The Legendary 'Kosher Cop' and His Relentless Crusade Against 'New Antisemitism'
"It's not that there's no future for the Jews in France. It's that there is no future for the Jews in France that they want."
Future of Jewish is an audience-supported publication by people passionate about Judaism and Israel. To receive our new essays and videos, become a subscriber!
Sammy Ghozlan, a retired French policeman known as “The Kosher Cop,” typically had confidence in France’s justice system, despite its flaws.1
But that began to change in 2017, when Sarah Halimi, a Jewish physician, was murdered in Paris.
The killer, a devout Muslim of Malian descent, shouted about Allah and called Halimi “a demon” while he was pummeling her to death, witnesses said, eventually shoving her out of a window.
Despite confessing to killing Halimi, the assailant was declared criminally not responsible because the judges ruled he had a psychotic episode from cannabis consumption. The decision was appealed but nevertheless upheld.
In the past, antisemitic perpetrators were mainly right-wing extremists, but nowadays many attacks are carried out by Muslims. The former police commissioner calls it “new antisemitism.”
Ghozlan spent his career working the banlieues, the belt of working-class, racially mixed suburbs that surround Paris. Like 70-percent of France’s Jewish population, he is Sephardic (from Algeria), part of the group from North Africa called pieds-noirs (“black feet”).3
Early in his police career, Ghozlan managed to negotiate order in a part of the banlieues that was so violent, it was nicknamed “Chicago.” His method? Offering judo classes to the immigrant populations, many of which spoke Arabic, like Ghozlan.4
When a synagogue was bombed in 1980 — an attack that killed four people and injured more than 40 — Ghozlan made his counterterrorism reputation, discovering that the perpetrators were Palestinian sympathizers, not neo-Nazis which the police initially suspected.
He was made special commissioner to investigate the next major antisemitic attack two years later, on a landmark Jewish restaurant, where six people, including two Americans, were killed, and another 22 wounded.
From there, Ghozlan set out to proactively protect France’s Jewish population. But during the summer riots in 2014 — swastikas in the heart of Paris, chants of “Hitler was right,” attacks on synagogues — he joined the thousands of Jews who are leaving France.
“There was no debate in our family,” Ghozlan said. “We all knew, it is time to go. Leaving is better than running away.”5
Ghozlan would eventually perceive the 2014 riots in Paris as a precursor of the disasters six months later: the terror attacks at the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and, two days thereafter, at a kosher grocery store.
After moving to Israel with his family, a journalist asked Ghozlan whether his decision to leave France means there is no longer a future for French Jews.
“It’s not that there’s no future for the Jews in France,” Ghozlan said. “It’s that there is no future for the Jews in France that they want.”6
Yet, the fight against antisemitism still brings him back to Paris, where he set up an organization to identify and counter antisemitism, and help victims when no one else will.
Ironically, Ghozlan has the support of an unlikely advocate against antisemitism among French Muslims. Here’s the story: