his stint on the Board. Commissioner Mpofu (yes, that Mpofu) then linked Zionism with Apartheid and asked for comment about whether organisations that opposed Zionism should be viewed as supporting equality.  The most noticeable commissioner, who stuck to the original pattern, was Commissioner Dlepu who rejected his candidacy holding that Unterhalter, as an elitist white male, had done nothing transformative. To round it off, Commissioner Ronald Lamola, who is also the country’s Minister of Justice saw the need to comment about Unterhalter being “the leader of a Jewish organisation.”

Degrees from Trinity College, Cambridge, the University of the Witwatersrand and University College Oxford, David Unterhalter was appointed in 2018 to the High Court as a judge and since been appointed as an acting appeal court judge of the Competition Appeal Court and of the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Having watched the interview, which finished quite late at night, I battled to sleep. A jumble of thoughts kept running around in my head. While Untehalter is clearly the most intellectually capable of the candidates for the position, it was the attitudes of the commissioners that was most revealing.

There is this vein of anti-Semitism running through the various layers of society. I don’t know what the BLA letter said but it clearly asked Unterhalter to resign from the Board, that commissioners can delve into Israeli politics because the candidate is Jewish, or tell him to give up  posts because of his affiliation to a Jewish organisation or  make allegations of Zionism = Racism, can be mentioned casually at this level to a national audience is  very worrying to me. I think that it should be equally worrying to the Jewish organisations that represent us.

I followed the media this morning, which was equally revealing. There were reports on the interviews, including that of Unterhalter – with headlines that he admitted that he had an elitist education, but no mention of the issues raised here.

Is it because it is simply a non-issue? That this kind of attitude is acceptable?

That statements like those made don’t deserve sanction?  That the media and the policy makers regard these statements as an acceptable norm in South  Africa?

I remain outraged that so little was said. So little about BDS objecting to Unterhalter’s candidacy on anti-Semitic grounds – but then I was equally outraged that so much was said when Chief Justice  Mogoeng’s call for peace in Jerusalem was adjudged an unacceptable intrusion into a  “political controversy”.  That so little is said when anti-Semitic canards are spouted at the highest levels of decision making.  That the BLA can call on a judge to resign from a Jewish organisation, simply because it is a Jewish organisation. But most of all I remain outraged that it doesn’t seem to matter to anyone in South Africa, Jewish or non-Jewish, who is prepared to stand up against this invasive, maybe even institutional, anti-Semitism.

So much for constitutional rights!

Why are the Jewish organisations in South Africa so timorous in defending the rights of Jews in South Africa? Surely it would now be timeous to stand up and say that Zionism is a fundamental part of Judaism and it is not racist. That calling out anti-Semites may cause waves, but it needs to be done. That the underlying current of anti-Semitism, so prevalent at the hearing, should be allowed to triumph simply because good organisations do nothing.

Five judges were recommended for appointment to the Constitutional Court, which excluded Judge Unterhalter who faced questions  from commissioners about coming from a privileged background to having served as a member  of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. (File photo. Image: GCIS)

It’s time to call out this anti-Semitic behaviour for what it is – a violation of our religious constitutional rights and Jewish identity. A good start would be getting the internationally accepted IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism adopted in South Africa. We saw what happened at the Durban Conference, let’s not let it permeate South African society.

If not now, then when?


Update: As a result of this article it was also drawn to my attention that in the same set of interviews, but this time of the position of judge in the Northern Cape,  secular and non-observant  Jewish candidate Lawrence Lever (SC)  was asked by Commissioner Madonsela (SC) whether observing of the Sabbath would interfere with his judicial duties.  Would Muslim and Christian applicants for judgeships be asked whether observing a Friday or Sunday respectively “would interfere with your judicial duties”?

About the writer:

Craig Snoyman is a practising advocate in South Africa.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs

Quo Vadis UCT?

By Stephen Schulman

On the eve of Israel Holocaust Day, it came to light that in a pre-recorded lecture shared online with first-year political science students, Lwazi Lushaba, a lecturer in the department of political studies at the University of Cape Town, said:

Hitler committed no crime. All Hitler did was to do to white people what white people had normally reserved for black people.”

