France and the USA – two countries struggling with moral and cultural relativism and how justice is to be interpreted in the age of critical race theory and the emphasis on principles of “equity” rather than “equality” before the Law.
Judges and officers shall you appoint in all your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, throughout your tribes; and they shall judge the people with just judgment. You shall not pervert judgment; you shall not respect persons, nor take a bribe; for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise, and perverts the words of the righteous. Justice, justice (Tsedek, Tsedek) shall you pursue, that you may live, and inherit the land which the Lord your God gives you. (Deut. 16:18-20)
ONTARIO, CANADA – I am a retired lawyer and a historian of modern ideologies. Judaism is a religion of laws; a Jew doesn’t have to be a lawyer to study law, because Jewish law covers all aspects of our lives and every Jew must know many laws. We Jews are always incensed when law is perverted by certain political or cultural motivations, whether such motivations include the historical curse of antisemitism or certain allied evil ideologies now ascendant in the West. Such ideologies are the subject of my book The Ideological Path to Submission … and what we can do about it.
In this essay, I wish to contribute to the discussion of two important criminal law cases, one in France and one in the United States – two countries struggling with moral and cultural relativism and how justice is to be interpreted in the age of critical race theory and the emphasis on principles of “equity” rather than “equality” before the Law. In this age of renewed antisemitism in western liberal democracies, we see a corruption of justice by antisemitism in the first case and by critical race theory and acceptance of wickedness (the opposite of righteousness) in the second case.
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As noted above, the Torah states in Devarim (Deuteronomy) as Moses addresses the Jewish people before their entrance into the land of Israel: “Justice, Justice shall you pursue’.
In Hebrew, the word used for justice here is “Tsedek” which often is translated as “Righteousness” and so we start there.
The online Jewish Virtual Library defines righteousness as:
“the fulfillment of all legal and moral obligations. Righteousness is not an abstract notion but rather consists in doing what is just and right in all relationships; Psalm 106:3 says’keep justice and do righteousness at all time’.
From this we learn that righteousness includes not just legal requirements of the Law but also “moral” requirements in that righteousness requires doing justice in all relationships, and thus requires moral understanding.
How can we understand the notion of Tsedek in Hebrew and how it is to be translated into the English words, justice and righteousness?
The late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks addressed these issues in a short essay.
“Tzedek/tzedakah is almost impossible to translate, because of its many shadings of meaning: justice, charity, righteousness, integrity, equity, fairness and innocence. It certainly means more than strictly legal justice, for which the Bible uses words like mishpat and din.”
It is best rendered in Sack’s opinion as “the right and decent thing to do” or “justice tempered by compassion.” He says that In Judaism, justice – tzedek as opposed to mishpat – must be tempered by compassion.
But should we be compassionate towards evil, towards those who would seek our compassion to excuse their wicked conduct?
Sacks asks why is justice so central to Judaism? He suggests that one reason is because it is impartial. Law as envisaged by the Torah makes no distinction between rich and poor, powerful and powerless, home born or stranger. To this, I would add that justice cannot be hijacked in the cause of some ideology, no matter how just the proponents of an ideology think it is. How many Jews chose Communism over Jewish laws and values? How many today are followers of JStreet and other anti-Israel ideologues?
Justice must never be compromised – by fear, bribery, or favoritism. It is an inescapable duty, an inalienable right. Even those who justify their injustice by “love” of one’s neighbour or love of the stranger, are compromising the religion of justice.
Sacks holds that Judaism is also (but not only) a religion of compassion, for “without compassion law itself can generate inequity. He says that “justice plus compassion equals tzedek, the first precondition of a decent society.”
I would add that justice must be administered by the righteous; the truly righteous understand when to import righteousness into justice.
Moreover, Jewish justice, as understood through the eyes of the righteous, serves to protect us from the “virus” of certain ideologies. Only the righteous understand that antisemites see a different reality than do good people. Only the righteous can see that American education, media, and politics has been captured by something called “Critical Race Theory” also known as “CRT”. Without understanding the ideologies involved, it is impossible to pursue justice because there is an absence of righteousness. Instead there is a critical theory that opposes traditional Torah values.
CRT,an offshoot of Marxism, views the world—all relationships, systems, personal interactions, policies, etc—through the lens of racial hegemony. It ascribes guilt and innocence, responsibility and victimhood, oppressor vs oppressed, to groups based on their race.
Where classical Marxists view the world through the concept of “class”, the CRT neo-Marxists view everything through the concept of “race” and seek to transfer power from the oppressors with “white privilege” to the oppressed who must obtain preferential treatment by government, corporations and institutions.
