News from April 12 to April 18

A French Jewish woman's murderer avoids trial, Explosion at an Iranian nuclear facility (update), and honorable mentions

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French Court rules killer of Jewish woman will avoid trial:

(Warning: this story is graphic)

Background: On April 4, 2017, Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old French Jewish woman, was killed by Kobili Traoré, a 27-year-old immigrant from Mali. The details are gruesome; Traoré entered Halimi’s apartment, beat her, and ultimately threw her out the window of her 3rd-floor apartment building. While he was attacking her, neighbors reported that Traoré yelled “Allahu akbar” and “I killed the devil.” A psychiatric report found that Traoré was troubled by the mezuza on Halimi’s door.

Although Traoré was formally charged with intentional homicide in 2017, a French court later ruled that Traoré would not be tried because he was in the midst of a cannabis-induced delirious fit that prevented him from being criminally liable when he killed Halimi. The case was so controversial that even French President Emmanuel Macron weighed in by calling for a trial of Traoré. Still, the trial had been delayed as the case made its way through the appellate courts.

Sarah Halimi. Source: Halimi Family via Times of Israel.

What happened? Earlier this week, the French Court of Cassation, France’s highest appellate court, ruled that Traoré will not be tried. In the ruling, the Court stated that “a person is not criminally responsible if suffering, at the time of the event, from psychic or neuropsychic disturbance that has eliminated all discernment or control.” In response, lawyers for Halimi’s family announced their intentions to bring their case before the European Court of Human Rights. 

How have people reacted? Here are some of the notable reactions:

Simon Wiesenthal Center: “After a harrowing 3 years of courtroom debate on the criminal responsibility of a murderer, presumedly 'under the influence' of cannabis - which basically resulted in him being interned in a psychiatric hospital instead of being judged and condemned to prison - the family has been on edge until now. This is a devastating blow!”

Francis Kalifat (President of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France): “From now on in our country, we can torture and kill Jews with complete impunity.”

Anything else? The last decade has been extremely difficult for French Jews. In 2012, a gunman shot and killed three children and a teacher at a school in Toulouse. Then, in 2015, a man killed four Jewish customers at a Kosher supermarket in Paris. In 2018, Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, was stabbed to death in her apartment. Thus, it is no surprise that 77% of French Jews believe antisemitism is increasing, and 70% of French Jews have experienced an antisemitic incident during their lives. As a result, many Jews are leaving France for Israel.

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Update on Natanz explosion:

What happened? As you may recall, Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility was damaged in an apparent explosion last Sunday. Immediately after the incident, western intelligence officials indicated that the Mossad was involved. The blast, which came just days after Iran began operating its advanced IR-5 and IR-6 centrifuges, reportedly targeted the facility’s power system and potentially caused nine months of damage.

So what have we learned? Since the initial reports were published last week, many new details have emerged. Notably, American and Israeli officials have told the New York Times that Israel was indeed involved in the Natanz incident and the Jerusalem Post reported that the attack was intended to “send a message to Iran” to halt its nuclear program. The New York Times also reported that the incident was in fact an explosion (some believed it was a cyberattack), and it targeted the primary and backup power systems for Natanz’s uranium enrichment centrifuges. 

In Iran, government officials stated that Iran would replace the damaged or destroyed centrifuges with more advanced ones. The Iranian government also named a suspect, though experts believe pinning the attack on one individual could be a way to publicly downplay the damage.

Anything else? Since the attack, Iran has started enriching a small amount of Uranium to 60% purity, a technical step on the way to the 90% purity needed for a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, the Biden administration reportedly asked Israel to stop commenting on operations in Iran because it’s “dangerous,” “detrimental,” and “embarrassing” to the United States as it attempts to negotiate a return to the Iran deal. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz called for a probe of the highest ranks of the Israeli security services to stop the leaks.

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Honorable Mentions:

Bernie Madoff, whose Ponzi scheme devastated the Jewish world, dies in prison at 82” by Ben Sales (JTA)

‘Kids need camp this summer more than ever before’: What Jewish summer camp will look like this year” by Shira Hanau (JTA)

The Week Quietly Removes Image Criticized As Anti-Semitic” by Aaron Bandler (Jewish Journal)

Jewish leaders react to death of Prince Philip, praise his ‘affection’ for community” (JNS) (Prince Philip’s mother is recognized as a “Righteous Among the Nations” for protecting Jews during World War 2)

Team Israel unveils expanded roster for Olympic Games” (Israel Baseball)

The Israeli startup working to monetize Clubhouse” by Amy Spiro (Jewish Insider)

A Formerly Ultra-Orthodox Mom Will Star in a New Netflix Reality Show” by Lior Zaltzman (Kveller)

Abbas to address J Street confab as group seeks to top DC’s Israel lobby scene” by Jacob Magid (Times of Israel) (Mahmoud Abbas is the President of the Palestinian Authority)

Tucker Carlson takes aim at ADL with Israeli immigration policy” by Ben Sales (JTA)

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