That statement is shocking in itself, displaying bigotry, racism, anti- Semitism, a brutal callousness toward all the victims of Nazi oppression and an insult to the living survivors and their families. Its ignorance of and willful distortion of history is doubly shocking as it comes not from the mouth of a dyed in the wool member of a racist and Holocaust denier organization or from Louis Farrakhan but from a black South African whose people had suffered under the apartheid regime and who would have been expected to show some sensitivity for others who had suffered too. Moreover, his intense hatred blinded him to the obvious fact that had Hitler prevailed, his race – in the most optimistic scenario – would have been reduced to serfdom and slavery and he would certainly not be at UCT today.

Free Pass for Hitler. Dr Lwazi Lushaba told first-year University of Cape Town political science students in an online lecture that Hitler “committed no crime” because “all Hitler did was to do to the white people what white people had normally reserved for black people”.

Lushaba’s despicable statement flies in the face of all that a university stands for: an institution of higher learning  with teaching and research facilities, unfettered from bias, prejudice and current politically correct doctrines, guided by an objective, disinterested intellectual curiosity, an acceptance and tolerance of conflicting opinions and a moral integrity untainted by influence of interest groups.

Noble sentiments indeed, but unfortunately divorced from reality! Universities do not exist within vacuums. They function within communities and societies each with their own historical background, socio-economic composition, dominant creeds and narratives. Understandably, their academic staffs are not immune to these influences and whilst being influenced by all these factors, it is incumbent on the institutions to uphold all the values that constitute this institution.

Truckloads of Evidence. Dr Lwazi Lushaba, UCT political science lecturer, fails to see any “crime” here of the bodies of Jews being transported from the gas chambers to the five crematoriums of Auschwitz

Just over a quarter century ago, the country regained majority rule after many years of oppression by a white minority. Despite attempts to right past injustices, there still exists a huge reservoir of bitterness and rage. South African universities are faced with an especially difficult task in piloting a true course. They must acknowledge the past, incorporate its lessons in their teaching and devise curriculums that can benefit the country for the future. No less important, to ensure their academic status, they must also retain their academic and ethical standards.

Bird’s-Eye View. The idyllic setting for Africa’s premier university belies an academic situation that is far from idyllic.

Even though having left South African decades ago, as an alumnus of UCT I still have a link to and feel affection for my alma mater. Consequently, I follow with interest the developments in the post apartheid era as the institution seeks to define itself as an African university. While there have been many laudably positive achievements, sadly to say, there are those that I have found to be distressing.

The annual hate fest known as Israeli Apartheid Week has become a regular campus fixture. As a citizen of Israel, I had written an open letter to the Students Representative Council (supporters of the event) explaining my opposition to it as being libelous and defamatory to my country with a blatant misuse of the epithet “apartheid”. I offered to engage them in an open discussion with an honest exchange of views in order to correct this injustice. Needless to say, my challenge was ignored and I never even received the common decency of an acknowledgement.

The T.B. Davie Memorial Lecture on academic freedom is a prestigious annual event that has drawn distinguished speakers to address students and academic staff. In 2019, in order not to exacerbate existing campus tensions and/or not to offend Moslem students, the university disinvited Flemming Rose, the editor of the Danish newspaper that had published cartoons of the prophet Muhammed on the grounds that his lecture would sow discord and contribute nothing to the campus culture.

Double Standards. While UCT had no problem disinviting Flemming Rose, the editor of the Danish newspaper that had published cartoons of the prophet Muhammed  because it might offend Muslim students, the university showed no such sensitivity to Jewish students when it invited an advocate for academic boycotts of Israel, Dr Steven Salaita, to give its annual academic freedom lecture.

Somehow, this sensitivity did not extend to the Jews!

The organizing committee of academics, scraping the bottom of the barrel, in its stead, saw fit to invite Steven Salaita. Salaita, the holder of a dubious doctorate and odious views and that no American university wishes to employ, is notorious for his vituperative anti-Semitic sentiments that he crudely expresses and freely disseminates. His lecture, the text of which I ploughed through, was an object lesson in verbosity, obtuseness and obfuscation replete with sniveling self pity, plugging a brand of soft drink and the obligatory tropes of a Jewish conspiracy responsible for his plight. How sad that UCT had debased such an august event and sunk to such a nadir by honouring a third rate academic, bigot and anti-Semite.

Beneath the Veneer. Having removed the statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes that had become the focus of protests, is it no less important for UCT to address living offenders on the campus like Dr Lwazi Lushaba who dispenses to impressionable young students, that Hitler committed no crimes?

UCT prides itself on being a leading African university. Nevertheless, it remains remarkably silent on burning issues such as misrule, poverty and other injustices that afflict the continent. South Africa suffers from a government with its cronyism, nepotism and institutionalized kleptocracy to the great detriment of its citizens. It cries out to its universities, both students and staff, to condemn and correct the misuses of power. My alma mater, like all the others, remains conspicuously mute. However, approximately 18 months ago, the university council and senate found time to devote themselves to a far more burning issue: the promotion of a boycott of Israeli universities! In due time the initiative was quashed as the more pragmatic senate, faced with a wave of protests, realized the repercussions of such a drastic move: the condemnation of the academic world with a consequent loss of links and funding.

Events on the campus have not been propitious for the creation of a tolerant atmosphere. A philosophy professor has written an article exposing abuses: In the name of “social justice” there have been instances of vandalism and wanton destruction of university property. Teachers and staff including the previous vice chancellor have been physically assaulted. All of these acts have gone unpunished. There has been discrimination and expressions of racism against white students including accusations of “settler and colonialist mentality”. Pressure has been exerted on academic staff to conform, compromise their standards and give poor students passing grades on account of their skin colour for if they failed them, it was a clear sign of overt racism. Cancel culture is very much in evidence as those who disagree are stifled and sanctioned. It is sad to think that such prejudiced behaviour on campus has become a mirror image of the very hatred and bigotry of despised apartheid proponents that they condemn!

In 2019, the University of Cape Town extended an invitation to all alumni who had graduated over fifty years ago to participate in a “golden graduation” where they would attend the end of year graduation ceremony and be honoured by taking part in the academic procession. I replied, expressing my thanks, but declining the invitation. I felt that, with a clear conscience, in light of all the past and present events, I could not participate and be part of the window dressing for my alma mater that had betrayed so many of its ideals.

Questionable Standards! Lecturer at UCT’s faculty of political Science, Dr Lwazi Lushaba, who makes the case, “Hitler committed no crime.”

In the context of the prevailing campus climate, it is perhaps not surprising that Lushaba expressed such an outrageous statement that exceeded all bounds of common decency. He is a member of the political science department and as such, his lecture was given under the aegis of UCT. Undoubtedly, he was fully aware of the weight of his words, their fallout and his confidence in his impunity. His vile utterances are an affront to the bedrock upon which the university is based and he should be made fully accountable for them. The campus academic community cannot and must not remain silent. To stand true to its principles and retain its credibility, the senate of the University of Cape Town should unequivocally condemn his words, dismiss Lushaba or at the very least, suspend him from his teaching position. The senate must unhesitatingly react and use its authority, for its decision will have far reaching consequences in setting the future course of my alma mater as a worthy educational institution.   

About the writer:

Stephen Schulman is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist youth movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. He was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs

The Hills are Alive

Honouring this week the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators, the writer reflects on a visit to “Yad Vashem” embedded in the hills of bustling Jerusalem

By David E. Kaplan

Let’s begin at the end. What has always fascinated this writer was the reactions of visitors when exiting the main museum and stepping out into the high balcony with the majestic view of the city of Jerusalem.

From Death to Life. Exiting the death factory museum, visitors feast their eyes on the pastoral beauty  of Jerusalem and the visual message that Jewry survived and today thrives.

Looking through the trees and imagining the bustle below of people going about their daily business and contrasting it with the New Holocaust History Museum’s chronicle of death left behind, seldom fails to evoke a visceral response of raw emotion. My non-Jewish friend from London, who had never visited Israel before, simply burst into tears.

You won; they lost,” he uttered tearfully.

He did not have to say more!

The name “Yad Vashem” is taken from a verse in the Book of Isaiah:

  “And to them will I give, in My house and within My walls, a Memorial and a  Name (yad vashem) … an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 56:5).

Symbolic in its naming, “Yad Vashem” conveys the idea of a national depository eternally imbedded into the rock of Israel’s ancestral capital, remembering and honouring the names of Jewish victims who have no one to carry their name after death. The magnitude of human loss was for this writer, best grasped stepping inside the Hall of Names and later the Children’s Memorial.

Cruelty to Creativity. The stark grey angular features of a factory of death museum contrasts with animated beauty of the Jewish People’s eternal capital – Jerusalem.