Christopher Rufo at https://www.city-journal.org/how-to-fight-critical-race-theory in an essay entitled “The Courage of our Convictions: How to Fight Critical Race Theory” says that “Americans across the political spectrum have failed to separate the premise of critical race theory from its conclusion. Its premise—that American history includes slavery and other injustices, and that we should examine and learn from that history—is undeniable. But its revolutionary conclusion—that America was founded on and defined by racism and that our founding principles, our Constitution, and our way of life should be overthrown—does not rightly, much less necessarily, follow.”
According to Richard Delgado, a law school professor and one of the founders of the critical race theory (CRT) movement, “Unlike traditional civil rights, which embraces incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.”
No matter how unthreatening Delgado makes his words, Rufo says that “an equity-based form of government would mean the end not only of private property but also of individual rights, equality under the law, federalism, and freedom of speech. These would be replaced by race-based redistribution of wealth, group-based rights, active discrimination, and omnipotent bureaucratic authority. Historically, the accusation of “anti-Americanism” has been overused. But in this case, it’s not a matter of interpretation: critical race theory prescribes a revolutionary program that would overturn the principles of the Declaration and destroy the remaining structure of the Constitution.”
Accordingly, CRT opposes Torah and other basic texts of Judaism, just as it opposes classical liberalism, conservatism, capitalism, and western liberal philosophy. CRT even opposes the civil rights movement in 1960s America whereRev. Martin Luther King Jr. said we should judge people , not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Today, Americans are told the opposite – character is not as important as the skin color that will be the defining attribute of the person. And Americans are fired if they say that “all lives matter” because to Black Lives Matter and its supporters, while lives do not matter, it seems.
And so, we turn to the matter of one George Floyd and the murder trial of the Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Floyd was a very big and very bad man, a career criminal, in and out of jail, a drug user and drug dealer, guilty of an armed robbery at a home invasion where he threatened a pregnant woman. When out of jail, he managed to father five children with different women and did not stay around to support or raise any of them, and hence represents the Black community’s worst crisis, that is, the failure of men who impregnate women to stay around to raise them in a stable two-parent family.
Chauvin was the first police officer on the scene of a minor crime and when additional police came, they tried to get a very high Floyd (who had ingested fentanyl and other drugs), out of his car. Floyd resisted and after a struggle, Chauvin pinned Floyd on the ground and put his knee for a considerable length of time on Floyd’s neck and shoulder, and Floyd died. Truly a case of law enforcement taking an unjust action, despite the evil of the criminal.
Two relatively new organizations, Black Lives Matter and Antifa, led weeks of rioting, violent break-ins, burning of buildings including a police station, and theft of store merchandise. The total destruction was immense. Few were arrested and of course the Covid restrictions imposed on regular Americans were waived for the violent gangs.
Major American corporations competed with each other to donate large sums of money to Black Lives Matter, without even knowing who was in charge and what was being done with the money.
By the time of Chauvin’s trial, George Floyd had become a hero to radical Blacks and leftists, and even mainstream news shows made sure that they did not report the truth about his sordid criminal life.
Legally, the Chauvin trial was a miscarriage of justice. A few days before the trial started the City of Minneapolis publicized a $25 million dollar settlement with the family of the late Mr. Floyd.
The trial, before a jury, was held in an atmosphere of rioting and threats of what would happen if Chauvin was not convicted. The jury all knew a lot about the case and all would likely worry about what happen to themselves and to their city if they returned a not guilty verdict. There should have been a change of venue, to create a fairer setting for the trial. In a situation of what was in effect turned into a race crime, rhe jury should have heard only the evidence that the Judge allowed to be presented, but the Judge did not sequester the jury – so they were well aware of the threats and violence that hinged upon their verdict.
To top it off, radical black Rep. Maxine Waters came to Minnesota and called for protesters to “stay on the street” and “get more confrontational” if there was an acquittal. This was during a time of continued violent protests in various large American cities and while the Judge was still instructing the jury.
Waters said she was in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, to show her support for protesters including the death of another Black male who was killed by police.
Waters said that she was looking for a guilty verdict and if that did not happen then she said, they had to stay in the street … (and) fight for justice.
“We got to stay on the street. And we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business,” she said.
This helped create a lynch mob mentality which destroyed the chance for a fair trial. The Judge, while refusing to rule a mistrial, did speculate that Waters’ actions might lead to a successful appeal.
