Commentary Magazine


Topic: Toulouse shooting attack

Is Toulouse the Future of Europe?

In March, an Islamist gunman in Toulouse, France, murdered three Jewish children as well as one of their fathers in a shooting spree outside of a school. The crime was widely condemned (especially when at first it was thought to be the work of a neo-Nazi rather than a Muslim), but the link between this outbreak of deadly violence and the rising tide of anti-Semitic incitement throughout Europe was clear. Yet, rather than the murders signaling a turning point in the battle against Jew-hatred in France and Western Europe, it may have been just an indication that anti-Semitic incidents are becoming commonplace, a conclusion that has been reinforced by a shocking increase in attacks on French Jews since March.

Nevertheless, the latest indication of the dark climate in France is all the more painful because it involves the same school that was targeted by the Toulouse shooter. As the European Jewish Press reports, on Wednesday night, a 17-year-old student from the same Ozar HaTorah school that was the site of the March murders was attacked in a Lyon train station. The student, who was wearing “identifiable religious symbols” was set upon and beaten and subjected to insults. The teenager reported the attack and the assailants were caught, but the message from the incident is clear: it is open season in France on Jews who publicly identify themselves in this manner. If even after the shock over what happened in Toulouse violence against Jews is going up, it is no longer possible to put it down to the actions of isolated individuals. The incessant drumbeat of anti-Semitism— often rooted in anti-Zionist prejudice against Israel and all who publicly identify with the Jewish state and Jewish identity — throughout Europe is inciting violence that can no longer be ignored.

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In March, an Islamist gunman in Toulouse, France, murdered three Jewish children as well as one of their fathers in a shooting spree outside of a school. The crime was widely condemned (especially when at first it was thought to be the work of a neo-Nazi rather than a Muslim), but the link between this outbreak of deadly violence and the rising tide of anti-Semitic incitement throughout Europe was clear. Yet, rather than the murders signaling a turning point in the battle against Jew-hatred in France and Western Europe, it may have been just an indication that anti-Semitic incidents are becoming commonplace, a conclusion that has been reinforced by a shocking increase in attacks on French Jews since March.

Nevertheless, the latest indication of the dark climate in France is all the more painful because it involves the same school that was targeted by the Toulouse shooter. As the European Jewish Press reports, on Wednesday night, a 17-year-old student from the same Ozar HaTorah school that was the site of the March murders was attacked in a Lyon train station. The student, who was wearing “identifiable religious symbols” was set upon and beaten and subjected to insults. The teenager reported the attack and the assailants were caught, but the message from the incident is clear: it is open season in France on Jews who publicly identify themselves in this manner. If even after the shock over what happened in Toulouse violence against Jews is going up, it is no longer possible to put it down to the actions of isolated individuals. The incessant drumbeat of anti-Semitism— often rooted in anti-Zionist prejudice against Israel and all who publicly identify with the Jewish state and Jewish identity — throughout Europe is inciting violence that can no longer be ignored.

The problem here is not just al-Qaeda sympathizers such as the Toulouse shooter or the importation of Jew-hatred from the Middle East that have taken root among French Muslims. It is the way that such views have melded with attacks from intellectuals on Zionism, Israel and its supporters in such a way as to dignify the sordid hatred flung at Jews on the streets of Europe. There is a long and dishonorable history of anti-Semitism in France, but what we are witnessing now is an updated version of traditional bias that is casting a shadow over the future of the Jewish community there.

It was bad enough when such sentiments were linked with the traditional right in France and then Muslim immigrants, but nowadays Jew-hatred is part of the parlance of so-called human rights groups that vent bias against the Jewish state. Thus, while the French government condemns such incidents, anti-Semitism continues to grow, and Jews must now wonder whether it is safe to go about wearing anything that might give away their identity. That is no way for anyone to live in a democracy, but that is the situation in France. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to envision much of a future for Jews in Europe.

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After Toulouse, More Attacks on Jews

When four Jews were killed in an apparent terrorist attack in Toulouse, France, in March, interest in the story quickly evaporated when the shooter turned out to be a Muslim extremist rather than a neo-Nazi, as it was first believed. But though the international press hasn’t done much follow up about the connection between the current wave of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment sweeping over Europe and violence against Jews, it appears the problem continues to grow. As the Times of Israel reports today, attacks on French Jews are becoming more frequent.

The beating of three Jewish men in Villeurbanne, outside of Lyon, by ten assailants believed to be of North African extraction is just the latest incident alarming French Jews.

Joël Mergui, president of the Central Consistory, an umbrella organization working to coordinate local Jewish communities, said the country’s Jews were under constant attack. “Not a week passes without anti-Semitic assaults in France. I refuse to believe Jews will be forced to choose between security and their Jewish identity.”

The chief rabbi of the Grand Synagogue in Lyon, Richard Wertenschlag, called the atmosphere “unbearable.”

“These incidents are becoming more and more frequent, so much so, alas, as to make one take them for granted,” he said.

While French authorities talked about a crackdown on Muslim extremists after Toulouse, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) told Le Figaro that incidents such as the one in Villeurbanne are becoming commonplace, noting that in the month after the incident, more than 140 attacks on Jews were perpetrated. But the problem is not just the scale of these assaults but also the unwillingness of many to confront the source of the problem.

