Commentary Magazine


Topic: France

Don’t Ignore Nonviolent Anti-Semitism

The debate over the future of European Jewry has centered on violent anti-Semitism, and for good reason. Without basic security for European Jews, the only question will be the rate at which they leave. But attacks on Jews don’t happen in a vacuum, and whether Jews feel welcome in their home countries will depend also on something not often given enough weight: nonviolent anti-Semitism.

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The debate over the future of European Jewry has centered on violent anti-Semitism, and for good reason. Without basic security for European Jews, the only question will be the rate at which they leave. But attacks on Jews don’t happen in a vacuum, and whether Jews feel welcome in their home countries will depend also on something not often given enough weight: nonviolent anti-Semitism.

As Joel Kotkin explains in a column for the Orange County Register, the global Jewish community is rapidly becoming a regional Jewish community. According to Kotkin, four out of every five Jews now lives in either Israel or the United States. In 1939, that number was one in four. Rising anti-Semitism throughout the world–and not just Western Europe–has combined with a dwindling birth rate to produce demographic decline in most of the world’s Jewish communities. Kotkin writes:

Overall, nearly 26,500 Europeans immigrated last year to Israel – a 32 percent increase from 2013. In Britain, a Jewish population of less than 300,000 has not grown for a generation. With recent polls showing close to half of all Britons holding some anti-Semitic views, a majority of British Jews now feel there is no future for them in Europe; one in four is considering emigration.

Other historically significant Jewish communities, such as that in Argentina, also are losing population. The number of Jews in the South American republic has fallen from roughly 300,000 in the 1960s to 250,000 today. This demographic decline will likely be accelerated now that the current Peronista regime has been accused of collaborating with Iranian terrorists implicated in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded more than 300. The government is widely suspected of complicity in the murder last month of the prosecutor investigating the bombing.

Argentina and France aren’t the only nations with formerly large, now-shrinking Jewish communities. In 1948, Iran was home to 100,000 Jews; now it’s a tenth of that number. In South Africa, the population reached 119,000 at the end of apartheid but since has dropped by roughly half. The largest numerical losses were in the former Soviet Union, where, in 1980, there were some 1.7 million Jews; now, as few as 250,000 remain. Most have resettled in Israel or the United States.

Still, France emerges as the canary in the coal mine–if, after the 20th century, the Jews of Europe need such a canary at all. It’s the largest European Jewish community, and it saw 7,000 of its Jews make aliyah last year alone. The numbers keep climbing, however. And there’s a reason beyond the violence.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher terror attacks in Paris, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls delivered a beautiful speech on what French Jewry means to the French state. He spoke out forcefully against resurgent French anti-Semitism and accused his country of historical blindness. And he was clear on France’s responsibility to the Jewish community.

And yet, there is a lingering sense that the endemic anti-Semitism in France has already reached a point of no return. I wrote in response that although Valls’s speech was laudatory and, at times, even inspiring, his framing of the issue left a bad taste. He spoke of France as the “land of emancipation of the Jews,” but that calls into question whether non-secular Jews will ever feel at home there again. I wrote: “A Frenchman who happens to be a Jew at home cannot be the only Jew who feels at home in France.”

A video making the rounds today demonstrates my point. A Jewish reporter for the Israeli news outlet NRG put on a yarmulke, untucked his tzitzit fringes, and walked around various neighborhoods of Paris for ten hours filmed by a hidden camera (and flanked by an undercover bodyguard). Here is what he encountered in more heavily Muslim neighborhoods of Paris:

Walking into a public housing neighborhood, we came across a little boy and his hijab-clad mother, who were clearly shocked to see us. “What is he doing here Mommy? Doesn’t he know he will be killed?” the boy asked.

Walking by a school in one of Paris’ neighborhoods, a boy shouted “Viva Palestine” at me. Moments later, passing by a group of teens, one of the girls remarked, “Look at that – it’s the first time I’ve ever seen such a thing.”

Walking down another neighborhood, a driver stopped his car and approached us. “We’ve been made,” I thought. “What are you doing here?” he asked. “We’ve had reports that you were walking around our neighborhood – you’re not from around here.”

In one of the mostly-Muslim neighborhoods, we walked into an enclosed marketplace. “Look at him! He should be ashamed of himself. What is he doing walking in here wearing a kippa?!” one Muslim merchant yelled. “What do you care? He can do whatever he wants,” another, seemingly unfazed merchant, answered. Over at a nearby street I was lambasted with expletives, mostly telling me to “go f*** from the front and the back.”

At a nearby [café], fingers were pointed at us, and moments later two thugs were waiting for us on the street corner. They swore at me, yelled “Jew” and spat at me. “I think we’ve been made,” the photographer whispered at me. Two youths were waiting for us on the next street corner, as they had apparently heard that a Jew was walking around their neighborhood.

They made it clear to us that we had better get out of there, and we took their advice.

The video also suggests there was a fair amount of spitting in their direction throughout the day. The reporter, Zvika Klein, was spared violence by adhering to threats that were probably not empty. But even without violence, what you see in the video is a pervasive sense of almost distaste for a Jew wearing a kippah. I received similar stares at the airport in Paris once when I thought I could use the time before my flight to don my tallis and tefillin. I was not received warmly (by the Frenchmen nearby, that is; the other non-French tourists were fine with it).

But I don’t live there. What does Manuel Valls plan to do about his country’s obvious, pervasive, rank anti-Semitism? Staging security forces or police outside Jewish schools is all well and good, but they’re there for a reason. They won’t make French society less anti-Semitic, and they won’t make Jews feel more at home in a place where being identifiably Jewish has become not an expression of French multiculturalism but an act of defiance that requires a bodyguard.

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Ukraine Deal: Keeping Russia In, U.S. Out

It is easy to look at the ceasefire agreement struck between Ukraine, Russian-backed forces, and their European interlocutors and wonder whether it really is an agreement at all, let a lone a successful conclusion to the all-night talks in Minsk. But it may have been successful by the key metric set by German and French leaders heading into the negotiations: foreclosing the possibility of serious American military aid to Ukraine.

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It is easy to look at the ceasefire agreement struck between Ukraine, Russian-backed forces, and their European interlocutors and wonder whether it really is an agreement at all, let a lone a successful conclusion to the all-night talks in Minsk. But it may have been successful by the key metric set by German and French leaders heading into the negotiations: foreclosing the possibility of serious American military aid to Ukraine.

The deal itself inspires mostly pessimism, despite French President Hollande’s grandiose declaration that the talks “consisted of a long night and a long morning, but we arrived at an accord on the cease-fire and the global end to the conflict,” according to the New York Times. In fact, that is a generous reading of events. The ceasefire is scheduled to go into effect this weekend, which means the next few days could see an escalation. The ceasefire was also imprecise, to say the least, about where the two (three?) sides would end up, so we can expect a scramble to create facts on the ground before the ceasefire technically begins.

Indeed, just three paragraphs before Hollande’s peace-for-our-time announcement, the Times had already explained why that’s almost surely not the case:

The cease-fire is scheduled to begin at midnight on Saturday, but the 13-point compact appeared fragile, with crucial issues like the location of the truce line and control of the border with Russia left unresolved. Over all, there seemed to be no guarantee that the problems that marred the cease-fire agreement reached here in September had been ironed out.

The very fact that it took more than 16 hours of intensive negotiations to reach an agreement, and that the leaders announced the accord in three separate news conferences, seemed to highlight the differences that remained.

So there’s a truce without a truce line and a border up for grabs while the fighting is permitted to continue until late night Saturday, after which the fighting might not stop anyway since the same kind of ceasefire was reached in September and, well, here we are.

That article is by Neil MacFarquhar. In a companion piece, the Times’s Andrew Roth published a “Q&A” on the details of the agreement. It does not add too much, but mostly serves as a useful reference point for the key areas of conflict. It contains three questions and their answers. The three questions are: “Can the cease-fire hold?” “Where will the new dividing lines be?” and “What about Ukraine’s border with Russia?”

The answer to the question about “dividing lines” really says it all:

The situation on the ground favors the separatists.

Ukrainian officials have said that the rebels gained control over more than 500 square kilometers, or almost 200 square miles, of additional territory since the September cease-fire deal. Under the new agreement, both sides are required to withdraw heavy artillery to create a 30-mile demilitarized buffer zone. But the agreement does not explicitly demarcate the line. Ukraine is required to withdraw from the “current front lines,” which may change by Saturday. Separatist forces are supposed to withdraw behind the September line.

Sure–because when you’re trying to stop an ongoing ground war in Europe by setting borders and boundaries, it’s usually enough just to let each side eyeball it and see where everybody ends up.

Although Putin has not yet abided by ceasefire directives, maybe this time he will. It’s possible. But this ceasefire agreement may in the end succeed only in preventing American military aid to Ukraine. That’s because the terms of the deal represent an acknowledgement by all sides that Ukraine has lost each round of Russia’s invasions, and that there won’t be any help from Europe on the way. That means it might just be too late for the U.S. to accomplish very much by getting involved now.

“Now,” in this context, actually means “in a few months.” As the Wall Street Journal reported, the weapons we’d give Ukraine would probably have to be ordered, and their recipients would need training. Russia, then, has some time now to take free shots and move that border some more. Right now, the area the pro-Russian “rebels” are operating in crosses the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Russian side will likely seek to carve out as secure a territory as possible before the ceasefire goes into effect.

And then what? Over at Foreign Policy, Mark Galeotti doesn’t rule out American arms for Kiev. But the real question is whether there is anything left to fight for. The agreement essentially ensures that eastern Ukraine will be either a frozen conflict or a breakaway Russian client. Ukrainian President Poroshenko will have to see to that for the full peace to take effect. That means Ukraine goes into this ceasefire conceding the areas under conflict to Moscow.

The message given to Poroshenko from his European “friends” was obviously: Get the best deal you can from Putin; no one has your back here. Even if they haven’t succeeded in bringing real peace to Europe, they may have succeeded in keeping America out.

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Will Ukraine Ceasefire Hold? Unlikely.