And so the Judge acted within the law, in accordance with justice in not declaring a mistrial due to the clear threats of mob justice, and a right not to sequester the jury and his tolerance of very inappropriate comments from a corrupted race politician.
But did he act with righteousness?
France has a history of antisemitic acts by Muslim immigrants. However, authorities for years hesitated to acknowledge that certain murders of Jews were based on antisemitism. Then in 2017 came the murder of 65 year old Sarah Halimi a widow and mother of three who was a retired family doctor and school teacher, the only Jew in the apartment building in Paris where she resided.
Her killer was a 28 year old neighbor, Kobili Traore, originally from Mali, a drug dealer and addict, with some 20 prior convictions, one son of a father with four wives, and he apparently knew Halimi. One day after smoking marijuana, he broke into a neighboring apartment, then entered her apartment by way of the adjoining balconies and beat her to death, while shouting Alahu Akbar (G-d is Great), calling her a “Shaytan” (or demon) and then throwing her out of the third floor window, followed by reciting Muslim prayers.
A Shaytan is an Islamic concept for a demon or one who possesses evil spirits, inciting sin, and whispering directly to the heart.
The story of the perversion of justice here is well-known. The accused pleaded that he was too high on drugs to be legally responsible for his murderous act. This preposterous excuse was enough to acquit him in three separate courtt proceedings to determine whether he was legally responsible to stand trial or he lacked the requisite intent due to marijuana use at the time.
French law apparently allowed the voluntary taking of drugs or alcohol to be irrelevant if the drugs or alcohol resulted in the murder taking place when the accused was “delirious” by the time of the murder.
After the uproar at this obviously unjust result, French President Macron promised to introduce legislation to prevent criminals hiding behind their intentional ingestion of substances that could well impair their judgment about murder.
The great Bernard-Henry Levy has written this week in Tablet Magazine:
We live in a country, France, where a man who throws his dog from his fourth floor is sentenced to a year in prison, whereas if he murders an old Jewish woman, he may face no consequences whatsoever…
And, no, it is not inappropriate to worry about the state of a legal system that is too often the prisoner of the culture of excuses: In Sarcelles, we witnessed the inability to call by its proper name (i.e. antisemitism) the act of an individual armed with a knife who attacked three people leaving a synagogue wearing yarmulkes.
It seems to me that the more a society is antisemitic, the less likely is a murder of a Jew the act of a supposed mentally ill person and the more likely that said person has adopted a wicked ideology.
Says Levy: “It is not true, as has been repeated endlessly in an act of bewildering masochism, that (the courts’) role must be limited to verifying the conformity of a legal decision with the present state of the law.
“The high court could have perfectly done here what it does all year round and gone beyond a narrow interpretation of the statutes. It had the right to comment on the silence of a statute that fails to distinguish between a “delirious episode” and “insanity.” In other words, it could have raised the question of the vagueness of the law and, keen to avoid confusing legal irresponsibility with moral impunity, decided as follows:
“We certainly do not pass judgment on mental patients, for it is understood that someone whose judgment is impaired by insanity is not legally responsible, but what of someone who is not insane? What of a jihadist who takes Captagon, an amphetamine to summon up the courage to carry out a terrorist act? What of a subject who, by ingesting a substance known to lower inhibitions, himself contributes to his neuropsychological disturbance?”
France, as I have previously written, is in a state of cultural decline and loss of confidence by its intellectuals. What we see plainly in the Halimi case is an example of when righteousness is absent and the “robot” judges, only can see the surface of the law and cannot interpret the law to reflect righteousness.
“Justice, Justice shall thou pursue”, then we are told to do more than mindlessly applying precedent, but to interpret the law where possible from a position of righteousness.
The failure to understand the ideological antisemitism and state of denial in France was made even clearer a year after the Halimi murder: Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old French Jewish woman and Holocaust survivor was murdered in her Paris apartment on 23 March 2018.
The two suspects, one of whom had known her since he was a child, entered the apartment and reportedly stabbed Knoll eleven times before setting her on fire. The older suspect told investigators that the younger suspect asserted “She’s a Jew. She must have money.” The two suspects have accused each other of the stabbing, one of them claiming that the other shouted Allahu Akbar as he stabbed her.
In this case, finally, the murder has been officially described by French authorities as antisemitic hate crime. Those who understand the need for judges and legislators all to be righteous, understand what must be done in both France and America.
And what we Jews learn is that no ideology should ever be used to thwart or overturn justice. Our Torah by repeating the word “Tsedek” makes it clear that righteousness not ideology is the foundation of justice.