Though attacks against Jews in Western Europe seem to be the province of Muslim immigrants, it is a mistake to view this violence as solely the result of the importation of Middle Eastern attitudes.

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When four Jews were killed in an apparent terrorist attack in Toulouse, France, in March, interest in the story quickly evaporated when the shooter turned out to be a Muslim extremist rather than a neo-Nazi, as it was first believed. But though the international press hasn’t done much follow up about the connection between the current wave of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment sweeping over Europe and violence against Jews, it appears the problem continues to grow. As the Times of Israel reports today, attacks on French Jews are becoming more frequent.

The beating of three Jewish men in Villeurbanne, outside of Lyon, by ten assailants believed to be of North African extraction is just the latest incident alarming French Jews.

Joël Mergui, president of the Central Consistory, an umbrella organization working to coordinate local Jewish communities, said the country’s Jews were under constant attack. “Not a week passes without anti-Semitic assaults in France. I refuse to believe Jews will be forced to choose between security and their Jewish identity.”

The chief rabbi of the Grand Synagogue in Lyon, Richard Wertenschlag, called the atmosphere “unbearable.”

“These incidents are becoming more and more frequent, so much so, alas, as to make one take them for granted,” he said.

While French authorities talked about a crackdown on Muslim extremists after Toulouse, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) told Le Figaro that incidents such as the one in Villeurbanne are becoming commonplace, noting that in the month after the incident, more than 140 attacks on Jews were perpetrated. But the problem is not just the scale of these assaults but also the unwillingness of many to confront the source of the problem.

Though attacks against Jews in Western Europe seem to be the province of Muslim immigrants, it is a mistake to view this violence as solely the result of the importation of Middle Eastern attitudes.

The flow of raw hate speech against Jews from Cairo and Tehran and other Arab and Muslim capitals is not to be underestimated, but the willingness of European intellectuals to lend their support to the demonization of the Jewish state has given these sentiments a patina of undeserved legitimacy.

The notion that there is a clean distinction between street violence and the effort to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist and defend itself cannot be sustained. European intellectuals may think they operate on a different level from street thugs. But the logical next step from the hounding of Jews on the editorial pages and in academia is clear. So long as Israel is singled out for unfair treatment and economic and academic boycotts of the Jewish state are treated as “human rights” causes, we should not be surprised that violence against Jews is on the upsurge.

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Is the West Winning a New Cold War?

Max Boot believes that France is a success at counter-terrorism, despite “bungling” the case of Mohammad Merah. “Indeed France’s real mistake is not doing more to assimilate Muslims which ensures a constant supply of plotters,” Max writes; “the blame is more on society and government as a whole than on the security forces which are on the whole quite effective.”

Perhaps he is right. I am reminded, though, of something that Jean-François Revel wrote for COMMENTARY nearly three decades ago. The philosopher and former Résistance fighter who succeeded Raymond Aron as France’s most trenchant political commentator, Revel warned that Western democracies have a susceptibility to internal threats written into their genetic code. A democratic state can mobilize against external enemies, but:

can defend itself from within only very feebly; its internal enemy has an easy time of it because he exploits the right to disagree that is inherent in democracy. His aim of destroying democracy itself, of actively seeking an absolute monopoly of power, is shrewdly hidden behind the citizen’s legitimate right to oppose and criticize the system. Paradoxically, democracy offers those seeking to abolish it a unique opportunity to work against it legally.

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Max Boot believes that France is a success at counter-terrorism, despite “bungling” the case of Mohammad Merah. “Indeed France’s real mistake is not doing more to assimilate Muslims which ensures a constant supply of plotters,” Max writes; “the blame is more on society and government as a whole than on the security forces which are on the whole quite effective.”

Perhaps he is right. I am reminded, though, of something that Jean-François Revel wrote for COMMENTARY nearly three decades ago. The philosopher and former Résistance fighter who succeeded Raymond Aron as France’s most trenchant political commentator, Revel warned that Western democracies have a susceptibility to internal threats written into their genetic code. A democratic state can mobilize against external enemies, but:

can defend itself from within only very feebly; its internal enemy has an easy time of it because he exploits the right to disagree that is inherent in democracy. His aim of destroying democracy itself, of actively seeking an absolute monopoly of power, is shrewdly hidden behind the citizen’s legitimate right to oppose and criticize the system. Paradoxically, democracy offers those seeking to abolish it a unique opportunity to work against it legally.

Even worse, officials in a democracy who would call for harsher measures against internal threats would themselves be denounced as undemocratic. There is no easy exit from this “topsy-turvy situation,” especially in a country like France where rights and anti-racism are national obsessions second only to soccer.

What should democracies do? Revel’s first answer is a wake-up call: “don’t do what you are doing now.” And here I must respectfully dissent from Max’s conclusion. Whatever its past successes, France’s handling of Mohammad Merah suggests that it is helpless before the “lone wolves” of Islamic radicalism, who number in the hundreds of thousands. What France is doing about them now is not succeeding.