That was very exciting news from Minsk. In the words of the New York Times: “Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels reached a ceasefire agreement… the first step toward ending fighting in eastern Ukraine that has caused the worst standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War ended.”

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That was very exciting news from Minsk. In the words of the New York Times: “Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels reached a ceasefire agreement… the first step toward ending fighting in eastern Ukraine that has caused the worst standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War ended.”

You might be mistaken for thinking that’s a new story from today but actually it’s from September 5, 2014. Immediately after the signing of this previous ceasefire, the pro-Russian rebels violated it and fighting resumed over control of eastern Ukraine. With the battles escalating, representatives of Ukraine, France, Germany, and Russia once again convened in Minsk a few days ago and now have reached yet another ceasefire agreement.

Is there any reason to think that this agreement will hold any more than the last one did? Of course not. There are in fact holes big enough in the agreement to drive a Russian T-90 tank through it. The deal is to be implemented in stages with the most important and difficult bits coming many months from now.

As the Times notes, the accord “states that the process of restoring ‘full control of the state border by the government of Ukraine throughout the conflict area’ is to happen by the end of 2015. And it is only to happen then if constitutional reforms that will decentralize authority to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are first carried out and local elections held.” Naturally the pro-Russian rebels will never admit that any reforms carried out by Kiev are sufficient for them to give up control of “their” areas.

Moreover: “The accord calls for disarming illegal groups. But the separatists may maintain that their militias are not illegal and that therefore the provision does not apply to them.” The accord does not even address the issue of when, if ever, Russian forces and equipment are to withdraw from Ukraine.

In short, this is yet another meaningless piece of paper. Why has Putin signed it at all? Because he is cleverly zig-zagging from force to diplomacy to achieve his objectives. With credible threats coming from Washington that the Obama administration might finally rethink its stubborn refusal to arm Ukraine, Putin has found it expedient to pretend that peace is taking hold. He no doubt reckons this will dissuade Obama from sending arms, which the president has made clear he doesn’t really want to do anyway.

So Putin can then use the lull to further arm and train his puppet forces before they launch another big offensive. The Obama administration would be well advised to use the lull, if any, to train and arm the legitimate army of the democratically elected government of Ukraine–but odds are it won’t, because France and Germany don’t want us to do that and Obama has no stomach for a confrontation with the ruthless Putin.

It will would be a good thing if this ceasefire were really the first step toward the establishment of peace in Ukraine and the reestablishment of its territorial integrity. But that is highly doubtful. More likely it is just one more step toward the dismemberment of Ukraine and the triumph of the autocrat of the Kremlin.

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U.S., Germany, and France to Putin: The World Is Too Weak to Stop You

Vladimir Putin may be reckless, but he seems to be guided by one valuable strategic rule when picking fights in Europe: divide the west to conquer the east. And dividing the west doesn’t just mean dividing Western Europe among itself; it also means dividing Western Europe from the rest of the West. It broadens the (likely apocryphal) Kissinger quote about calling Europe, and updates it for modern times. If you want to talk to “the West,” whom do you call?

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Vladimir Putin may be reckless, but he seems to be guided by one valuable strategic rule when picking fights in Europe: divide the west to conquer the east. And dividing the west doesn’t just mean dividing Western Europe among itself; it also means dividing Western Europe from the rest of the West. It broadens the (likely apocryphal) Kissinger quote about calling Europe, and updates it for modern times. If you want to talk to “the West,” whom do you call?

The sudden rush of new peace conferences to solve the conflict in Ukraine prove this point. This New York Times rundown of the various meetings and pressers and conferences is thorough but also thoroughly maddening. It is headlined “U.S. Joins Europe in Efforts to End Fighting in Ukraine,” but good luck finding any semblance of a workable solution in any of the proposals and declarations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande met in Kiev with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. No progress seems to have been made in halting or turning back the Russian invasion in Ukraine’s east. But that’s not surprising when you consider what the aim of the Franco-German trip was in the first place. As the Wall Street Journal noted today:

The trip also comes as political momentum grows in the U.S. to deliver weapons to Ukrainian forces—a step that the German and French leaders oppose because they say it would only lead to more violence.

So the purpose of German and French diplomatic intervention was to stop the U.S. from helping Ukraine too much. Mission accomplished.

Not that the U.S. is ready to take that step anyway. There continue to be Obama administration figures who support arming Ukraine, but until that group includes President Obama, this is all they’re going to get, as the Times reported:

Mr. Kerry, who announced $16.4 million in humanitarian assistance for eastern Ukraine, plans to press for a new cease-fire.

In a joint appearance with Mr. Poroshenko, Mr. Kerry said that France, Germany and the United States were united in supporting a peaceful resolution to the conflict. And he called for Russia to agree to a cease-fire.

“Our choice is a peaceful solution, but Russia needs to make its choices,” Mr. Kerry said.

Russia, in fact, has made its choice–repeatedly. That choice has been a relatively easy one for Putin because no one is willing to defend Ukraine. What would possibly give American officials the idea that Putin would retreat without real resistance? That’s where what is possibly the most damning line in the Times story comes in:

The Obama administration’s hope is that its widely reported deliberations over whether to send defensive weapons to Ukraine and about additional economic sanctions will induce Russia to agree to a halt in the fighting and, ultimately, to a political agreement within the framework of the Minsk accord.

This is strategic ineptitude of the first order. Obama’s defenders like to scoff at the notion of “credibility”–that Obama retreating on a red line in, say, Syria would enter the calculus of someone like Putin when considering American opposition to his invasions of Ukraine. We are told that “credibility” is overrated, but it’s more accurate to say it’s simply unquantifiable.

But you have to ask yourself: why would Vladimir Putin believe Obama’s threats when he doesn’t follow through? You have to make a rational calculation, and right now the smart money will always be on Obama bluffing. It’s just who he is; he says things but doesn’t mean them. The sound of his own voice is pleasing to him, but the content is irrelevant.

Additionally, Obama keeps undercutting any such threat. One way he does this is in the implied threat itself: Obama thinks leaking that the administration is debating arming Ukraine will spook Putin, but that very leak is based on the fact that Obama is personally opposed to arming Ukraine, so it’s toothless.

More importantly, the administration keeps undercutting the idea that the aid would help anyway. On Tuesday, CBS’s Mark Knoller tweeted the administration’s justification for not giving Ukraine military aid. He wrote: “On Ukraine, WH says its (sic) not possible for US to put Ukraine on par militarily with Russia. Stands by objective of diplomatic resolution.”

So here’s Obama’s opinion: Ukraine should not get military aid from the West because even with American help, Russia would still mop the floor with them. And this, according to the Times, is what Obama thinks will intimidate Putin into signing a peace treaty. I’ll offer the president some free advice: telling Putin the world is too weak to stop him isn’t very intimidating.

Yet even if the West got Putin to sign on to a new agreement, nothing will have been accomplished. Putin has been violating the last ceasefire agreement, because there’s no one to enforce it. What Obama, Merkel, and Hollande are working for, then, is a non-solution–an agreement that would allow everyone involved to pretend it’s more than it is, and which would implicitly (if not explicitly) accept Putin’s previous land grabs in Ukraine while asking him nicely–on the honor system–to stop taking more land.

You can see what bothers the Ukrainians about this. They are at war, and high-level delegations from France, Germany, and the United States all flew in to tell them, personally, that they’re a lost cause. They either don’t realize it or don’t seem to care, but three major Western powers just went out of their way to ostentatiously humiliate their besieged ally on the world stage.

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UKIP’s Selective Democracy and the Jews

A major reason for the skepticism regarding the future of European Jewry is that there appears no political solution on the horizon to the worsening climate of anti-Semitism. The belief among many is that while it’s beyond dispute that the European left has failed the Jews, the European far right would fail them too if given the chance. And now UKIP, Britain’s ascendant right-wing populists, are proving the point.

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A major reason for the skepticism regarding the future of European Jewry is that there appears no political solution on the horizon to the worsening climate of anti-Semitism. The belief among many is that while it’s beyond dispute that the European left has failed the Jews, the European far right would fail them too if given the chance. And now UKIP, Britain’s ascendant right-wing populists, are proving the point.

UKIP (the UK Independence Party) is actually far more moderate than its reputation would suggest. And unlike in France, it’s conceivable that an anti-EU party in Britain could pull the UK away from the union. That’s because Britain isn’t in the union with both feet. And it’s also because mainstream parties like the Conservatives have a strong and eloquent faction of Euroskeptics among them.

UKIP, in other words, gets a bad rap. Unfortunately, they’re starting to live up to it.

What’s concerning about the rise of the French far right is that a militant anti-Muslim posture, aside from being animated by discriminatory ideas, will do no good for non-Muslims either. You can’t have religious freedom for only some of your citizens and still be free.

UKIP is demonstrating this with its new anti-halal campaign.

The latest controversy started with the revelations that hidden cameras in a halal slaughterhouse had captured “horrifying” abuse of the animals before and during the slaughter. Muslims have been fighting against the government’s preference that animals be stunned before being slaughtered, and this appears to have turned public opinion back against them.

UKIP responded by calling for a ban on any slaughter in which the animal isn’t stunned first, in essence simply removing the religious exemption. As other similar bans have shown, this would outlaw the kosher shechita process as well. UKIP’s attempt at reassurance to Britain’s Jewish Chronicle sounded as though a Tory plant had dressed as a UKIP minister and set about sabotaging the group’s standing:

A senior Ukip member has claimed that the party’s ban on non-stun slaughter, announced today, was against his wishes.

MEP Stuart Agnew, the party’s agricultural spokesman, said: “We are a democratic party and I couldn’t get enough support. They didn’t like my tolerance of non-stunning.

“They have decided to override me on this occasion. I’m not going to say they were wrong.”

But Mr Agnew said the policy was not meant to target shechita.

“This isn’t aimed at you – it’s aimed elsewhere – it’s aimed at others.

“You’ve been caught in the crossfire; collateral damage. You know what I mean.”

Yes, we know what you mean. And that statement is a bumbling masterpiece.

