Some people still don’t get it. At Sunday’s unity rally in Paris, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings and subsequent attack on a Kosher supermarket, the BBC correspondent Tim Wilcox put to a terrified Jewish woman that this slaughter could be explained because “Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands.” According to Wilcox, “everything is seen from different perspectives.”
It is not clear whose perspective Wilcox believed he was voicing, other than that of the Paris terrorists.
Maybe he felt he was sharing Hamas’s viewpoint. On Saturday, Hamas had issued a statement condemning the murders of the Charlie Hebdo magazine staff but making no mention of the assault on the kosher supermarket. That all Jews are considered legitimate terror targets is not surprising coming from an organization that endorses the paranoid anti-Semitic forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, in its founding charter and regularly calls for the extermination of Jews in its newspapers and on its television stations.
Then again, perhaps Wilcox thought he was offering up the stance of the proudly anti-Zionist, Jew-baiting French so-called comic, Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who responded to the supermarket massacre by expressing his solidarity with the perpetrator, Amedy Coulibaly.
Leaving aside that no action taken by Israel could justify the killing of Jews simply because they are Jews—in Paris or anywhere else in the world—it is clear that the murders were not simply motivated by a perverse reading of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather, the Islamist worldview, like that of other fascist movements, is rooted in a deep-seated anti-Semitism. Islamists, like the Nazis, are gripped by a paranoid Judeophobia, convinced that a global Jewish conspiracy runs the world. They regard Jews as the embodiment of the West and as symbols of all they most despise about its values: tolerance, liberty, and freedom.
The West is therefore regarded as politically “Jewish” whether it is aware of it or not.
Yet Jews also occupy a special place in the Islamist terror calculus. In an interview with French TV, Cherif Kouachi claimed that his group did not kill civilians. The murder of journalists and cartoonists was considered legitimate based on what they had said and drawn. When the Kouachis’ accomplice Coulibaly assaulted shoppers in a store that sold gefilte fish and challah, it was clear that he chose to target “Hyper Cacher” because he knew there would be Jews there.
That Coulibaly’s initial victim, the day before, had been a policewoman in a district with many Jewish inhabitants was also telling. Coulibaly had not driven 12 minutes from his home to attack a random police officer. If it had not been for a minor traffic accident, local residents were convinced that Coulibaly would have attacked a Jewish school, just under 100 yards away from the shooting.
Coulibaly was following a pattern that has long been evident in Islamist terror attacks. In March 2012, Mohammed Merah killed seven people in Toulouse. Four of his victims, including three children, were murdered at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish day school. Last year, Mehdi Nemmouche, a French national of Algerian origin, killed four people at the Jewish museum in Brussels. In addition, there have been multiple recent attacks on Jewish targets in France that mercifully have not resulted in casualties.
Nor is the pattern only evident in Europe. One of the targets of the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 was a Jewish center, with hostages tortured by their captives before being bound and killed. To paraphrase Pastor Martin Niemoller, they always come for the Jews—if not first, then sooner rather than later.
Western societies should be alive to this pattern. They must recognize that Islamist terror attacks are almost certain to be preceded by, involve, or be followed by attacks on Jews, and must adjust their security measures accordingly. This is especially true in France, where anti-Semitism has long been on the rise. Last year, for the first time since the foundation of Israel, the number of immigrants from France exceeded those from any other country.
The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls is clearly aware of the stakes. As he made clear this weekend, “If 100,000 French people of Spanish origin were to leave, I would never say that France is not France anymore. But if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.”
Although Valls and President Francois Hollande have increased security at Jewish institutions, it is clear that the government alone cannot make Jews feel safe in France. Indeed, with Diedonne and his supporters claiming that attacking Jews is the best way to harm the “Establishment,” governmental protection stokes their paranoia.
Well, a wise man once said, the only way to deal with a paranoid man is to give him something to be paranoid about. On Friday, the Grand Synagogue in Paris was closed on Shabbat for the first time since the Second World War. The French authorities should not have let it happen. They should have taken every security measure necessary to ensure the synagogue remained open. Subsequently, it was announced that substantial additional security resources are to be devoted to the defense of Jewish institutions across the country; the decision was most welcome, and long overdue.
But in France and around the world, the fight can only be won by challenging the ideology that justifies the deliberate killing of innocent civilians. Making clear that murdering Jews, purely because they are Jews, can never be justified is the only place to start.