The second choice (to adapt Revel to the present moment) is to hope that, somehow, someday, the Islamists will voluntarily change their ways and agree to stop murdering Jews and anyone else who resists, simply by virtue of being who they are, the “household of Islam.” This of course is a fond but naive hope.

The third and final option is to accept the fact that the West is at war with Islamism. Among other things, this would entail the recognition that those who enlist with Islamism are the sworn enemies of democracy, who are no longer merely “expressing opinions” and exercising their right to disagree, but are seeking the violent downfall of democracy itself. In Revel’s terms, what is required is a new Cold War — against Islamism this time around.

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Middle East Peace Won’t End Terrorism

Just as there was a certain segment of the intelligentsia which claimed after 9/11 that the U.S. “had it coming,” so too there will no doubt be some who claim that the Jews somehow had it coming because the Toulouse gunman, Mohammed Merah, cited the plight of the Palestinians along with other issues (e.g., the public ban on the veil in France) to justify his murderous rampage. The best riposte to this despicable line of argument comes from none other than Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who says as Jonathan noted yesterday: “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.”

This will not, of course, silence the anti-Israel lobby which will claim that Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza will continue to drive would-be terrorists around the bend until a real Palestinian state is established. The argument, plausible on its face, falls apart at the slightest examination.

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Just as there was a certain segment of the intelligentsia which claimed after 9/11 that the U.S. “had it coming,” so too there will no doubt be some who claim that the Jews somehow had it coming because the Toulouse gunman, Mohammed Merah, cited the plight of the Palestinians along with other issues (e.g., the public ban on the veil in France) to justify his murderous rampage. The best riposte to this despicable line of argument comes from none other than Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who says as Jonathan noted yesterday: “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.”

This will not, of course, silence the anti-Israel lobby which will claim that Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza will continue to drive would-be terrorists around the bend until a real Palestinian state is established. The argument, plausible on its face, falls apart at the slightest examination.


Just imagine that Fayyad and his boss, Palestinian Authority President Mohammed Abbas, had actually reached a “final status” deal with the Israelis. I know: it’s hard to imagine but suspend disbelief for a second. No one knows exactly what such a deal would entail but it’s safe to guess that, to be acceptable to any Israeli government, it would have to maintain Israeli sovereignty over much of Jerusalem and the large settlement blocs in the West Bank which are next to Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries. This would mean incorporating perhaps 5% of the West Bank into Israel proper with possible offsets elsewhere. The settlement would also presumably require Palestinians to recognize Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, to agree to live in peace with Israel, and (hardest to swallow) to renounce any right of return. Moreover Israel would probably insist–and rightly so–that any future Palestinian state be prevented from acquiring certain military capabilities (e.g., no anti-aircraft missiles that could shoot down jetliners landing at Ben Gurion Airport) and that Israel maintain some kind of security presence along the border between Jordan and the West Bank. Whatever happens with the Palestinians, the Golan Heights would remain under Israeli control at least pending a deal with Syria, which at the moment seems impossible to imagine.

Again, there is no realistic prospect of such a deal being done anytime soon; there is, for example, the inconvenient fact that Gaza is under the control of Hamas which won’t recognize Israel’s right to exist. But even if such a deal were done and the “peace processers” were to succeed beyond their wildest dreams—even if that were to occur, does anyone imagine that future Mohammed Merahs would react by saying: “I give up my jihad and am reconciled to the state of Israel. The Jews are now my friends.” The thought is absurd. What the Merahs of the world would say instead is: “An apostate regime of traitors has sold out the Palestinian birthright to avaricious sons of apes and I will never accept this sacrilege. The Jews remain my enemies.” In short what the Merahs object to is the existence of the state of Israel under any conditions, not its existence under its post-1967 borders.

To me this is so obvious that it barely needs saying. Yet a significant portion of the foreign policy establishments in the U.S. and Europe still don’t seem to get it. There is nothing wrong with pressing for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement; a deal, if it is a good one, is in the best long term interests of both sides. But no one would should imagine that any deal will deny extremists the ability to exploit the Palestinian cause to justify their own killer rage at the world in general and Jews in particular.

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The Secret of French Success on Terror

D.G. Myers is right that French authorities bungled badly in the affair of Mohamed Merah who was on a terrorist watch list but was allowed to roam freely. That terrible mistake was obviated somewhat by the swift and massive French response after the terrible shootings at the Jewish day school; Merah was identified and cornered within two days of that attack and stopped before he could kill again.

But whatever the French did wrong in this case — and there is no doubt that a terrible oversight occurred — on the whole French counter-terrorism is a success story. I recommend reading this 2008 article by Reuel Marc Gerecht and Gary Schmitt that calls France “the European country most serious about counterterrorism.” The secret of French success has been their willingness “to grant highly intrusive powers to their internal security service, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), and to their counterterrorist, investigative magistrates, the juges d’instruction” — powers that far exceed any authorities given U.S. government officials even under the Patriot Act. With those powers, French forces have done an impressive job of stopping terrorist plots of which there is no shortage because of the large number of marginalized and aggrieved Muslim immigrants living there. Indeed France’s real mistake is not doing more to assimilate Muslims which ensures a constant supply of plotters; the blame is more on society and government as a whole than on the security forces which are on the whole quite effective.