First, the UKIP spokesman said that he was forced to go along with the outlawing of basic tenets of Judaism and Islam because they “are a democratic party.” I don’t know if he appreciated the irony of defending the proposal that the government stomp on individual rights in the name of democracy, but it’s not comforting.

His second part of the “defense” of the UKIP vote was more honest. The Jews are simply “collateral damage.” It’s possible he meant this in a positive way too, something like: You folks are usually the target of populist authoritarianism, so in a way you’ve graduated.

He might be comparing Britain to France here. Maybe UKIP thinks that because they’re not threatening violence, outlawing Jewish practice in this way is not the really bad kind of authoritarian nationalism. But in fact it’s not really fully accurate to say they’re not threatening violence, is it? After all, such laws are backed up by the force of the state, so we’re not talking about simply peer pressure here.

We’ve seen similar efforts in the U.S. get struck down by the courts, if they even get that far. For a while “anti-Sharia” laws were all the rage, but they often amounted to unconscionable infringements on religious liberty. (In one case an anti-Sharia law raised fears it would, as written, outlaw Jewish divorce.)

In Britain’s case, UKIP’s selective democracy works against the Jews twice over. Not only must Jews’ religious liberty be eroded because UKIP votes on its asinine schemes, but Jews are also not present in high enough numbers to make UKIP pay at the ballot box–or, at least, not in high enough numbers to stop a ritual slaughter ban from being a net-gain for UKIP:

Mr Agnew said he believed that the policy was put forward to win votes ahead of the general election.

He said: “There are more votes to be gained, and I expect that’s what they were looking for.

“We’ll have lost the Jewish vote for sure, they won’t support us now for sure – we won’t get any now.

“But we might gain votes elsewhere – and that’s what they’re after, general election votes.”

This is a perfect example of what a glorious document our Constitution, with its attendant amendments, is. Britain has a tradition of freedom and republicanism from which we get our own. But that tradition here was, wisely, codified and made explicit. UKIP’s members like to think of themselves as a party geared toward liberty. But it’s clear they don’t know the meaning of the word.

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Blasphemy’s New Friends

Innocent victims of violence and injustice often attract the opposite of fair-weather friends: when they are at a low point, they become a cause. The surviving staffers of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine at which twelve were murdered by Islamist terrorists for publishing Muhammad cartoons, would probably be surprised by some of their new friends. And in fact, some of those new friends might be surprised themselves.

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Innocent victims of violence and injustice often attract the opposite of fair-weather friends: when they are at a low point, they become a cause. The surviving staffers of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine at which twelve were murdered by Islamist terrorists for publishing Muhammad cartoons, would probably be surprised by some of their new friends. And in fact, some of those new friends might be surprised themselves.

Over at his new perch at the Atlantic, former New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier has written a piece about the choice now facing the Jews of France. It’s headlined “We Are Hyper Cacher,” a reference to the kosher market whose shoppers were taken hostage by the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, who then killed four of the Jewish hostages. In discussing the history of French Jews, Wieseltier pairs the religious shoppers at Hyper Cacher and the secular satirists of Charlie Hebdo this way:

The mockers at Charlie Hebdo had no place in their hearts for the believers who shopped at Hyper Cacher, and the pious consumers at Hyper Cacher were not readers of the witheringly anticlerical Charlie Hebdo, but they were unlikely partners in the same project: a society of freedoms and rights. In striking at them both, the killers struck at the same thing. The cartoons and the challahs both were talismans of democracy, which is Islamism’s nightmare.

When cartoons and challahs occupy the same bunker in a culture war, one of them has either been sacralized or demoted. In this case, the cartoons have been sacralized.

What’s interesting about this is the clarifying moment the mass murder at Charlie Hebdo now appears to have been. The cartoons don’t suddenly possess new meaning; if such meaning is present, it predated the massacre. Wieseltier, though, didn’t seem to think so the last time they were in the news.

In the fall of 2012, Charlie Hebdo was a topic of conversation around the time of the terrorist attack on the American mission in Benghazi and the administration’s ham-handed attempt to blame it on the obscure anti-Islam video Innocence of Muslims. Right after the attack, Charlie Hebdo published more cartoons making fun of Muhammad, raising fears of more attacks and calls to tone down anti-Islam “art,” such as it was.

The Washington Post’s Charles Lane was having none of it. In a column decrying “censorship-by-riot,” Lane wrote: “I say: One cheer for Charlie Hebdo. I doubt that its cartoons are either laudable or responsible. In fact, I’m sure that they are neither. But if free speech means anything, it’s the right to say and publish things that other people find objectionable and irresponsible, even blasphemous.”

Lane was right about the attempted censorship through violence (or fear of violence). Wieseltier didn’t think so. And he particularly didn’t care for Lane’s bestowal of the term “blasphemous” on Charlie Hebdo’s antics. He shot back at Lane:

When the cartoons of Mohammed were published by Charlie Hebdo in Paris, it was another exercise in pseudo-blasphemy, even if they did give real offense, because the right of a French magazine to publish them was never in doubt. The constitutional freedoms of Pastor Jones were never imperiled by General Dempsey when he implored the odious cleric not to circulate “Innocence of Muslims,” the Islamophobic garbage that led ineluctably to violence in the Muslim world. It is not “censorship-by-riot,” as Charles Lane indignantly put it, to attempt to prevent innocent people, Americans among them, from dying. Is this video not crying fire in a crowded theater, or providing theater for a crowded fire?

Here we have two points that seem to have dissipated with the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher. First is Wieseltier’s suggestion that what Charlie Hebdo’s editors were doing wasn’t real blasphemy, and it wasn’t brave. It was the empty gesturing of ungrateful nogoodniks. This is because, according to Wieseltier, the cartoons were protected by law.

But law had no helping hand to lend when the terrorists came for the cartoonists and murdered them in cold blood. And the law certainly permitted Western newspapers from republishing examples of the subject matter that some felt was worth dying for. But the hasty and obsessive self-censorship in the wake of that attack had nothing to do with the law, because it wasn’t the law anyone was worried about. It was censorship-by-riot.

And it’s not censorship, Wieseltier said, to lean on cartoonists and filmmakers to take it easy on Muslims because lives are at stake. Once upon a time, Charlie Hebdo deserved mention alongside Innocence of Muslims while Wieseltier decried the latter as shouting fire in a crowded theater–arguably unprotected speech. Today, however, Charlie Hebdo has been promoted. It is speech that ought to be protected, it is essential to democracy, it is analogous to the bread Jews bless and eat to signify their miraculous survival by God’s grace in the wilderness.

It appears the 2012 set of incidents were the exception in Wieseltier’s worldview. In 1989, he castigated fellow Western writers for not immediately stepping up to defend Salman Rushdie from the latter’s censorship-by-fatwa. And those who found some dark irony in writers like Rushdie having opposed the free world’s democrats whose support and protection he now requires, Wieseltier called “mean and grudging and partisan.”

I don’t think so, but on the rest he was surely right then, as he is right now. And it would be mean and grudging and partisan to ignore the fact that some writers, Charles Lane among them, were right all along.

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Terror War Comes to Europe

Many European countries decided they would have nothing to do with the war on terror. Of course, they made the argument for not intervening in the Middle East on moral and legal grounds, but no doubt they also wagered that they would be safer at home if they kept out of it and left the unpleasant work to others. Yet as the events of recent weeks have demonstrated, none of this has kept Europeans any safer, and now Europe is rapidly turning into a flashpoint in radical Islam’s war with the West.

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Many European countries decided they would have nothing to do with the war on terror. Of course, they made the argument for not intervening in the Middle East on moral and legal grounds, but no doubt they also wagered that they would be safer at home if they kept out of it and left the unpleasant work to others. Yet as the events of recent weeks have demonstrated, none of this has kept Europeans any safer, and now Europe is rapidly turning into a flashpoint in radical Islam’s war with the West.

Following last week’s four terror incidents in France (the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo offices, the shooting of a female police officer in Paris, the hostage taking at the printing works, and the attack on the kosher supermarket), there have now been a series of terror raids across Europe. Most dramatic were the events in the small Belgian town of Verviers. There the police intervened to prevent an imminent attack—what some have called a “second Paris”—and a gun battle ensued in which two of the terror suspects were killed and a third was injured and arrested.

Meanwhile in Germany a whole series of anti-terror raids took place. Already on Saturday night there had been the firebombing of the Hamburger Morgenpost, when once again Islamist extremists moved to shut down the free press. Now the German authorities have arrested several with alleged links to ISIS, with 250 police being involved in raids on eleven residences in Berlin, and a further unrelated raid and arrest of a man linked to ISIS in Wolfsburg, west of Berlin. Back in France, twelve people were detained by police for their association with Amedy Coulibaly, the kosher supermarket attacker. Additionally, French police also closed the Gare de l’Est station in Paris on account of a bomb scare there.

There can be little doubt that the terror war has come to Europe, in spite of—and perhaps even because of—Europe’s refusal to play a significant role in the war against radical Islam. For while most European countries have attempted to avoid getting involved in the wars of the Middle East, the turmoil currently rocking the Islamic world has come to the streets of Europe nonetheless. As Simon Gordon remarks in an important new piece for Mosaic, “rather than the West exporting liberal democracy to the Middle East, as many had fantasized during the late lamented ‘Arab Spring,’ it is the Middle East that is exporting Islamism to the free world.”

As Islamism has increasingly gained a foothold in Europe, so the future of Europe’s Jews has become increasingly imperiled. France may have resisted deploying troops to Iraq, but now in a ridiculous and unsustainable move it has been forced to put boots on the ground in Jewish schools. And following last night’s incident in Belgium, Jewish schools across Brussels and Antwerp have been closed for the time being, as have a synagogue and a Jewish school in Amsterdam. In Sweden, Jewish communal leaders are reporting that the already high threat to Jews there has now doubled in the wake of Paris; apparently these attacks have galvanized radicals, rather than convincing them of the horror that their extremism unleashes. It is also noteworthy that in Britain a report released this week by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism found that 45 percent of Jews there believe they and their families are at risk from Islamists.