Hall of Names

Near the end of the ‘journey’ through the museum, one steps onto a platform midway within a sphere. One’s attention is immediately drawn skyward where the ten-meter high ceiling – an upper cone – displays hauntingly 600 photographs of Holocaust victims.

Who were they? What lives did the live?” visitors will silently ask themselves. The questions are rhetorical as the names of too many remain unknown. And then, as if believing some clues to this madness might lie below, one’s eyes are drawn downward where those same victims’ portraits are reflected in water at the base of the lower cone carved out of the mountain’s bedrock. Their faces naturally blurry in the reflection, one engages the collective image of all six million Jewish victims crying out from the watery depths below:

 “Forget us not”.

Although the exhibit represents only a fraction of Europe’s six million Jewish victims, the monumental horror of the Shoah (Holocaust) is evident by two simple movements of the head – above and then below. Visitors are speechless; the most audible sounds are sighs……

Surrounding the platform is the circular repository, housing approximately 2.2 million Pages of Testimony collected to date, with empty spaces for those yet to be submitted. The task ahead of ‘unearthing’ those names still unknown is open-ended…..

If the world  failed to save their lives, future generations can at least try  save their identities…..

Time to Reflect. With the faces of the murdered appearing above and reflected in the water below, the Hall of Names is the Jewish People’s memorial to each and every Jew who perished in the Holocaust – a place where they may be commemorated for generations to come.

Children’s Memorial

No less gut-wrenching in conveying the sheer magnitude of human loss is the visit to the Children’s Memorial, designed by architect Moshe Safdie, who also designed the museum.

Hollowed out from an underground cavern, this unique memorial is a tribute to the approximately 1.5 million Jewish children who were murdered in the Shoah.

Entering, one is engulfed by darkness until one turns a corner and then suddenly one is overwhelmed by tiny flames from candles that appear to reach out to eternity. Apparently, it might be one candle that through clever reflection, appears endless. This is the point of the exhibition – that the murder of one child is unbearable to bear and so the candles help try apply the mind to the unthinkable – one and a half million children snuffed out in cold blood!

The names of murdered children, their ages and countries of origin can be heard in the background. The recording takes some three months to list all the murdered children!

One is speechless, the only common outward body expression – tears running down cheeks…

Each Flame One Child. The reflection of a single candle produces the illusion of space, which symbolizes the approximately 1.5 million children and young people who died during the Shoah.  

Like Cattle to the Slaughter

As it hanging in the air, the track and an actual German cattle truck used to transport Jews to their death greets the viewer. Looking at this mechanism for murder, one can imagine how the Jews were ordered to gather like livestock, and to bring with them only a few possessions and then ‘herded’ into these crowded cattle cars without ventilation, water or food. Sealed for days until arriving at the death camps, many perished.

On ‘track’ to  the ‘final solution’, we move to the memorial museum, designed to explore the unthinkable!

Approaching the grey façade of the Museum projects the image of a colossal factory – a factory of death, designed for processing death – a human abattoir. I thought:

 “Well, I came by car and I will leave later.”

There were no such thoughts for the millions who walked along earlier paths, with dogs barking and wondering what that smoke was coming out distant chimneys ahead.

Before one begins the walk along the central 180-meter walkway with exhibition galleries on either side of the prism, the journey begins at the Museum’s entrance, a kaleidoscope of changing visual images on a 13-meter high triangular wall portraying the Jewish world before the Holocaust. Viewers peer through open windows and doors into the lives of Jewish households, synagogues and places of work in cities, towns and shtetls across Europe. With little thought of the brewing storm, they look happy, innocent and unprepared for the cataclysmic crunch when all these windows and doors will close on their lives forever.

Each step forward, is a step into impending doom. The next gallery follows the invasion of Poland and the outbreak of World War II.

Whose Feet did these Belong to?  This says it all as  – a huge cart full of shoes from victims of concentration camps. Their owners unknown, the shoes survive!

The anti-Jewish policies are now played out with harsh violence and a campaign of abuse and restrictive measures intended to undermine the foundations of Polish Jewry.  Jews are ordered to wear the yellow Star of David on their clothes. The badge was not only a symbol of absolute separation from the general population but also a means by which Jews were immediately identified for humiliation and eventual deportation.

Selections from the diary of Dawid Sierakowiak, a youth from Lodz, accompany visitors through this gallery, providing the human perspective of a young person facing personal upheaval. The gallery ends with the uprooting of Jews from the general population and herding them like cattle into Ghettos. 