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D.G. Myers is right that French authorities bungled badly in the affair of Mohamed Merah who was on a terrorist watch list but was allowed to roam freely. That terrible mistake was obviated somewhat by the swift and massive French response after the terrible shootings at the Jewish day school; Merah was identified and cornered within two days of that attack and stopped before he could kill again.

But whatever the French did wrong in this case — and there is no doubt that a terrible oversight occurred — on the whole French counter-terrorism is a success story. I recommend reading this 2008 article by Reuel Marc Gerecht and Gary Schmitt that calls France “the European country most serious about counterterrorism.” The secret of French success has been their willingness “to grant highly intrusive powers to their internal security service, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), and to their counterterrorist, investigative magistrates, the juges d’instruction” — powers that far exceed any authorities given U.S. government officials even under the Patriot Act. With those powers, French forces have done an impressive job of stopping terrorist plots of which there is no shortage because of the large number of marginalized and aggrieved Muslim immigrants living there. Indeed France’s real mistake is not doing more to assimilate Muslims which ensures a constant supply of plotters; the blame is more on society and government as a whole than on the security forces which are on the whole quite effective.

The Toulouse tragedy merely goes to show that any system, no matter how vigilant, cannot prevent all terrorist attacks. As the saying has it, the security forces have to be right all the time; the terrorists have to be right only once. The real test now for the French authorities will be how they conduct their “lessons learned” exercises and what they do to patch the holes uncovered by Mohamed Merah.

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Toulouse Shows Importance of Vigilance

The siege in Toulouse ended with rough justice delivered to Mohammed Merah, the terrorist responsible for murdering three French soldiers, a rabbi, and three Jewish schoolchildren. He died battling the French security forces that stormed his apartment. But the debate over his heinous acts will live for some time. No doubt we will hear many voices raised to counsel against anti-Arab or anti-Muslim bigotry because Merah was of Algerian descent and a follower of al Qaeda’s twisted ideology. And those voices will be absolutely right: Fanatics like Merah are a tiny portion of the world’s billion-plus Muslims and even a tiny portion of Europe’s Muslim population of more than 50 million (excluding Turkey). The vast majority of Muslims are law-abiding and utterly unsympathetic to the siren call of extremism–indeed polls shows that Muslim opinion has turned firmly against Al Qaeda and its ilk over the past decade.

Yet it is undeniable that the most prominent acts of terrorism in the past several decades have been committed by Islamists, whose ideology has displaced Marxism and even nationalism as the primary propellant for terrorism, as it was in the 1960s-1970s. That is no reason to discriminate against Muslims; indeed the best protection against violence is to assimilate Muslim immigrants so that they have a stake in society–something that the U.S. has done notably better than Europe, which is why Europe has to worry about homegrown terrorism more than we do.

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The siege in Toulouse ended with rough justice delivered to Mohammed Merah, the terrorist responsible for murdering three French soldiers, a rabbi, and three Jewish schoolchildren. He died battling the French security forces that stormed his apartment. But the debate over his heinous acts will live for some time. No doubt we will hear many voices raised to counsel against anti-Arab or anti-Muslim bigotry because Merah was of Algerian descent and a follower of al Qaeda’s twisted ideology. And those voices will be absolutely right: Fanatics like Merah are a tiny portion of the world’s billion-plus Muslims and even a tiny portion of Europe’s Muslim population of more than 50 million (excluding Turkey). The vast majority of Muslims are law-abiding and utterly unsympathetic to the siren call of extremism–indeed polls shows that Muslim opinion has turned firmly against Al Qaeda and its ilk over the past decade.

Yet it is undeniable that the most prominent acts of terrorism in the past several decades have been committed by Islamists, whose ideology has displaced Marxism and even nationalism as the primary propellant for terrorism, as it was in the 1960s-1970s. That is no reason to discriminate against Muslims; indeed the best protection against violence is to assimilate Muslim immigrants so that they have a stake in society–something that the U.S. has done notably better than Europe, which is why Europe has to worry about homegrown terrorism more than we do.

But even here the threat is real as seen from incidents such as the foiled Times Square bombing in 2010 or the shootings by Major Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood in 2009. Incidents such as these, along with the Toulouse attacks, reinforce the arguments of analysts such as Marc Sageman who speak of “leaderless jihad” being the wave of the future — i.e., lone-wolf jihadists carrying out atrocities with little if any central direction. The danger is real and yet it is not entirely disconnected from the existence of terrorist sanctuaries, as witness the fact that Merah traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan allegedly to receive terrorist training or from the fact that Hasan was inspired by the preaching of American-born Al Qaeda Anwar al-Awlaki who found sanctuary in Yemen until he was killed in a U.S. drone strike last year.

The ability of Afghanistan to serve as a training ground for terrorists is strictly limited at the moment because of the presence of more than 100,000 NATO troops: U.S. Special Operations Forces, in particular, will target and kill or capture any substantial gathering of foreign terrorists. Yet it is salutary to remember that in the 1990s under Taliban rule Afghanistan served as a training ground for thousands of jihadist killers; it could play that role again if the U.S. pulls out prematurely because the Taliban and related groups such as the Haqqani Network have done nothing to repudiate Al Qaeda in the intervening years. Indeed some local terrorist groups, such as the Pakistani Taliban, are branching out into international terrorism; it was one of their members who tried to set off the Times Square car bomb.