Just like Nazism and Communism before it, the nihilistic and anti-Western forces of radical Islam know that ending the Jews must be a core pillar of their efforts to turn the world upside-down. Understanding where Jews fit into the Islamist worldview is an essential part to understanding their war with the West and current events in Europe. Yet maddeningly, while Jews are being murdered in Europe, the left-liberal media is primarily concerned with handwringing over a possible anti-Muslim backlash. A backlash which apparently, and thankfully, never seems to come. Yet somehow Europe’s Muslims have gained the status of victims in waiting. So while extremists from their community terrorize society and specifically target the Jews, publications such as the New York Times have prioritized coverage of fears among European Muslims, as Liel Leibovitz has exposed so brilliantly.

Once again in Europe, Western democracy is under attack. Indeed, one cannot help but wonder if that continent hasn’t been identified by Islamists as a soft target, as the West’s weakest link. Europe’s security services are now springing into belated action, but they have let radical Islam fester in their cities for so long that they have a lot of catching up to do. And more than anything, it is not at all clear that Europeans and their politicians even fully recognize the battlefield that they are on. Yes, freedom and democracy are valued by many in Europe. But the values of wealth redistribution, multicultural tolerance, and even pacifistic dialogue are still so strong in Europe that it remains unclear whether these societies can even muster the willpower to have this fight.

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Western Media Have Forgotten that Only the Truth Shall Set Us Free

One of the most insightful commentaries I’ve read about last week’s terror attacks in France was Ben-Dror Yemini’s column in Ynet yesterday. Yemini pointed out that someone who gets all his news from mainstream Western media would have no reason to believe Islamic extremism was a problem–not because the words “Islamist terror” aren’t used, but because the vast majority of the attacks themselves aren’t reported.

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One of the most insightful commentaries I’ve read about last week’s terror attacks in France was Ben-Dror Yemini’s column in Ynet yesterday. Yemini pointed out that someone who gets all his news from mainstream Western media would have no reason to believe Islamic extremism was a problem–not because the words “Islamist terror” aren’t used, but because the vast majority of the attacks themselves aren’t reported.

The handful of attacks on Western targets get extensive coverage, alongside a few particularly egregious attacks in non-Western countries, like last month’s assault on a Pakistani school. But the “routine” attacks that occur almost daily in the Muslim world, which have killed hundreds of thousands of people in recent years, go largely unreported.

Thus, for instance, the New York Times did report an exceptionally bloody Boko Haram attack last week that may have killed up to 2,000 Nigerians. But buried in the 12th paragraph is the shocking fact that Boko Haram killed around 10,000 people last year alone. How many of the thousands of attacks that produced those 10,000 victims did the Times report? Almost none.

Similarly, Al-Arabiya’s Hisham Melham noted last week that 74,000 people were killed in Syria last year, while in Iraq, the death toll averaged about 1,000 a month. But how many of the thousands of attacks that produced those grim totals did the mainstream Western media report? Again, almost none.

Yet the problem doesn’t end there, Yemini argued–because alongside its failure to report on Islamic terror, the mainstream media obsesses over Israel. And this has consequences not just for how people view Israel, but for how Muslims view the West.

To understand why, a brief illustration might help. On the Times’s website, the article about Boko Haram killing up to 2,000 people merited 540 words. By comparison, an article last month about a Palestinian who died at an anti-Israel demonstration (whether due to ill-treatment or a heart attack remains disputed) merited 1,040 words. Thus one Palestinian allegedly killed by Israel merited 4,000 times as many words as each Boko Haram victim–and the ratio would be much higher if you included all of the latter who never get reported at all. And every Palestinian killed or allegedly killed by Israel gets similarly extensive coverage.

Thus a Muslim who relies for information solely on the mainstream Western media would rationally conclude that Israel, not Islamic extremism, is the greatest source of death and destruction in the world today, Yemini argued. And in fact, though he didn’t mention it, listening to any Western leader would produce the same conclusion: All spend far more time condemning Israel than they do, say, Boko Haram or Syria’s Iranian-supported regime.

Yet when that same Western Muslim looks at his government’s policy, Yemini said, he sees that its actions contradict the rational conclusion he drew from the media. After all, Western countries are currently bombing ISIS, not Israel. And they imposed economic sanctions on Syria, not Israel. Thus the rational Muslim news consumer would conclude that Western governments are not only hypocrites, but anti-Muslim hypocrites: They engage in military and economic cooperation with Israel while employing military and economic force against Muslims, even though Israel, judging by Western media, would seem to be a far worse offender. And such anti-Muslim hypocrisy rightly makes this rational Muslim angry, Yemini wrote.

Of course, Western governments’ policies are actually far more closely aligned to reality than the distorted impression our hypothetical Muslim gets from the media. But he really has no way of knowing that, because the people he depends on for information–the media–consistently tell him the opposite.

Once upon a time, Western liberals understood the critical importance of truthful information. They genuinely believed, as the New Testament proclaims, that “the truth shall set you free.” That’s precisely why the West invested so heavily in media outlets like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe during the Cold War: Many Westerners genuinely believed that letting Eastern Europeans and Soviet citizens hear the truth, rather than the propaganda published in Soviet media, would help bring the Iron Curtain down. And history proved them right.

But today, it seems, Western liberals no longer believe in the power of truth. If they did, they would realize that the road to defeating Islamic extremism starts with reporting faithfully on all its victims, day in and day out. For only when people know the truth about the carnage this extremism has wrought might they begin to turn against it.

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Lynch Mob Attacks Turkish Newspaper

Over the years, I’ve chronicled the rapid decline in press freedom in Turkey.

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Over the years, I’ve chronicled the rapid decline in press freedom in Turkey.

For example:

I wish this was an exhaustive list, but alas it’s not and there’s far more available in the pages of COMMENTARY, easily accessible if you follow the tags “press freedom” and “Turkey.”

Alas, it seems that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Islamist Brownshirts are now willing to take the battle against the press and free expression to a new level. The Turkish broadsheet Cumhuriyet, traditionally a center-left newspaper, decided to reprint a four-page selection of Charlie Hebdo’s post-massacre edition. In response, Turkish police—firmly under Erdoğan’s control—earlier today raided the Istanbul offices of the paper. That’s bad enough, but par for the course in Erdoğan’s police state. Nor was it unpredictable that Erdoğan would take such a hard line against Charlie Hebdo and its drawings. After all, the assailants were still on the run when senior ministers in Erdoğan’s government and the Islamist press in Turkey—the only press which Erdoğan allows to operate freely—began to rationalize the murders in Paris.

Now, however, as I write this, interlocutors in Turkey tell me a mob has gathered in front of Cumhuriyet and is calling, quite literally, for blood, chanting, “Be prepared, death is coming all around.” They are also reportedly chanting their allegiance to the Kouachi brothers who carried out the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. This Twitter feed is worth watching as the situation develops.

Let us hope and pray that the journalists at Cumhuriyet remain safe, and that the international community makes clear to Erdoğan that he will personally be held responsible for their lives and safety. Meanwhile, it is worth reflecting just how bold is not only Cumhuriyet but also the Iranian newspaper Shargh which tweeted out some of the cartoons. Meanwhile, the New York Times refuses for fear of insulting someone. (That didn’t stop Dean Baquet from insulting those who pressed him on his decision to self-censor.) The lesson? Perhaps it’s true that people don’t appreciate their freedoms until they are taken away. Nevertheless, it’s about time we start recognizing the fragility of freedom and liberty.

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How Not to Fight Anti-Semitism in France

Anti-Semitism in France is nothing new. And even the “new” anti-Semitism in France isn’t new, as our COMMENTARY editorial on the plight of Jews in France and the necessity of Zionism points out. What’s new, it appears, is that France is in danger of its Jews giving up on the sustainability of Jewish life there. The current trend of French Jews making aliyah is seeing the numbers double each year. In response, the French government has taken to saying nice things about how integral Jews are to France’s national identity. It’s a kind sentiment. But is it true?

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Anti-Semitism in France is nothing new. And even the “new” anti-Semitism in France isn’t new, as our COMMENTARY editorial on the plight of Jews in France and the necessity of Zionism points out. What’s new, it appears, is that France is in danger of its Jews giving up on the sustainability of Jewish life there. The current trend of French Jews making aliyah is seeing the numbers double each year. In response, the French government has taken to saying nice things about how integral Jews are to France’s national identity. It’s a kind sentiment. But is it true?

In a speech yesterday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls offered the following stirring declaration:

How is it possible to accept that France, which is the land of emancipation of the Jews many centuries ago, but which also seventy years ago was one of the lands of the martyrdom of Jews, how can it be accepted that we hear on our streets “Death to the Jews”? How can we accept the acts that I have just recalled? How can one accept that French people be murdered simply because they are Jewish?

… We must say to the world: without the Jews of France, France would no longer be France. And that message is one that we all have to deliver strongly and loudly. We did not say it in the past. We did not show our indignation in the past.

First, it must be said that the prime minister deserves praise for his defense of the Jews. The rest of Europe should take note. We should temper our cynicism by recalling that words and ideas are the currency of a society reckoning honestly with its political demons. And if positive change is going to come to France, it won’t arrive overnight. Valls’s speech is in some ways a plea for patience, to buy time for the state to begin turning things around.

But it is unlikely that real change is, in the end, on the horizon in France. And Valls’s speech even hints at why. The talk of “emancipation” of the Jews of France in the time of the revolution is a bit of a misdirection. “Emancipation” in France was a graduation to secularism. The revolution was a psychotically violent one, and that violence was aimed, much of the time, at the clergy.

Loyalty oaths were instituted, Constitutional clergy were foisted upon faith communities that preferred their own, and the state engaged a struggle to render unto Caesar far more than what is Caesar’s. That was merely a reverse power structure from the ancien regime, in which the clergy were part of an aristocratic governing structure. For the ancien regime to be uprooted, so did the clerical class. And it was a bloody uprooting.

