Thoughts following the terror attack in France.
I lived in France in 2003, and I still remember grafitti on the Metro walls linking Israel, the Jews and the conflict in one big anti-Semitic mess. There is no denying that relations worldwide between Jews and Muslims are affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (they are also influenced by local socio-economical factors, and other issues); yet I don’t like those who try to establish their arguments regarding the conflict in those terms. It takes really sick logic to even hold Israel partly responsible for hate crimes against Jews.
It was therefore encouraging to see prominent Arab voices denounce the killing clearly and unequivocally. For example, in an op-ed in the important Arab paper Dar-al-Hayat:
Is it a violent Islam that kills children and innocents and claims to be Islamic? Such barbaric acts are against religion, and human values. Those who commit such crimes in the name of Islam are murderous infidels… No normal person could commit such a crime. If the murderer is an Islamic extremist, he wants to see discord in a country that has secular laws, and respects all religions.
And here is Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad:
It is time for these criminals to stop marketing their terrorist acts in the name of Palestine and to stop pretending to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children who only ask for a decent life.
Such messages – natural and expected as they should be – bring hope in a sad week.
I also didn’t appreciate the political use of the Toulouse murder by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who tried again to delegitimize any criticism of Israel because it may influence distorted minds like that of the French killer. Norway’s Anders Breivik, who killed 78 people, mostly kids, quoted neo-conservative and Zionist writers. Does that fact in and of itself prove anything about Zionism or about neo-conservatism?
When I lived in Paris, my grandfather, a French citizen all his life, had already passed away, but his 80-year-old brother was still alive. The family lived in Argenteuil, a working class suburb that saw many North African families move in over the years. They felt threatened. I didn’t. Ten years earlier, when I visited my grandfather on my own, I took the wrong bus to his house on the way back from Paris one night and lost my way. I was 17. By the time my grandfather found me and picked me up, from a pay phone near a supermarket 10 miles away, he was totally panicked. I thought he was overreacting.
Having lived all my life in Israel, I don’t think I have much sense of the existential fear that Jews carry with them, which is different from Israeli anxiety over security issues. I am shocked and angered by the murder in Toulouse just like everyone else, but I have learned that such events don’t shake my world the way they do that of my Jewish friends and relatives abroad (especially the French ones). For me, this was another reminder of my need to be more sensitive to the unique circumstances of Jewish life in the diaspora.