The answer to this diffuse threat is simple to state but hard to execute: We must remain vigilant both at home and abroad. That means trying to prevent the creation of terrorist sanctuaries in countries such as Afghanistan where it is in our power to do so and to disrupt terrorist sanctuaries that already exist in places like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. It also means maintaining the vigilant homeland defense policies that were instituted after 9/11, many of which have come under fire from civil libertarians who contend that the threat of terrorism is vastly exaggerated. The New York Police Department, for one, has come under fire lately for its use of undercover officers and informants to infiltrate various Muslim institutions to ferret out possible terrorist plots. Such steps are understandably controversial but they are also necessary if we are to avoid seeing New York turned into Toulouse.

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Verdict on Toulouse: French Incompetence

Mohammad Merah, the self-confessed murderer of Jewish schoolchildren and French soldiers, died while jumping from his bathroom window in a torrent of police gunfire around 11:30 this morning in Toulouse. “This man doesn’t interest me,” Nicole Yardeni, the president of the regional Council of Jews, scoffed after the 32-hour siege had finally ended. “He is only an instrument of death.” But the French press seemed plenty interested. “Itinerary of a killer,” Le Parisien headlined its story over a front-page photo of a smirking Merah. “End of the road for a killer,” L’Humanite trumpeted. “Trajectory of hatred,” Libération blared.

Perhaps it was well that the French had become interested in Merah at last. Although he was on a Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur “watch list” since 2008, no one was apparently watching him.

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Mohammad Merah, the self-confessed murderer of Jewish schoolchildren and French soldiers, died while jumping from his bathroom window in a torrent of police gunfire around 11:30 this morning in Toulouse. “This man doesn’t interest me,” Nicole Yardeni, the president of the regional Council of Jews, scoffed after the 32-hour siege had finally ended. “He is only an instrument of death.” But the French press seemed plenty interested. “Itinerary of a killer,” Le Parisien headlined its story over a front-page photo of a smirking Merah. “End of the road for a killer,” L’Humanite trumpeted. “Trajectory of hatred,” Libération blared.

Perhaps it was well that the French had become interested in Merah at last. Although he was on a Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur “watch list” since 2008, no one was apparently watching him.

Claude Guéant, the interior minister, defended the French intelligence agency’s failure by saying it follows “a lot of people engaged in radical Islamism. Expressing ideas and manifesting Salafist opinions is not grounds enough for prosecution,” he explained.

Maybe not, but Merah did more than merely express Salafist opinions. A neighbor in Toulouse filed two police complaints after Merah had tried to recruit her son to jihad by showing him Al Qaeda videos of murders and beheadings, Haaretz reported earlier today. A petty criminal who was known to police for his violent streak from childhood, Merah was radicalized in prison, traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan to receive terrorist training at the hands of Al Qaeda, and returned to France determined to kill.

Even when they had Merah cornered, the French authorities did not appear to know what to do with him. After two gunshots were heard from Merah’s apartment shortly before 1:00 in the morning, Guéant wondered aloud if Merah had killed himself. French commandos waited another ten hours, with no communication from Merah, before assaulting his apartment. A special camera was inserted into the apartment, but Merah could not be found. Finally he fired upon them from the balcony and retreated to his bathroom to await them. When the commandos burst in, Merah emerged from the bathroom, firing ferociously, wounding one officer in the foot. Then he dashed back to the bathroom and flung himself from the window.

A columnist for the Telegraph described Merah as a Nike or “Just Do It” terrorist. “[I]ntelligence experts believe al-Qaeda no longer has the organisational capacity to conduct [spectacular] attacks [like 9/11],” Con Coughlin wrote. “Instead they are focusing their energy on softer targets.” Merah may be among the first of a new wave of “lone wolf” terrorists, experts fear.

That’s one fear. My fear is that French powerlessness — the French inability to stop Merah before he murdered Jews and soldiers, the French incompetence at preventing him from writing the last chapter of his own story, going out in a blaze of gunfire, refusing to be taken alive — will only encourage more Islamist terrorists. Whether France has shown that it cannot protect its Jews remains an open question. What France has abundantly demonstrated, however, is that it cannot prevent known Islamists from carrying out terrorist attacks on French soil, nor capture them alive once they have done so.

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Removing All Traces of Islamist Terror from Toulouse Shootings

How could the same man gun down three French soliders in the city of Toulouse — two of them Muslim, the other North African — and then attack children at a Jewish school? Something just didn’t add up. There was “no clear motive” for the attacks, the New York Times said in an early draft of its story on the shooting at Collège et Lycée Ozar Hatorah on Monday. In later versions, after an outcry of disbelief, this was self-protectively revised to read: “Speculation over the motives for the killings ranged from anger at Muslims fighting in Afghanistan — the unit of three of the soldiers has been deployed there — and anti-Semitism, to a hatred of immigrants.”

Wrong. The alleged gunman, who reportedly has claimed all three French shootings, is a 24-year-old Muslim named Mohammad Merah.