What does this have to do with the Jews of France? A lot, actually. The French Revolution inculcated a fear and suspicion of religious authority as a threat to secular Enlightenment power. It’s true that when the dust settled under Napoleon’s feet, there had been at least a façade of reconciliation for the purposes of putting the country back together. But it was only really a façade. And a Napoleonic power structure sowed the seeds of its own undoing. French society remains unnerved by strangers among them, as well as anyone they believe answers to a higher authority than the state. The French government can talk all it wants about appreciating its Jews, but unless and until those Jews feel comfortable and safe actually showing outward signs of their Judaism and religiosity, it won’t change minds. A Frenchman who happens to be a Jew at home cannot be the only Jew who feels at home in France.

Additionally, the French government appears poised to make precisely the same mistakes over and over again. If Valls is right about the importance of Enlightenment principles and personal liberty in his country, they wouldn’t be arresting the notorious anti-Semite and popularizer of Nazi social signaling Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, which authorities have now done.

Dieudonne is actually a perfect test case for how France chooses to fight its battles going forward. He is fully and truly repellant in virtually every way. And so his freedom must be defended forcefully. If the lesson of the “free speech uber alles” protests after the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and then the censorship conducted by Western media (with the New York Times as the chief self-censor) is to censor Dieudonne–or worse, criminalize his demented stupidity–then France will doom history to repetition.

Censoring and criminalizing anti-Semitism, in addition to being incompatible with a free society, does two major things wrong. First, it suggests that the Jews get special treatment and that therefore the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists are right. This will certainly not make Jews–or anyone in France–any safer. Second, it allows these ideas to gain the credibility of the counterculture while simmering and metastasizing unchallenged out of view. If sunlight is truly the best disinfectant, then France is enabling this infection to spread.

Is France truly still France without its Jews? The last thing the government wants is to have to find out. But that’s where they’re headed, and they haven’t done anything yet to change direction.

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ISIS and al-Qaeda’s Deadly Rivalry

There is little ideological or moral difference between al-Qaeda and ISIS. Both are fanatical terrorist organizations with a Sunni jihadist ideology and complete disdain for life. ISIS was even once affiliated with al-Qaeda, having been previously known as al-Qaeda in Iraq. But now they are deadly rivals. The al-Nusra Front is the official al-Qaeda franchise in Syria and it is at war with ISIS. Like Apple and Samsung or Adidas and Nike, al-Qaeda and ISIS are locked in a battle for market share. Those companies compete by bringing to market better products. So do terrorist organizations, only their “products” are high-profile atrocities.

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There is little ideological or moral difference between al-Qaeda and ISIS. Both are fanatical terrorist organizations with a Sunni jihadist ideology and complete disdain for life. ISIS was even once affiliated with al-Qaeda, having been previously known as al-Qaeda in Iraq. But now they are deadly rivals. The al-Nusra Front is the official al-Qaeda franchise in Syria and it is at war with ISIS. Like Apple and Samsung or Adidas and Nike, al-Qaeda and ISIS are locked in a battle for market share. Those companies compete by bringing to market better products. So do terrorist organizations, only their “products” are high-profile atrocities.

The Charlie Hebdo massacre, now claimed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in a video entitled “Vengeance for the Prophet: A Message Regarding the Blessed Battle of Paris,” should be seen in this light. It is, if nothing else, a powerful reminder to the world, after having read about little but ISIS for the past year, that al-Qaeda still matters. ISIS may have made global headlines with grisly beheading videos but it has never struck in a major Western capital before.

It is still unclear, of course, the extent to which AQAP was involved in the attack. Its level of involvement was probably less than al-Qaeda’s role in 9/11 or Lashkar e Taiba’s role in the Mumbai massacre, but both of the murderous Kouachi brothers, Said and Cherif, apparently traveled to Yemen to train with AQAP. This helps to explain their familiarity with AK-47s, even if their tradecraft always remains questionable–they left an identification card in their getaway car.

And even if AQAP was largely responsible for the attack, one of the jihadists killed in Paris–Amedy Coulibaly–claimed allegiance with ISIS. One suspects that in jihadist circles this is a branding statement similar to one’s choice of smart phone or warm-up jacket.

In some ways the Paris attacks may be seen to represent a potent new style of terror–not as complex as 9/11 or Mumbai but not an entirely “lone wolf” style attack, such as the hostage-taking in Sydney last month. The attack is linked to a global terrorist organization but was carried out by homegrown extremists. This is a model that, in business parlance, is easily “scalable”–there are, unfortunately, lots of radicalized Muslims in Europe and even some in the United States, and many of them can travel to places like Pakistan and Yemen where it is easy to link up with major terrorist groups.

The Western response must be twofold.

First, do more to shatter groups such as ISIS and AQAP–to prevent them from controlling territory that they can use as a training base for foreign jihadists. We are very far from achieving this objective today, given widespread reports that 1,000 foreigners a month are traveling to Syria to join the fight. Defeats for AQAP and ISIS also dim their luster and make it less likely they will attract more adherents in the West–no one wants to join a lost cause, not even a would-be suicide bomber.

Second, do more to track down and stop homegrown jihadists before they strike again. The French security services, for all their effectiveness (and it is considerable), failed in this regard because all three culprits had been in and out of custody. All three were known to be violent jihadists yet they were free to roam at will, apparently falling off the French radar screen because the security services were so overwhelmed with tracking fighters heading to and from Syria. The French government is right to push for expanded surveillance powers. The U.S., Britain, and other frontline states should follow suit–or at the very least not stop effective surveillance programs which became so unfairly controversial after Edward Snowden’s treasonous revelations.

France, the U.S., Britain, and other states also need to think about how they should act once jihadists are identified–is it possible to detain them or even expel them before there is solid evidence that they are about to carry out a massacre? Such actions may seem antithetical to the idea of free speech–no one should be punished for their beliefs. And there is no question that abuses have been carried out in the past in the name of preventing terrorism, for instance during the Red Scare of 1919-1920 when hundreds of socialists and anarchists were deported.

But courts do grant protective orders against those who are believed to be violent without waiting for them to carry out an actual violent act. Might it be time to institute some similar system with those who advocate terrorism–not fundamentalist Islam but actual terrorist violence? I’m not sure of the answer, because this would raise legitimate civil-liberties concerns, but it is at least a question worth exploring in the wake of attacks such as the one in Paris–or at the Boston Marathon. We cannot just sit back as ISIS and al-Qaeda play out their deadly rivalry at our expense.

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What Binds Our Hearts to the Jewish State

I want to commend COMMENTARY’s powerful and bracing editorial, “The Existential Necessity Of Zionism After Paris.” In its words:

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I want to commend COMMENTARY’s powerful and bracing editorial, “The Existential Necessity Of Zionism After Paris.” In its words:

The battle lines are drawn. The French elite may occasionally condemn anti-Semitism, as did Hollande after the attack on the kosher market. And on January 11, Hollande, arm-in-arm with world leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, led more than a million people in a march supporting the victims of the January attacks and condemning hate.

But there are no substantive signs that France’s leaders are prepared to stop the radical Islamists who have declared war on French Jewry. Meanwhile, members of the French working class are coming to see the Jews more and more as a hindrance to their own economic well-being. And Europe’s steady turn against Israel has sharpened anti-Semitism of all stripes.

… For every French Jew at risk, for every Jew everywhere at risk, and for every Jew who chooses, Israel is home. Its existence before the Holocaust would have saved millions. Its existence after the Holocaust saved and created millions. Seventy years after the Holocaust, Jews in Europe are in need of it again.

This editorial should be alongside of this front-page story in the New York Times that begins this way: “French Jews, already feeling under siege by anti-Semitism, say the trauma of the terrorist attacks last week has left them scared, angry, unsure of their future in France and increasingly willing to consider conflict-torn Israel as a safer refuge.”

The rise of anti-Semitism in France–most especially the Muslim attacks on French Jews, of course, but also the tepid and equivocal response by the French government–is a moral disgrace. In one respect, it’s staggering to see the rise of anti-Semitism on the continent that produced the Holocaust. In another respect, I suppose, it’s not, as history demonstrates that there is no half-life to anti-Semitism. Its lethally corrosive evil may be contained now and then, but it usually finds a home. And this explains in part why the Jews need their home, too. That home has been, and must ever be, Israel. “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen,” the prophet Amos wrote, “and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.”

The Jewish people deserve a Jewish state. As a non-Jew, I simply want to add that the founding of the Jewish state also touches my heart because it is an unbelievable human drama, a transcendent story of hope and redemption, a nearly miraculous testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. Israel is a place and a state. But it is also a story, among the most riveting and inspiring ever written. For many of us it is that story, its beauty and wonder, its defiance and courage, that further binds us to the Jewish state. First and foremost, the fate of the Jewish people is tied to Israel. But not their fate alone.

Jews are in need of Israel. So are the rest of us.

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On Muhammad Cartoons, History Already Repeating Itself

Over the weekend, while much of the world was busy being “Charlie,” something terrible happened at one of the very few publications that actually followed Charlie Hebdo’s lead and published the Muhammad cartoons. It drew little comment, as the international media was mostly preoccupied with feel-good reporting from the Paris unity march, but in the early hours of Sunday morning the offices of the Hamburger Morgenpost were firebombed in an apparent reprisal for the paper having dared to republish some of the cartoons. Back in 2011 the offices of Charlie Hebdo were similarly firebombed for having published Muhammad cartoons, and there was little outcry then too. For all the talk of “Je suis Charlie” one fears little has been learned.

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Over the weekend, while much of the world was busy being “Charlie,” something terrible happened at one of the very few publications that actually followed Charlie Hebdo’s lead and published the Muhammad cartoons. It drew little comment, as the international media was mostly preoccupied with feel-good reporting from the Paris unity march, but in the early hours of Sunday morning the offices of the Hamburger Morgenpost were firebombed in an apparent reprisal for the paper having dared to republish some of the cartoons. Back in 2011 the offices of Charlie Hebdo were similarly firebombed for having published Muhammad cartoons, and there was little outcry then too. For all the talk of “Je suis Charlie” one fears little has been learned.

