#6 / Editorial: A Day of Rage for Sarah Halimi

Protests were held on last Sunday in France – but also in the United States and Israel – in memory of Sarah Halimi. These assemblies were sometimes dubbed “demonstrations of anger.” The refusal to try the murderer of Sarah Halimi has precipitated not only incomprehension, perplexity, indeed shock, but also an unprecedented sentiment of anger in the French Jewish and international Jewish community, as well as in French society at large. Anger is a hard emotion. Wise men and philosophers traditionally suspected this emotion of hindering clear thought, condemning anger as leaving free rein to instincts and impulses: anger overwhelms reason and the sang-froid necessary for useful reflection. On the other hand, sociologists and anthropologists now affirm that anger is an expression of the moral unity of the community, and that it rises to the surface when this unity is threatened. Anger could, in these terms, be understood as a form of thought. A thought which a group needs in order to survive as a moral entity. And this moral entity’s first demand is often justice: Avishag Zafrani probed this lack of justice, there will be no trial in the murder of Sarah Halimi. There will be no time or place to shine a light on what happened the night she was thrown from a balcony to her death. Democratic societies invest themselves with the right to know, and this right here has been denied. And thus the anger of many Frenchmen, not only Jews, is eminently understandable.

We saw this anger percolate over the last week. The emotion seemed to seek an appropriate object, in the manner that a missile looks for its principal target. In the context of a complex legal situation in which the courts have already decided – ruling that there will be no trial due to the alleged mental disturbance of the perpetrator – anger began to focus on the French justice system and its institutions, against the law. Citing the political theorist Montesquieu, some said: “Something is not just because it is the law; rather something must be law because it is just.” France itself has been called into question, or rather what one perceives as its impotence, which has pushed the victim’s family and civil society groups to turn elsewhere for solutions: the victim’s sister is now appealing to the courts of Israel to place murderer Kobili Traoré on trial in absentia. The legitimate passion provoked by the Halimi Affair captures the attention of our magazine, which is concerned with the situation of Jews in Europe today. This episode attests undoubtedly to the deepening of a sentiment of disconnection between a part of the French Jewish community and their country, the repercussions of which could be felt at the continental and global level. We will revisit this difficult event in the weeks and months to come (including next week), without reacting in haste.

This week’s edition of K. will address issues that are not right now in the headlines, but which nonetheless are equally complex: first of all, the attempt of Viktor Orban to enlist the Jewish community in his nationalist campaign. János Gadó provides us with a panoramic image of Hungary and the Hungarian Jewish community, as the two confront Holocaust memory and the state seeks to meddle in Jewish institutions to promote its own ends. Elsewhere, in Germany, post-colonialist intellectuals are trying to incorporate the Holocaust into a longer history of European crimes that are deemed comparable and alike. Why? Julia Christ deconstructs their surprising logic. And finally, Macha Fogel – who will write a regular column on the news from Yiddishland, this diffuse country that exists wherever the language is spoken – examines the Hasidic American press, and recounts the backstory of this bit of Europe cast outside of its place of origin.

The Editors

What kind of coexistence Viktor Orbán considers to be functional for Hungarian Jews and what is the reception of his politic on the Jewish side? János Gadó answers this question for K., providing an overview in which he discusses both the difficult issue of the memory of the Holocaust in Hungary, Orbán’s relationship with Israel, and the divisions that exist within Hungarian Jewry.

Does the Holocauste constitute a unique crime that marks a turning point in European history? Or should we count it just as another crime that is not extraordinary in itself?…

It is no secret that Yiddish is a language without a country. At least, that’s how it’s spoken of, anyway, and then as a murdered, disappearing, dying language. But I…

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Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.