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How could the same man gun down three French soliders in the city of Toulouse — two of them Muslim, the other North African — and then attack children at a Jewish school? Something just didn’t add up. There was “no clear motive” for the attacks, the New York Times said in an early draft of its story on the shooting at Collège et Lycée Ozar Hatorah on Monday. In later versions, after an outcry of disbelief, this was self-protectively revised to read: “Speculation over the motives for the killings ranged from anger at Muslims fighting in Afghanistan — the unit of three of the soldiers has been deployed there — and anti-Semitism, to a hatred of immigrants.”

Wrong. The alleged gunman, who reportedly has claimed all three French shootings, is a 24-year-old Muslim named Mohammad Merah.

Please don’t tell M. Jay Rosenberg of Media Matters Action Network. He will be badly disappointed at the news. When I first wrote about the Toulouse school shooting on Monday, Rosenberg tweeted:

https://twitter.com/#!/dg_myers

Oops. Oh, well. Rosenberg won’t be alone in trying to cover his tracks. In reporting that “French Police Say They Have Cornered Suspect in School Shooting,” the New York Times earlier today described Merah as a “French national of Algerian descent,” carefully avoiding any mention of his religion. After saying that Merah “told negotiators that he belonged to Al Qaeda,” and after identifying his motives at last (“the attacks were meant to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and to protest French military deployments abroad”), the Times went on to reveal that Merah “called himself a mujahedeen [sic],” which the newspaper helpfully translated as a “freedom fighter.” (Because, you know, to shoot Jewish schoolchildren in the head at close range is obviously to strike a blow for freedom.)

No further mention was made of Al Qaeda or mujahedeen, and none at all of anti-Semitism or Islamist terror. Instead, the Times found a way, like Rosenberg, to keep talking about rightists. Three times its story mentioned the political right in connection with the murders. Easily the best passage was this:

Muslims [in France] complain widely of feeling vilified by some political elements, on the right in particular, and the anti-immigration far right has been gaining unprecedented popularity in recent months.

Still no mention of Merah’s being a Muslim, by the way. Nor any suggestion that French Jews might complain of feeling targeted for murder.

And so it goes. The campaign by the mainstream media to whitewash Islamist terrorism and pin Jew hatred only on the extreme political right is being conducted even now, even as a self-confessed Islamist terrorist holds French police at bay. In a few hours, of course, Merah will be captured or killed. And the New York Times will have removed all traces of its self-embarrassment again.

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The Palestinian Excuse for Terror

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad issued a call today to foreign terrorists to stop using the plight of the Palestinians as an excuse for their crimes. In condemning the Toulouse massacre two days after the killings, Fayyad said, “Extremists must stop pretending to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children who only ask for a decent life.” This was in reaction to the news that Mohammed Merah, the arrested suspect in the Toulouse shootings, claimed that the atrocity was done in part to exact revenge on the Jews for their supposedly poor treatment of the Palestinians.

Fayyad is right that “solidarity” with the Palestinians ought not to be used as a reason to commit murder. But as much as that is good advice for those, like Merah, who have links to al Qaeda and other Islamist groups, it would be even better if Fayyad’s own people — including those affiliated with the PA government that he still runs — would heed his plea. Palestinian groups like Hamas (soon to become part of the PA), PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s own Fatah Party, as well as more extreme groups such as Islamic Jihad, have been using their complaints against Israel as justification for crimes just as horrible as those committed in Toulouse for decades.

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Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad issued a call today to foreign terrorists to stop using the plight of the Palestinians as an excuse for their crimes. In condemning the Toulouse massacre two days after the killings, Fayyad said, “Extremists must stop pretending to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children who only ask for a decent life.” This was in reaction to the news that Mohammed Merah, the arrested suspect in the Toulouse shootings, claimed that the atrocity was done in part to exact revenge on the Jews for their supposedly poor treatment of the Palestinians.

Fayyad is right that “solidarity” with the Palestinians ought not to be used as a reason to commit murder. But as much as that is good advice for those, like Merah, who have links to al Qaeda and other Islamist groups, it would be even better if Fayyad’s own people — including those affiliated with the PA government that he still runs — would heed his plea. Palestinian groups like Hamas (soon to become part of the PA), PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s own Fatah Party, as well as more extreme groups such as Islamic Jihad, have been using their complaints against Israel as justification for crimes just as horrible as those committed in Toulouse for decades.

Fayyad condemned the Toulouse shootings as an “attack on innocent lives” and a “cowardly terrorist act.” But how would he describe the missile attacks on Israeli civilians carried out by Palestinians on a regular basis to this very day from Gaza. How would he describe the routine attacks on Jews in the West Bank? And what words can he conjure him to adequately depict the depravity of the campaign of suicide bombings carried out by leaders of the ruling Fatah Party only a few years ago during the second intifada? Were the Jewish infants slaughtered at a Jerusalem pizza restaurant, or the Jewish teens blown up at a Tel Aviv discotheque or those killed in dozens of other incidents less human, less innocent than the children killed in France this week?

The Palestinians more or less invented the modern variant of terrorism in the 1970s and have always justified their policy of trying to murder as many Jewish civilians as possible because of what they say is their plight under Israeli occupation. Though the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority says it opposes terror, it continues to honor terrorists in every way possible including its television broadcasts.