Following the Paris attacks and the murder by Islamists of journalists who had dared to satirize Islam—among other faiths—huge numbers took to declaring themselves “Charlie” and held up the pen in a sign of solidarity and defiance. Many publications echoed these sentiments on their front covers the morning after the attack. Yet, very few were actually willing to reprint the offending cartoons, either in defiance or in simple illustration of the news story, and for good reason. Among those who did were the Danish newspaper Berlingske, a few of the Montreal based French language magazines, and several German publications, including Berliner Zeitung, the Berliner Kurier, and the Hamburger Morgenpost. Now the latter of those has been attacked already, and to remarkably little condemnation.

Of course, the best way to overcome the terror threat to freedom of the press would be, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali has suggested, to spread the risk around. This would require all the media outlets who wished to resist the imposition of Islamic blasphemy laws to simultaneously publish the drawings. Otherwise it is left to just one or two lonely publications to hold the line for the entire free world. That of course was what happened to Charlie Hebdo.

Back in 2005 when the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten first published some images of Muhammad, all hell broke loose. Danish embassies were attacked and it has been estimated that as many as 200 people were killed in the riots that ensued globally. While the Danish government came under diplomatic pressure to apologize, Charlie Hebdo was one of the few publications to support the Danish newspaper and in 2006 the French magazine republished the Muhammad cartoons. Along with death threats and legal action, in 2011 the office of Charlie Hebdo was firebombed. Not only did the world pay little attention but many commentators condemned the magazine for having been irresponsibly provocative. It seems that not until the staff of Charlie Hebdo lost their lives were people prepared to give this subject serious attention.

So now that the Hamburger Morgenpost is where Charlie Hebdo was in 2011–firebombed after having taken a stand of solidarity with a fellow publication–wouldn’t it be the time to take note and act before the staff of the German publication find themselves in the same situation the French journalists encountered in 2015?

If people living in modern-day Europe, and liberal democracies the world over, decide they do not wish to live under Islamic blasphemy laws as imposed by a fanatical minority, then they must understand that hashtag trends and unity rallies will not be enough. Clearly, free and democratic societies are not the natural way of things and basic rights such as free speech do not happen automatically. They require work from a committed citizenry and civil society that is ready to guard its freedoms jealously. The Hamburger Morgenpost has come under attack for doing nothing more than exercising its freedom of expression. Instead of looking the other way, now is the time for other publications and public figures to rally to their defense, lest their staff go the same way as that of Charlie Hebdo’s.

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A Diplomatic Blunder

Remember when Democrats–like, um, Senator Barack Obama–were castigating President George W. Bush for his supposed unilateralism and alienation of allies? Obama promised to do better but in many respects he’s done worse.

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Remember when Democrats–like, um, Senator Barack Obama–were castigating President George W. Bush for his supposed unilateralism and alienation of allies? Obama promised to do better but in many respects he’s done worse.

I remember attending a breakfast in the past year with a former European leader who said that European heads of state had a much better relationship with Bush than with Obama–and not just Tony Blair and Nicolas Sarkozy who were known for being close to Dubya. All the Europeans found it easier to get Bush on the phone than Obama and they also formed better bonds with the more affable Bush than the more aloof Obama. Indeed it’s hard to name a single foreign head of state with whom Obama is close in the way that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were close with Tony Blair or in the way that Ronald Reagan was close to Margaret Thatcher and Brian Mulroney.

This isn’t because Obama is inherently unlikable; plenty of people have been seduced by his cerebral coolness in the past. It’s because he hasn’t worked at it. He has not cultivated foreign leaders any more than he has cultivated congressional leaders. In both cases he has built up no reservoirs of affection to cushion him when times get tough–as they are now for a United States that is at the nadir of its post-1970s influence.

The moment that may come to symbolize Obama’s aloofness occurred on Sunday when nearly four million French people–and numerous foreign heads of state–marched to make clear their opposition to terrorism and their support for freedom of speech. A partial list of foreign leaders who attended: “Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Council President Donald Tusk, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Switzerland’s President Simonetta Sommaruga.”

Guess who was missing–yup, Obama. Apparently he spent his Sunday watching football on TV rather than marching against terrorism. He didn’t even bother to send Vice President Biden or Secretary of State Kerry. Attorney General Eric Holder was already in Paris for unrelated business but he didn’t bother to show up either.

The fact that America’s president was MIA was noted among our allies–and not favorably. As the Daily Mail wrote: “President Barack Obama and other top members of his administration have snubbed a historic rally in Paris today that brought together more than 40 world leaders from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and even Russia.”

Even the White House was forced to acknowledge this was a blunder but I suspect this apology (“It’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there”) is unlikely to undo the damage because it only reinforces an existing stereotype. With two years left in his presidency, he appears to have all but checked out, preferring to rule by executive order rather than by mobilizing support at home or abroad. Rather than cultivating America’s allies, he prefers to reach out to our enemies–notably Cuba and Iran. The Paris rally might become, as my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Robert Danin suggested on Twitter, “Obama’s diplomatic Katrina moment”–a moment which crystallizes a growing perception of presidential failure. That is an ironic end to a presidency which came into being in no small measure as a protest against “unilateralism.”

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Terror, Israel, and France’s False Unity

The narrative of “unity” in Paris yesterday was quickly punctured by reports that French President Francois Hollande tried to prevent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s participation in the rally against terror. According to Haaretz, Hollande’s national security advisor relayed the message to his Israeli counterpart. There are, clearly, several things wrong with this picture, foremost among them the gratuitous insult to a Jewish community in mourning that the head of the Jewish state is not welcome in Paris. But if the report is correct, the reasons given for the attempted exclusion compound the offense.

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The narrative of “unity” in Paris yesterday was quickly punctured by reports that French President Francois Hollande tried to prevent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s participation in the rally against terror. According to Haaretz, Hollande’s national security advisor relayed the message to his Israeli counterpart. There are, clearly, several things wrong with this picture, foremost among them the gratuitous insult to a Jewish community in mourning that the head of the Jewish state is not welcome in Paris. But if the report is correct, the reasons given for the attempted exclusion compound the offense.

First, there is the following explanation, relayed by Haaretz, for why Hollande didn’t want Netanyahu there:

Audibert explained that Hollande wanted the event to focus on demonstrating solidarity with France, and to avoid anything liable to divert attention to other controversial issues, like Jewish-Muslim relations or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Audibert said that Hollande hoped that Netanyahu would understand the difficulties his arrival might pose and would announce that he would not be attending.

Anyone who hoped the French might get serious about the terrorism and anti-Semitism plaguing their country will have their hopes dashed by that paragraph. A refresher: the march for unity was held after a two-pronged terror attack, the latter half of which centered on Islamic extremists specifically targeting Jews. In the wake of that attack, Jews were warned to hide any outward appearance of their Judaism and the famed Jewish quarter of the Marais became a ghetto regulated by fear.

To this, the French president says that he doesn’t want the response to include “other controversial issues, like Jewish-Muslim relations.” In fact, “Jewish-Muslim relations”–a mild way of describing French Islamists’ murderous anti-Semitism and pogromist instincts–is currently tearing Paris apart. What Hollande doesn’t want to talk about is what’s actually happening to his country. If the Jewish presence atop the Islamists’ target list can’t be acknowledged even in the wake of terror, then Hollande is really making no room for it at all. Hollande’s head is still in the sand.

Netanyahu was at first open to Hollande’s unreasonable request. But then he changed his mind, and informed Hollande he would attend. Here is the apparent response from the French government:

According to the source, when Cohen informed Audibert that Netanyahu would be attending the event after all, Audibert angrily told Cohen that the prime minister’s conduct would have an adverse effect on ties between the two countries as long as Hollande was president of France and Netanyahu was prime minister of Israel.

But the foot stomping wasn’t over. Hollande had to publicly convey his opposition to Israel’s head of government participating in a “unity” event. Both attended an event at the Grand Synagogue: “Hollande sat through most of the ceremony, but when Netanyahu’s turn at the podium arrived, the French president got up from his seat and made an early exit.”

There is another explanation, however, for Hollande’s decision to disrespect the Jews in the Grand Synagogue. In an unsigned piece at Tablet, a video is provided of the arrival first of Hollande and then of Netanyahu at the Grand Synagogue. Netanyahu receives a hero’s welcome.

This is not all that surprising. I recommend watching the video of Netanyahu’s entrance into the synagogue; it is more compelling than it might appear. The simple fact is that Netanyahu’s presence is a reminder to the Jews of Paris and the Jews of the world that when their home countries repay their love and loyalty with hatred and abuse, the existence of Israel provides an inspirational counterpoint–even for Jews with no intention of making aliyah. Tablet notes:

One of the great lessons of the Holocaust for the Jewish people and for all other peoples who have since been threatened with genocide by fanatics—Cambodians under Pol Pot, Bosnian Muslims, and the Tutsi of Rwanda—is that the world will always talk a good game but will do precious little to save you. If you don’t stick together, you will die alone. The fact that the State of Israel exists means that the Jewish people will never be radically alone. That’s why the people in the Grand Synagogue of Paris are cheering.

And thus it is also something of a reproof to the host country. The presence of an Israeli prime minister in a Western capital that has proved incapable of protecting its Jews provides a contrast that does not benefit Hollande. In that sense, though Hollande’s behavior is not defensible, neither is it incomprehensible.

But the attempt to prevent Netanyahu from attending the march is also delegitimizing to the Jewish state. Jews were killed because they were Jews, and with the partial pretext of the Jewish state’s self-defense. Excluding the Israeli leader is a divisive act–literally, as it divides the Jewish people–and also treats Israel, which is a Western country on the front lines of fighting such terror, as an outsider looking in on the free world. Netanyahu was right to attend, and by the looks of it, the besieged Jews of Paris agreed.

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No “Clash of Civilizations”

The terrorists who carried out the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris–Saïd and Chérif Kouachi–were of course Muslims, born in Paris to parents of Algerian origin. So too Amedy Coulibaly, who shot hostages in a kosher supermarket before being killed by police, was a Muslim, in his case of African origin. Their acts were applauded by various jihadists and fellow travelers around the world who praised them for “avenging the prophet.”