The ‘Between Walls and Fences’ gallery opens with an area dedicated to the fate of Jews in Western Europe.  Personal stories of families from France and Holland are chosen to illustrate German policies in the conquered lands of Western Europe.

The largest part of this gallery is devoted to providing visitors with a true sense of the Jewish experience in the Ghettos of Eastern Europe. Four Ghettos are selected – Lodz, Warsaw, Kovno and Theresienstadt.

More than a Game. In addition to entertaining the children, this Monopoly game on exhibit at Yad Vashem provided information about ghetto life in Theresienstadt, such as the Ghetto’s prison, barracks, the fort, the warehouse, the kitchen and the deportees’ absorption site. Those who were deported would often leave belongings with friends who remained in the ghetto, and thus, this Monopoly game was passed on until its final home – Yad Vashem.

A Monopoly board, made in Theresienstadt in 1943 forms the center of this Ghetto’s exhibition. The stations in the game were named after the streets and main buildings in the Ghetto.  Using the game board as a base for exploring the Ghetto, visitors can see how the children and the elderly were treated and cared for by their fellow Jews, and how people expressed their feelings through works of art, music, and poetry.

Hunting Season. Jews were the prey for this member of the Einsatzgruppe (mobile killing units) shooting a Jewish mother and her child near Ivangorod, Ukraine.  Open air killings continued in areas of eastern Europe during 1942 and by the spring of 1943, Einstagruppen units A-D had killed over a million persons. (Credit: Jerzy Tomaszewski, Poland)

The “Final Solution”

The next gallery starts with the German offensive into the USSR, marking the start of the implementation of the plan for the mass-murder of the Jews. Visitors track the activities of one killing unit, Einsatzgruppe C that served in Eastern Galicia and the Ukraine where during its first four months of operations, 800 SS soldiers of this unit murdered 75,000 Jews from villages, towns, and cities.  What does this tell you – only 800 soldiers murdered 75,000 Jews? The participation of the local population in mass murder was enormous – not only as passive bystanders but eager voluntary participants.

Illuminating Man’s Inhumanity. Natural light from the roof beams down on the stark grey reality of mass murder of the Jews of Europe.

This gallery too emphasizes the victims’ perspective  –  the voices of the few escapees are heard and seen on screens, alongside rare photographs of the slaughter of Vilna’s Jewish community at Ponary.

In a meeting with members of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement, Abba Kovner shows them a poster in which he urges Jew to resist.  It was the first time that Jews were urged to defend themselves against the Nazis with arms. 

The exhibit exposes visitors to the Wannsee Conference, which was convened to discuss the measures and inter-ministerial coordination needed to implement the “Final Solution” to the “Jewish Problem”.  The purpose of the meeting was not to discuss murdering European Jewry – only to consider the means of murder. 

Jewish fate was sealed and final!

On Track to Death. Cattle cars like this original German death transport train car at Yad Vashem were used to transport Jews to concentration camps.

Resistance and Rescue

The authentic Schindler’s List is presented in this gallery, which deals with Jewish resistance, rescue attempts, and the Righteous Among the Nations.

This gallery opens with an attempt to answer the requisite question of what the world knew and when.  It describes how the world was silent in 1942 when the Struma, a decrepit ship carrying 769 refugees on route to Palestine was turned back from the coast of Turkey, towed out to sea without fuel, food or water and torpedoed within hours. All but one refugee drowned.

Throughout the Holocaust, there were expressions of Jewish defiance and this gallery depicts life in the Jewish partisan camps whose members combined fighting the Germans with the rescue of Jewish men, women, and children. 

Righteous Path. The names of the Righteous Among the Nations – non-Jews who risked their lives and the lives of their families to save Jews during the Holocaust – are engraved on the walls of honour.


“What would someone who had no knowledge of the Holocaust feel following a visit to Yad Vashem,”  was a thought that had intrigued me for many years. An opportunity  to answer this thought arose in 2010, when the Chilean miners who had been rescued after spending 69 days trapped in a collapsed Chilean mine were hosted in Israel by the Ministry of Tourism. The writer caught up with the shift manager, 54-year-oldLuis Urzúa – the last miner to be rescued – as he exited the Hall of Names.