Fayyad is himself one of the rare Palestinian political figures who have never been implicated in terrorism. That’s to his credit but it’s also the reason why he has virtually no constituency among his own people. Were he linked to some murders of Jews, he might not be on the way out of office since Hamas has demanded Fayyad’s ouster as part of the price for joining the PA.

The Palestinians should be worried about the Toulouse attack because it should serve as a reminder to Europeans that their delegitimization of Jewish life and Jewish self-defense in Israel cannot be separated from attacks on Jews elsewhere.  Though the Palestinian issue is merely a pretext for the revival of anti-Semitism, the killings in France could shock some on the continent enough to make them understand that killing Jews anywhere — be it in Toulouse or in the Middle East — is merely a function of that same old hatred that the Palestinians have embraced.

As much as some, such as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, have tried to draw a slanderous comparison between Israeli self-defense in Gaza and the Toulouse crime, the real analogy is to the actions of the Palestinians. Until the Palestinians renounce their war on Israel and give up violence for good, Salam Fayyad’s statement can be put down as the rankest form of hypocrisy.

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EU Shows its Hand on Anti-Israel Bias

Reacting to the murder of Jews in Toulouse yesterday, it didn’t take long for the Eurocracy to put its foot in it. But the statement by Baroness Ashton, the High Representative of the [European] Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (not to be confused with any of the other myriad, inane foreign affairs positions), is perhaps more revealing than intended:

When we think about what happened today in Toulouse, we remember what happened in Norway last year, we know what is happening in Syria, and we see what is happening in Gaza and other places.

Having never been elected to any of the various British and European roles she has filled in her inexplicable career, she is perfectly placed to speak for the EU. And, making the statement on the sidelines of a meeting in Brussels with Palestinian Arab youths, she went on to contend that they, ‘‘against all odds, continue to learn, work, dream and aspire to a better future.’’ Read More

Reacting to the murder of Jews in Toulouse yesterday, it didn’t take long for the Eurocracy to put its foot in it. But the statement by Baroness Ashton, the High Representative of the [European] Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (not to be confused with any of the other myriad, inane foreign affairs positions), is perhaps more revealing than intended:

When we think about what happened today in Toulouse, we remember what happened in Norway last year, we know what is happening in Syria, and we see what is happening in Gaza and other places.

Having never been elected to any of the various British and European roles she has filled in her inexplicable career, she is perfectly placed to speak for the EU. And, making the statement on the sidelines of a meeting in Brussels with Palestinian Arab youths, she went on to contend that they, ‘‘against all odds, continue to learn, work, dream and aspire to a better future.’’

Jonathan noted earlier the offensive comparison of the discriminate murder of Jews with the usually exaggerated (on the Palestinian Arabs’ part), usually welcomed (on the Palestinian Arabs’ part) and always inadvertent (on Israel’s part) collateral damage in Gaza. But there is more: the subtle equation of this killer – whom the Baroness, following one of the working theories, assumes to be a neo-Nazi (rather than, say, an Islamist) – and the far-Right Anders Breivik, who murdered children in Norway, as well as the autocratic slaughterer of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, with Israel, betrayed the EU’s perception of Israel as a fascistic state.

Having been condemned by Israel’s Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, Interior Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition, Ashton’s office today released a quiet retraction, protesting the alleged distortion of her original statement. But in fact, Israel’s leaders were right to condemn this addition of insult to injury, these indefensible comparisons, and the EU’s pretension to honest brokerage in the Middle East. The EU has, once again, shown its hand.

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Toulouse a Reminder of the Need to Refute Jewish Cowardice

Many probably think, but fewer have the arrogance to write, that the recent shooting deaths of at least four Jews at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France are Israel’s fault. The thinking goes that Jews inevitably are associated with the self-declared Jewish state, whose alleged crimes enrage its supposed victims, who then lash out at the Jews close by, which are often those living in smaller diaspora communities. Because it shoulders the blame, Israel should also therefore take responsibility for the danger it poses to worldwide Jewry by properly amending its policies or even dissolving itself, thereby curing the world of its desire to hunt Jews.

Even if we accept the questionable assumptions behind this view, it represents a stunning endorsement of Jewish cowardice.

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Many probably think, but fewer have the arrogance to write, that the recent shooting deaths of at least four Jews at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France are Israel’s fault. The thinking goes that Jews inevitably are associated with the self-declared Jewish state, whose alleged crimes enrage its supposed victims, who then lash out at the Jews close by, which are often those living in smaller diaspora communities. Because it shoulders the blame, Israel should also therefore take responsibility for the danger it poses to worldwide Jewry by properly amending its policies or even dissolving itself, thereby curing the world of its desire to hunt Jews.

Even if we accept the questionable assumptions behind this view, it represents a stunning endorsement of Jewish cowardice.

The basic ideas were probably most clearly articulated by the late Tony Judt in his 2003 Jewish anti-Israelist New York Review of Books essay of the season, “Israel: The Alternative.” Effectively catapulting Judt into a non-academic fame he had not otherwise known, this and his other assorted anti-Israel writings were driven primarily by the conviction that Israel, as he put it, “is bad for the Jews.”