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The terrorists who carried out the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris–Saïd and Chérif Kouachi–were of course Muslims, born in Paris to parents of Algerian origin. So too Amedy Coulibaly, who shot hostages in a kosher supermarket before being killed by police, was a Muslim, in his case of African origin. Their acts were applauded by various jihadists and fellow travelers around the world who praised them for “avenging the prophet.”

It would be easy, therefore, to conclude that this terrorist atrocity, the latest of many, is symptomatic of a general Muslim assault on the West–that the world is dividing, as Samuel Huntington famously predicted, into a battle of civilizations and that “our” civilization is destined to be at war with “theirs.” But that easy us-vs.-them narrative is complicated by a few facts.

Such as the fact that Ahmed Merabet, a police officer gunned down during the Charlie Hebdo attack, was himself a Muslim of Algerian origin. His brother said: “My brother was Muslim and he was killed by two terrorists, by two false Muslims. Islam is a religion of peace and love. As far as my brother’s death is concerned it was a waste. He was very proud of the name Ahmed Merabet, proud to represent the police and of defending the values of the Republic – liberty, equality, fraternity.”

So too Lassana Bathily of Mali, the employee who hid 15 people at the kosher supermarket from Coulibaly, was a Muslim. As was Mohamed Douhane, one of the senior police commanders directing the response to the attacks. He even visited Israel in 2008 along with a delegation of other French Muslim leaders.

What to make of these contrasting facts? Is Islam a religion of peace, as many claim, or is it a religion dedicated to making war on unbelievers and infidels, as others assert? Are the terrorists the true Muslims–or are the law-abiding French Muslims truer to their faith?

The answer is “yes.” Both are true at once. Islam, like every other broad-based religion, is subject to numerous conflicting interpretations. Some use it to justify hateful violence; others use it to justify a path of nonviolence. It is impossible to say which is the true version because Islam is a decentralized faith that, unlike Catholicism, has no pope to rule on matters of theology.

Surveys indicate that the broad majority of Muslims around the world are not in the violent, jihadist camp. A Pew poll in 2013, for example, found that across 11 Muslim countries, 67 percent of those surveyed said they are somewhat or very concerned about Islamic extremism and 57 percent said they had an unfavorable view of al-Qaeda while 51 percent had an unfavorable view of the Taliban. Moreover, “about three-quarters or more in Pakistan (89%), Indonesia (81%), Nigeria (78%) and Tunisia (77%), say suicide bombings or other acts of violence that target civilians are never justified.” Indeed the only place where a majority of Muslims justified suicide bombings was in the Palestinian territories.

It seems safe, then, to say that most Muslims around the world are moderate. But there is a substantial minority of extremists which, in absolute numbers, pose a serious threat, given the fact that there are an estimated 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. While those extremists pose a substantial threat to the West, they present an even bigger threat to fellow Muslims. The vast majority of victims of Islamist terrorist organization such as the Taliban, ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Hezbollah have been fellow Muslims. Such organizations, after all, are principally bent on dominating their own societies, thus by definition oppressing and killing fellow Muslims; they generally attack the West only as an auxiliary line of operations. One of the truly disturbing aspects of modern-day Islamist movements is the ease with which they declare their Muslim enemies to be “takfir” (i.e. apostates) and therefore liable to be killed.

What is going on, then, is not a war between civilizations but a war within Islamic civilization pitting an armed, militant minority against a peaceful but easily cowed majority. Any talk of waging “war on Islam” is thus deeply misguided and harmful. What we in the West need to do is to help moderate Muslims wage war on the radicals. Sound impossible? Far from it. Just look at how successfully (if brutally) Muslim states such as Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria have fought to repress Islamist movements–or how courageously so many Iraqi and Afghan security officers have fought against Islamist extremists. (They would fight even more effectively if their own organizations were less corrupt and more effective.)

The “us-vs.-them” narrative only distracts from what needs to be done while playing into the terrorists’ hands–that is after all, precisely the narrative they seek to promulgate to rally Muslims to their side.

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BBC Reporter Blames Jews for European Anti-Semitism

With those murdered during Friday’s hostage taking at a Parisian kosher supermarket not yet buried, you might have thought that the media would allow the Jewish community a short grace period. Not if you’re the BBC. In the middle of yesterday’s “Unity March” in Paris, a BBC anchor began lecturing the daughter of Holocaust survivors on what Jews had done to provoke the anti-Semitism they are now experiencing in France. And quite apart from the fact that the BBC’s Tim Wilcox seemed to want to drag in the Palestinians and the Middle East at a completely inappropriate time, Wilcox’s conflation of “Israel” and “Jewish” certainly blows out of the water media claims that being anti-Israel has nothing to do with attitudes toward Jews.

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With those murdered during Friday’s hostage taking at a Parisian kosher supermarket not yet buried, you might have thought that the media would allow the Jewish community a short grace period. Not if you’re the BBC. In the middle of yesterday’s “Unity March” in Paris, a BBC anchor began lecturing the daughter of Holocaust survivors on what Jews had done to provoke the anti-Semitism they are now experiencing in France. And quite apart from the fact that the BBC’s Tim Wilcox seemed to want to drag in the Palestinians and the Middle East at a completely inappropriate time, Wilcox’s conflation of “Israel” and “Jewish” certainly blows out of the water media claims that being anti-Israel has nothing to do with attitudes toward Jews.

During yesterday’s rally in Paris—which reporters were eager to stress had a “carnival” atmosphere, with the coming together of many religions, ethnicities, and nations—the BBC interviewed a number of people from the crowd. Among those put on camera was a Jewish woman who was asked about her experience of anti-Semitism in France. When asked whether she felt secure in France the woman, referred to simply as Chava, expressed her fear that Europe was returning to the mood of the 1930s. However, when she began to insist that Jews must not be afraid to come out and say that they are the ones who are being targeted now, Tim Wilcox quickly shut her down. Interrupting, Wilcox put it to her: “Many critics, though, of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.”

It was clear that at the very moment that someone was attempting say that Jews must not be afraid to say they are being targeted, the BBC correspondent attempted to shame the speaker into silence. Clearly taken aback, Chava attempts to respond by explaining that these two issues can’t be so easily amalgamated, but once again Wilcox interjects to shut her up. This time he tells her: “But you understand everything is seen from different perspectives?” Whose different perspective is he referring to? The people who carry out attacks on French Jews? The people who think Jews deserve to be attacked because of the things that Israel is alleged to be doing?

The fact is, no BBC correspondent would have told the friends or family of the murdered cartoonists or policemen, “but you understand that everything is seen from different perspectives?” Indeed, if Muslims were being attacked–taken hostage and murdered–even if in a reprisal for last week’s atrocities, no BBC reporter would be lecturing a member of the Muslim community on how others had suffered at “Islamic hands.” Yet for Jews it is different. Apparently, just forty-eight hours after the murder of Jews in a supermarket, it is thought appropriate to lecture Jews on how they are responsible for causing people to hate them.

Even if Wilcox was not attempting to directly justify the attacks, it sounded a lot like he was telling a Jewish woman not to complain about anti-Semitism; doesn’t she know what “Jewish hands” are doing to Palestinians? Whatever Wilcox’s actual agenda here, it reveals an unpleasant undertone present throughout much of the European and liberal media’s attitude to Jews and Jew-hatred.

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One Kumbaya March Can’t Stop Islamism or Cleanse Europe of Jew-Hatred

The spectacle of more than a million people taking to the streets of Paris in protest against the attacks against the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and a kosher market is in and of itself a good thing. The condemnations of Islamist terror from a broad cross-section of French society and the willingness of many world leaders, including some from Arab and Muslim nations, to take part in the event is encouraging to those who have noted with dismay not only the assault on free speech but also the many attacks on Jews in Europe in recent years. This has led some to express the hope that the march will mark a turning point in the struggle against Islamist terror and anti-Semitism in which a unified European continent will somehow reject hatred. But while it would be wrong to react to what is being portrayed by the cable and broadcast networks as a transcendent kumbaya moment with pure cynicism, it is important that no one should think a march can by itself undo the wide support that is given Islamist ideology in the Arab world. Nor should we confuse bromidic statements by leaders with policies that will end the delegitimization of Israel and the Jews.

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The spectacle of more than a million people taking to the streets of Paris in protest against the attacks against the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and a kosher market is in and of itself a good thing. The condemnations of Islamist terror from a broad cross-section of French society and the willingness of many world leaders, including some from Arab and Muslim nations, to take part in the event is encouraging to those who have noted with dismay not only the assault on free speech but also the many attacks on Jews in Europe in recent years. This has led some to express the hope that the march will mark a turning point in the struggle against Islamist terror and anti-Semitism in which a unified European continent will somehow reject hatred. But while it would be wrong to react to what is being portrayed by the cable and broadcast networks as a transcendent kumbaya moment with pure cynicism, it is important that no one should think a march can by itself undo the wide support that is given Islamist ideology in the Arab world. Nor should we confuse bromidic statements by leaders with policies that will end the delegitimization of Israel and the Jews.

The first thing that must be understood about this week’s tragic events is that they must not be viewed in isolation from either the recent history of violent protests and attacks on journalistic outlets by Muslims or the rising tide of anti-Semitism that has swept over Europe. It is comforting for those marching and those reporting the march to pretend as if the Charlie Hebdo and kosher market terrorists were a small, isolated cell of extremists operating outside of the Islamic mainstream. But the large mobs that took to the streets to riot and kill after a Danish newspaper published cartoons that Muslims also thought were offensive in 2004 or the many other instances of similar behavior since then point toward a contrary conclusion. Indeed, the support for Islamist political movements throughout the Middle East who share many of the beliefs of the terrorists makes it obvious that although many, even perhaps a majority of Muslims don’t agree with them, the attackers committed this slaughter in the belief that tens if not hundreds of millions of their co-religionists are prepared to rationalize if not justify their unspeakable acts of barbarism.