Emotionally distraught, he said, “There is one big difference. While we may have shared with the Jews in the concentration camps that feeling of always being close to death, we at least enjoyed one luxury – hope. We knew there were people rooting for us all over the world and working non-stop to save us. The Jews in the Holocaust had no hope. No-one was coming to rescue them.”

This insight is testimony why Jews around the world need a secure State of Israel, so visually reassuring as one exists the death factory of a museum and step onto the balcony and feasts ones eyes through the foliage of forests over undulating Jerusalem hills with Israel’s eternal capital in the background.

One leaves with the message reverberating:

“Never again”

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)

We Remember Them

By  Rolene Marks

Tonight we begin to commemorate Yom Hashoa, Holocaust – Martyrs and Heroes Memorial Day. Every year I feel the weight of this day on my soul. I almost welcome it because  I am appreciative of the solemn weight that this day carries; and it serves as a reminder that I, like millions of others have taken that most important vow – NEVER AGAIN.

This year, the weight seems to be heavier. I don’t know if it is because we are running out of precious time to gather as many stories from survivors as we can or because we have lost so many to the pandemic. I do know that this year it weighs heavier on my heart because I see the tides of antisemitism rising. Europe is especially worrisome.  Acts of violence against Jewish individuals that have even resulted in death; and the shift in realpolitik to the right is extremely alarming.  Antisemitism is on the rise in the USA as well and at least 63% of American Jews has reported experiencing it in some iteration over the last year. I write this in gratitude that I am safe and protected in our beloved State of Israel.

Yom Hashoa, Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes day is that one day a year where we specifically remember Jewish victims of the Holocaust. This is different to the UN’s International Holocaust Memorial Day which rightfully recognizes all victims. On this poignant and sad day we take that moment to stop and stand sentinel for the siren that screams its mournful cry all over our beautiful land and pierces the soul, we dedicate 24 hours to education, to remembrance and to bear witness to the experiences that are almost too painful to bear. But bear them we must because now more than ever, it is our responsibility to tell them to the next generation and those that will follow.

Let us not wait for one day in the year to remember them. While Yom Hashoa is a sacred day, I urge everyone to take up the mantle of remembrance every day. Today’s social media platforms make it possible for us all to continue educating, disseminating the truth and educating future generations who speak a new language – the hashtag. When we pause for remembrance, let us be ever conscious why this is so important.

In the hateful gestures of Nazi salutes and imagery –  we remember them.

In the calls to boycott, divest and sanction Israel – we remember them.

In the calls to question the rights of Jewish people to return to their ancestral homeland – we remember them.

On the train where “next stop Aushwitz” traumatized travelers on their daily commute – we remember them.

In the rallies where screams of “Jews will not replace us” – we remember them.

In the defacing of graves and holy places – we remember them.

In the unmarked graves that are all over Europe – we remember them.

In the fire bombings and defacing of the synagogues – we remember them.

In the calls to register our property or risk being expelled – we remember them.

In the biased, vitriolic media broadcasts – we remember them.

In the attacks on individuals – we remember them.

In the shootings in community centres and synagogues – we remember them.

In the flagrant denial of our lost 6 million – we remember them.

In the loss of lives to terror attacks – we remember them.

In bearing witness to the genocides that have and continue to happen – we remember them.

In the harassment of our students on campuses – we remember them.

In the venom of social media – we remember them.

In the hurt and pain inflicted on any minority community or anyone “different” – we remember them.

In the medieval and modern day blood libels – we remember them.

In the words that built machines of death – we remember them.


In the lighting of memorial candles – we remember them.

In the lowering of our flag – we remember them.

In the mournful cry of the siren – we remember them.


In the birth of new generations – we remember them.

In the celebration of our homecoming from exile – we remember them.

In the singing of Hatikvah – we remember them.

In the greening and building of our start up nation – we remember them.

In the proud winning of sporting medals, Nobel prizes, life-saving NGO’s – we remember them

In the ways we are contributing to a better world – we remember them

In reaching out a lifesaving hand to our enemies – we remember them.

In our defense of our country – we remember them.

In the helping of the vulnerable, the displaced, the oppressed – we remember them.

In protecting their health – we remember them.

In bearing witness – we remember them

In the teaching of the next generation – we remember them.

In our unabashed, joyful, defiant celebration of life – we remember them.

In our cries of Am Yisrael Chai! (The people of Israel live) – we remember them.

In our vow NEVER AGAIN – We remember them.


While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)