Why? “The behavior of a self-described Jewish state affects the way everyone else looks at Jews. The increased incidence of attacks on Jews in Europe and elsewhere is primarily attributable to misdirected efforts, often by young Muslims, to get back at Israel.”

There is one Zionist truth that Judt and his ilk pin their hat on, which is that the goal of the Jewish state is indeed and always has been, since Leo Pinsker put pen to paper, to change the way the world looks at Jews. For Pinsker, it was the unique quality of Jewish statelessness that prevented “a certain equality in rank” between Jews and non-Jews, a condition that fostered Jew-hatred and led to the terrible violence of Russian pogroms. For Theodor Herzl, his far more famous successor in Zionist pamphleteering, it was simply the presence of Jews that enraged the masses. He wrote, “We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution.”

The thing Pinsker, Herzl, and their followers got sadly wrong was the idea that Jews could be saved from Jew-hatred by creating a state of their own, either by “normalizing” the Jewish condition or by providing completely for their physical security. No state, though, can provide for the complete safety of all its citizens, let alone its ethnic kin abroad. And hatred of Jews, as should be beyond plain by now, clearly draws from deeper waters than the Jewish political condition, whatever it may be.

We should call the fantasy that Jews would be able to live in peace if only they gave up their claim to independence cowardice because that is the term we reserve for those who willingly give up what is theirs in the hope that by so doing that may be freed of physical danger. The Jewish state may not be able to resolve the non-Jewish problem of hatred of Jews, but it can – as has been the case these last ten years in an Israel that has woken up to the truth that many of its enemies can be appeased only by its death – cure the Jews of their fascination with weakness.

That is, if we have the courage to stand united against the irrational attacks launched against us and our children.

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Anatomy of a Slander: EU Official Compares Toulouse to Gaza

The after shocks of the terrorist attack at a Jewish school in Toulouse are still being felt as French authorities seek the person or persons responsible for the murder of three children and a teacher. But for the European Union’s foreign policy chief, this anti-Semitic atrocity was just grist for the rhetorical mill in her ongoing campaign against the state of Israel. Baroness Catherine Ashton used the occasion of a speech to a Palestinian group in Brussels to compare the deliberate targeting of Jewish children to recent events in Gaza.

The idea that there is any moral equivalence between a person stalking and killing kids in cold blood at a school house door and casualties that were incurred when the Israel Defense Force responding to missile attacks on other Jewish children in Southern Israel is an outrageous slander. It reflects the view of European elites that while the killing of Jews may be regrettable, the spectacle of other Jews defending themselves is inadmissible.

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The after shocks of the terrorist attack at a Jewish school in Toulouse are still being felt as French authorities seek the person or persons responsible for the murder of three children and a teacher. But for the European Union’s foreign policy chief, this anti-Semitic atrocity was just grist for the rhetorical mill in her ongoing campaign against the state of Israel. Baroness Catherine Ashton used the occasion of a speech to a Palestinian group in Brussels to compare the deliberate targeting of Jewish children to recent events in Gaza.

The idea that there is any moral equivalence between a person stalking and killing kids in cold blood at a school house door and casualties that were incurred when the Israel Defense Force responding to missile attacks on other Jewish children in Southern Israel is an outrageous slander. It reflects the view of European elites that while the killing of Jews may be regrettable, the spectacle of other Jews defending themselves is inadmissible.

Ashton is now claiming she was misunderstood but even when you read her remarks in context they are damning:

When we remember young people who have been killed in all sorts of terrible circumstances — the Belgian children having lost their lives in a terrible tragedy, and when we think of what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, when we see what is happening in Gaza and in different parts of the world — we remember young people and children who lose their lives.

Of course, the loss of all life is regrettable. One can certainly draw some sort of parallel between the Toulouse crime and the mass murder in Norway as well as the slaughter of civilians by the brutal Assad regime in Syria. But what has happened in Gaza is nothing like that.

The conflict in Gaza is the result of Israel’s total withdrawal from the territory in the hope of peace which led to the takeover of the strip by the Hamas terrorist group which, along with its Islamist competitors, now uses that area as a launching pad for missile attacks on Israeli territory. The Israeli army is forced to shoot back at the terrorists in order to suppress the fire and sometimes civilians are hurt since Hamas and the other groups use the people of Gaza as human shields. However, it should be noted that while 25 Palestinians were killed in the aftermath of the 200-missile barrage on Israel last week, virtually all were part of the terrorist groups launching the missiles. While the Palestinians claimed that the Israelis also killed a child, it turned out that the fatality was the result of Palestinian gunfire at a funeral for one of the terrorists.

During her tenure as the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ashton, a Labor Party politician, has been both a relentless critic of Israel while sparring the Palestinians and expressing neutrality about the prospect of Hamas joining the Palestinian Authority.

No matter which group carried out the Toulouse attack, it must be understood that the crime happened in an atmosphere in which the delegitimization of Israel by European elites has given some sanction for a new wave of anti-Semitism. Those who cannot condemn this crime without also attempting to draw a false analogy with Israeli actions are part of the problem, not the solution. Such canards are nothing less than a modern version of the medieval blood libel aimed at Jews.

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