Similarly, the decision of the terrorists to target a kosher market on the eve of the Sabbath cannot be taken out of the context of a situation in France and Europe in which Jews have felt themselves under siege. Some have excused the numerous attacks on Jews as the natural reaction to outrage about Israel’s attempts to defend itself against terrorism. But this “new” anti-Semitism is merely a variant on the more traditional forms of Jew hatred that have found new traction because they draw on the hostility of non-Muslim intellectual elites for Israel as well as that of immigrants from the Middle East and the vestiges of pre-Holocaust French anti-Semitism. Long before the slaughter of the past few days, Jewish travelers to France were warned not to dress in a manner that would identify them as Jewish and thus be vulnerable to random street violence, if not worse.

As I wrote on Friday, the primary fear expressed by the media was that there would be a backlash against Muslims. But the Hyper Cacher terror attack illustrated that it was the Jews who had most to fear, not Muslims or Arabs. The fact that the Grand Synagogue in Paris was closed for Sabbath services this week because of fear of more terrorism while the Parisian Great Mosque remained open tells us all we need to know about where the real threat lies.

It would be nice to think a grand gesture such as that of the march or even the very appropriate statements about Jewish security from French leaders would be enough to change things. But history tells us about how adaptable and persistent the virus of anti-Semitism has been. It has morphed from a defining characteristic of the old French religious right to that of fascism to Nazism and then to Communism and now is a fundamental aspect of an Islamist movement that can claim broad support around the world. This deep-seated variant of hate can draw on the sympathy of both the left and right wings of European politics that share the Islamists’ antipathy for Israel and Jewish identity. A Europe where bans of circumcision and kosher slaughter are thinkable and where boycotts of Israel are increasingly popular is not one in which Jew-hatred or Islamism can be waved away with a rhetorical flourish or a mass media event.

Defeating the Islamists will require both Muslims and non-Muslims to acknowledge the religious roots and motivation of the terrorists, something most European leaders as well as President Obama seem incapable of doing. Similarly, pushing anti-Semitism back to the margins of European society will need more than merely social media hastags or a unity march. The ease with which it has been revived only a generation after the Holocaust teaches us that ensuring Jewish security or that of the West will require more than gestures.

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Obama Should Have Called Paris Market Attack What It Is: Anti-Semitism

This week’s bloody events in France have shocked the civilized world. But shock and sadness are not a sufficient response from those entrusted with the responsibility to defend us against Islamist terrorism. That’s why President Obama’s initial statement in response to today’s news was so disappointing. The conspicuous absence of any acknowledgement of the motive of the terrorists or their targets made his remarks empty platitudes rather than a meaningful call for solidarity against a common enemy. The continued refusal of the president to identify Islamist ideology as the foe is undermining efforts to combat this dangerous virus. But the fact that he also failed to label the attack at the Parisian kosher market where four hostages were slaughtered was a case of anti-Semitism sent exactly the wrong signal to a world that is looking to the U.S. for leadership in this struggle and getting precious little of it from this president.

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This week’s bloody events in France have shocked the civilized world. But shock and sadness are not a sufficient response from those entrusted with the responsibility to defend us against Islamist terrorism. That’s why President Obama’s initial statement in response to today’s news was so disappointing. The conspicuous absence of any acknowledgement of the motive of the terrorists or their targets made his remarks empty platitudes rather than a meaningful call for solidarity against a common enemy. The continued refusal of the president to identify Islamist ideology as the foe is undermining efforts to combat this dangerous virus. But the fact that he also failed to label the attack at the Parisian kosher market where four hostages were slaughtered was a case of anti-Semitism sent exactly the wrong signal to a world that is looking to the U.S. for leadership in this struggle and getting precious little of it from this president.

The president did well to express solidarity with France as our oldest ally as well as condemnation of the actions of the terrorists that he characterized as standing for “hatred and suffering.” But the sensible reluctance on the part of Western leaders from casting this conflict as one between all Muslims and the rest of the world is no excuse for his determination to ignore the fact that these crimes are rooted in a form of political Islam that is supported by tens if not hundreds of millions of people around the globe. Pretending that these armed killers are not connected to a worldwide movement, even as information about their connections to such groups continues to trickle out, does nothing to avoid antagonizing those who already hate Western values and culture. It also serves to help unilaterally disarm both Muslims and non-Muslims who understand that we must directly confront the corrupt and evil source of this violence within the spectrum of Islamic belief.

Just as wrongheaded was the president’s conspicuous omission of a mention of anti-Semitism.

As the president well knows, his own State Department has already labeled the increase in incidents of Jew hatred as being part of a “rising tide of anti-Semitism” throughout Europe. This trend can be traced in part to the crude Jew hatred that has become a routine element of the culture of the Muslim and Arab worlds and which has been brought to Europe by immigrants from the Middle East. Though some of this antagonism is a function of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians — a point on which European intellectual elites have made common cause with Islamists — the distinction between traditional anti-Semitism and the new variety that is tied to hostility to the Jewish state is essentially meaningless.

Not mentioning anti-Semitism when Islamist killers specifically seek out Jews to slaughter — as if anyone could possibly believe a terrorist assault on a kosher market in Paris could be mere happenstance — is more than insensitive. It is a sign that this administration does not take the many attacks on French and European Jews seriously. It is also a message to the Muslim world that the United States does not take the issue of anti-Semitic violence seriously. To his credit, French President Francois Hollande did specifically condemn the attack as an act of anti-Semitism, a statement President Obama should have echoed.

In essence, while the president rightly wishes to embrace France, the Jews there are essentially on their own as far as the U.S. is concerned.

This administration has conducted a vigorous campaign of drone attacks on terrorist targets, his eagerness to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan created a void that gave rise to ISIS even as its al-Qaeda rivals were far from destroyed as the president claimed in his re-election campaign. But his appetite for outreach and engagement has also undermined the ability of the U.S. to rally allies against Islamist radicals. His avoidance of anti-Semitism in his comments today sent the same message. More such mistakes can only encourage the very elements that the United States must defeat if it is to protect our freedom and those of other peoples.

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Who’s in Danger? Not Islam. The Jews.

The smoke had not cleared from the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo before many journalists and talking heads were warning us not to focus too much on the Muslim identity of the perpetrators of the massacre. Their main fear was that this latest instance of Islamist terrorism would trigger a wave of Islamophobia. But while the tensions within French society are such that such worries are not entirely unreasonable, those sounding the alarm on this issue clearly missed the obvious. As today’s hostage standoff at a kosher market by what may be an associate of the Charlie Hebdo terrorists made clear, it was the Jews who were the logical next targets of violence. It’s time to remember that when Islamist terrorism is involved, the primary threat is not about a theoretical backlash against Muslims but to a European Jewish population that has increasingly been under siege in recent years.

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The smoke had not cleared from the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo before many journalists and talking heads were warning us not to focus too much on the Muslim identity of the perpetrators of the massacre. Their main fear was that this latest instance of Islamist terrorism would trigger a wave of Islamophobia. But while the tensions within French society are such that such worries are not entirely unreasonable, those sounding the alarm on this issue clearly missed the obvious. As today’s hostage standoff at a kosher market by what may be an associate of the Charlie Hebdo terrorists made clear, it was the Jews who were the logical next targets of violence. It’s time to remember that when Islamist terrorism is involved, the primary threat is not about a theoretical backlash against Muslims but to a European Jewish population that has increasingly been under siege in recent years.

We don’t know all the details about the events that unfolded at the supermarket that took place at the same time as a similar hostage standoff with the two Charlie Hedbo shooters that appears to have ended with their deaths. If, as seems likely now, this terrorist cell chose to target a kosher market on the day before the Sabbath when it would be busiest, their goal was to lash out at people whose existence angers them as much as those who draw cartoons about Muslim topics: Jews.

The discussion since the news broke about the massacre at the satirical magazine has centered on the need to defend free speech against an Islamist movement that seeks to silence opposing views. And as I wrote yesterday, the conflict between a huge and insular Muslim immigrant population and those portions of the French population that are hostile to them put these events in a context that is rife with potential for conflict. We’re also hearing more about the complaints of Muslims about discrimination or marginalization in French society. But what the kosher market attack should remind us is that the population that has felt most at risk in recent years in France is not the inhabitants of Muslim neighborhoods that are reportedly treated by police as “no go zones,” but Jews who openly identify as such.

The rising tide of anti-Semitism throughout Europe and specifically in France was enough to justify its prominent mention in President Francois Hollande’s annual New Year’s Eve speech when he called upon the citizens of France to reject anti-Semitism. Those words were a reaction to a situation in which attacks on Jewish institutions and harassment of Jewish individuals have become routine even in Paris. This is not just a function of violent protests against Israel during last summer’s Gaza war that led to many incidents, including a siege of a Parisian synagogue by a mob. This also involves routine behavior. Jewish travelers to France are told not to wear headgear or jewelry that identifies them as Jews lest they make themselves vulnerable to attacks.

What the attack on the market makes plain is that while Islamist terrorists seek high-profile targets like Charlie Hebdo in order to silence those who criticize radical Islam, they are always going to return to their favorite Jewish scapegoats and victims.

Islamists seek to destroy Western freedoms throughout the world. But integral to their worldview is an equal intolerance for Jews. The hatred for Jews and Israel emanating from radical Islamist preachers and ideologues in the Middle East has been brought to Europe by Muslim immigrants and found a secure foothold there. Combined with the disdain for Israel that is a hallmark of leftist intellectual elites, it has created a toxic atmosphere for Jews throughout Europe in recent years. That is the background for the increasing number of violent attacks on Jews throughout the continent.

No one should blame innocent Muslims for the actions of these terrorists or seek to speak of this conflict as one between all Muslims and the West. But the real danger in Europe is not to Muslims but to a small and increasingly vulnerable Jewish population. What happened to the hostages at the market was not an isolated event but one that must be viewed as an extension of years of assaults on European Jews. A proper response to these events can’t be limited to expressions of grief about the victims or even just to support for free speech. History teaches us that when it comes to hate, Jews are the canaries in the coalmine. If Jews cannot live freely without fear of attack on the streets of the City of Light, then everyone is at risk. Stopping Islamist terror must also mean addressing the way Jew-hatred has become acceptable in European society.

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