James R. Russell
James R. Russell

The Army of Crime

It was a task to confiscate from a nation of readers a beloved ocean of a book that takes a lifetime to read, but the King of France and his monastic henchmen in their black cowls managed to haul twenty-four cartloads of manuscripts of the Talmud to the square outside Notre Dame de Paris. It was in what the Christians call “the year of grace” 1242 that they burned them all. It is estimated that there were ten thousand volumes. That is about the size of my personal library; but back then a library of a few hundred volumes was considered vast. True, it was not the worst atrocity against books: only a few decades before the Crusaders, a ragtag army of mainly French and German scum, had burnt the great library of Constantinople. It is because of that act of barbarism, far more than the destruction of the library at Alexandria, that so many works of the Classical tradition are lost.

The Talmud survived. So did the standard Biblical commentary of Rashi, whose vernacular passages are a major source of our knowledge of early mediaeval French.

A few decades after the pyres had stopped smoking, the Jews were expelled from France. That was in the year of grace 1294. Over the centuries, many quietly returned, or emigrated there escaping other fires— the auto-da-fes of the Inquisition at the end of the fifteenth century of grace. Michel de Montaigne, who invented the literary form of the essay (and no subsequent writer in the genre has surpassed him), seems to have been a Sephardi on his Mom’s side. Like me.

1789! Liberty! Equality! Fraternity! The rights of man and of the citizen! Napoleon granted us full civil rights. Despite the Dreyfus affair (year of grace 1894, not intentionally timed to coincide with the anniversary of the expulsion but Clio is sardonic), France was a beacon. My Grandma studied at an Alliance Israelite Universelle school in Salonica, and would have gone on scholarship to a college in Auteuil, had the First World War not broken out. She and her family migrated to New York, instead— but a quatrain from a lyric of her favorite French poet is engraved on her tombstone.

Grandma could name about fifty relatives from our family (Saltiel and Benruby) who lived in France and whom the Nazis murdered. The more we know about the occupation, the worse it gets: the Paris police force, without much German coercion, rounded up Jews and kept us in the subhuman conditions of the Vel d’Hiv before transport to Drancy and then on to Auschwitz (year of grace 1942). Apparently Francois Mitterand had a very unsavory war record around which there was a successful conspiracy of silence to the end of his political career. But in Europe that is not unusual at all.

The Communist party set up a unit of Maquis tasked with especially dangerous operations. It was led by Missak Manouchian, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide who wrote poems and worked as a trade union organizer at a car factory. His comrades were mostly Polish Jews and Spaniards who had fought against Franco. The Nazis and their puppets put up wanted posters in French calling Manouchian’s group “The Army of Crime”. He and most of his men were betrayed and killed. There are plaques on the left bank of the Seine where some were gunned down: Mort pour la France. But after the war the Communists were slow to celebrate Manouchian and his men: they weren’t “French” enough for the self-image the party wanted to advertise. I will tell you presently who the Army of Crime really are.

And so to today, in this year of [unprintable] grace 2021. Anti-Semitic attacks are so common in France that thousands from Europe’s largest remaining Jewish community are leaving. That is why you can enjoy the sound of French just about anytime you board the Jerusalem light rail. The quality of Israeli pastry has improved dramatically over the past decade. But for those who stayed on in Gaul there was the massacre at a Jewish restaurant in the Marais (where, said an indignant politician, not only Jews but “innocent Frenchmen” died, Jews being guilty by the very fact of our birth, was this scoundrel’s implication), the massacre of Paris Jews at a kosher market (whose victims Obama blandly called “folks at a deli”, ditto), the kidnapping and slow murder of Ilan Halimi, then the slow and sadistic murder of Sarah Halimi. The last two weren’t related. It’s a common Moroccan Jewish name. I’m a quarter Moroccan: my Grandma married Joseph Sananes, of Tetouan, in New York. Her today, me tomorrow- the day after tomorrow, you.

Sarah Halimi’s murderer was a black African Muslim who smoked dope and yelled “Allahu akbar” as he killed the 65-year-old schoolteacher. Now the true Army of Crime – the degenerate gang of robed brutes masquerading as French judges – have decreed that Sarah’s murderer cannot stand trial because drugs deprived him of his “reason”.  That’s right. Be sure to shoot up, smoke a few spliffs, or snort some coke before you systematically torture to death an elderly French Jewish woman. It doesn’t matter whether you do so with premeditated intent, so long as you’re high as a kite. Oh, and so long as your intended victim is a Jew. That’s important. This anti-Semitic depravity is what passes for justice in France, not in the mid-13th century, but in the third decade of the 21st.

The very invocation of reason by these cretins, the Army of Crime that call themselves French law, is itself an outrage against reason. Their travesty of the insanity defense must henceforth be included among the symptoms of lunacy.

The offense of the French judiciary, the Army of Crime, is primarily against us, the Jews, but it is not a crime against us alone.

The argument of the Army of Crime presupposes that a black man, an African, is less than human in that he cannot be held to the same standard of moral responsibility as any other person. If he kills somebody, well, what else would one expect- so the thinking of the Army of Crime goes. It is a racialist insult to Black people.

The acquittal of the murderer by the Army of Crime implies also that invoking the name of God in the Arabic language of the revelation of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, while murdering an immocent old woman in cold blood, is somehow permissible because latitude must be given to Muslims and Islam. No. The killer of Sarah Halimi is not a Muslim and Allah is not his god. The French “court’s” ruling (one must employ inverted commas lest one give credence to gangsters and imbeciles) implicitly insults the Muslim faith.

A Frenchman composed the Communist hymn, The Internationale, which was much loved by thousands of kibbutzniks who built the State of Israel. Antifascist fighters in Spain and partisans in World War II went into battle singing it. In his poem “Babi Yar” Yevgeni Yevtushenko wrote,

пусть прогремит,
когда навеки похоронен будет
последний на земле антисемит.

“Let the Internationale/ thunder forth/ when the last anti-Semite on earth/ lies buried forever.”

And let that other great anthem of revolution and liberty, the Marseillaise, thunder forth when all the cohort of the present Army of Crime in France lie prostrate and defeated. May God avenge the spilled blood of His servant, Sarah Halimi. No. Let the singers of the Internationale and the Marseillaise do it. The Army of Liberty.

About the Author
James R. Russell is Emeritus Professor of Armenian Studies at Harvard University, and has served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Associate Professor of Ancient Iranian at Columbia, and part-time Lecturer in Jewish Studies and Biblical Hebrew at California State University, Fresno. He is at present Adjunct Professor of Iranian Religions at the Daneshgah-e Adyan va Mazaheb, Qom. He is on the Editorial Board of the journal Judaica Petropolitana, St. Petersburg State University, and a founding member of the International Association for Jewish Studies, chartered in the Russian Federation. His PhD is in Zoroastrian Studies, from the School of Oriental Studies of the University of London. His recent books include "Poets, Heroes, and Their Dragons", 2 vols., UC Irvine Iranian Series, 2020, and "The Complete Poems of Misak Medzarents", CSU Fresno Armenian Series, 2021.
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