Commentary Magazine


Topic: France

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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France’s Impressive Counterterrorist Operation

If early reports are accurate, the GIGN (National Gendarmerie Intervention Group) pulled off a an impressive counterterrorist success in Paris today, even if it wasn’t as impressive as initially reported. Its commandos raided simultaneously two locations where a total of four jihadists–two of them the perpetrators of the horrific Charlie Hebdo massacre–were holed up with hostages. Apparently they killed three terrorists, while one female accomplice escaped. Sadly, early reports that all of the hostages were freed turned out to be premature; news soon arrived that a number of those held a kosher supermarket had been killed.

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If early reports are accurate, the GIGN (National Gendarmerie Intervention Group) pulled off a an impressive counterterrorist success in Paris today, even if it wasn’t as impressive as initially reported. Its commandos raided simultaneously two locations where a total of four jihadists–two of them the perpetrators of the horrific Charlie Hebdo massacre–were holed up with hostages. Apparently they killed three terrorists, while one female accomplice escaped. Sadly, early reports that all of the hostages were freed turned out to be premature; news soon arrived that a number of those held a kosher supermarket had been killed.

Sadly it is much harder to free hostages safely in real life than it is in the “reel life” of the movies and TV–especially when the hostage takers are fanatics seeking martyrdom. Under such circumstances the French forces did the best they could. It’s doubtful that any of the world’s other premier counterterrorist forces–notably SEAL Team Six, Delta Force, the British SAS, the German GSG-9, and the Israeli Sayeret Matkal–could have done any better. And others, notably the Russians, probably would have done much worse–their disregard for human life has become notorious.

The French certainly showed no lack of elan or aggressiveness. The French operators not only killed three terrorists but also the myth of France as a land of “cheese-eating surrender monkeys”–a cruel and crude stereotype born in 1940 when Hitler’s panzers overran the entire country in a few weeks and confirmed, in the minds of some Americans, when France refused to join the Iraq invasion in 2003. This rather ignores some salient facts, including the fact that France showed no surrender while fighting in Indochina and Algeria in the 1940s-’50s. Although France lost those wars, its warriors fought with as much heroism as any army in the world. Indeed, it is worth recalling that prior to 1940, France was a byword for military glory stretching all the way back to the days of Louis XIV and Napoleon.

More to the point, and more recently, France has emerged as a stalwart in the war on terror. As far back as 2008, Gary Schmitt and Reuel Gerecht were calling France “Europe’s counterterrorist powerhouse” because of the success that aggressive French intelligence and security agencies have had in stopping terror attacks and tracking down their culprits after they occur. France has also taken the lead in fighting jihadists in Mali and it has been more aggressive in urging action in Syria than the U.S. The French, along with the British, are the Europeans who spend most on defense and are most willing to risk casualties abroad. They are among the most valuable partners that American armed forces can have in a place like Afghanistan.

The French record is, to be sure, somewhat stained by the fact that terrorist attacks keep occurring on its soil, albeit with far fewer casualties than atrocities that have been perpetrated in the U.S., Spain, and Britain. The Charlie Hebdo killing is only the latest example–and in this case the French security forces have some explaining to do because they had been monitoring the Kouachi brothers who carried out the assault. Said Kouachi had previously traveled to Yemen apparently to be trained by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula while Cherif Kouachi had been detained in 2005 before he set off to Iraq with the intention of fighting U.S. troops.

The fact that the Kouachis were not stopped before the Charlie Hebdo massacre is a failing that needs to be investigated, but it must be put into a larger context: France has a large, aggrieved Muslim minority that is ripe for terrorist recruitment. The security forces are doing their best, but they will never have complete success–and they will always be hamstrung by the larger failure of French society to better assimilate this immigrant underclass.

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Paris Terror and the Flawed “Yemen Model”

Back in September, when President Obama was announcing his strategy for coping with ISIS in Iraq and Syria, he eschewed sending U.S. combat troops. Instead, he said, “This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”

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Back in September, when President Obama was announcing his strategy for coping with ISIS in Iraq and Syria, he eschewed sending U.S. combat troops. Instead, he said, “This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”

This caused many commentators, including me, to do a double take. As I wrote at the time, “The president’s analogy to Somalia and Yemen is not an encouraging one. Obama may be one of the few people around who thinks that the U.S. has achieved so much success in those countries that it is a model worth emulating.”

Now the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris brings further evidence of how flawed the Yemen model actually is. Considerable evidence has emerged of links between al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the gunmen who murdered 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo offices. Said Kouachi, one of the two brothers involved, was said to have visited Yemen in 2011 for training, and before launching the assault either he or his brother told bystanders, “Tell the media we are Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”

It is still unknown whether the actual operation was directed from Yemen, but it was at least inspired from there–a word I use advisedly because a recent issue Inspire, the AQAP glossy magazine, had listed Charlie Hebdo’s now-deceased editor, Stephane Charbonnier, on its hit list of foreigners who supposedly insult Islam. The headline on the article: “A Bullet a Day Keeps the Infidel Away — Defend the Prophet Mohammed.” Mercifully, the Kouachi brothers are now said to have been killed by French police but the problems besetting Yemen will not be eliminated so quickly or easily.

AQAP is actually only one of the major problems undermining the “Yemen model.” The other major problem is the Houthis, a terrorist group whose members are Zaydis (a Shiite offshoot). They are supported by Iran’s Quds Force. They are making major territorial gains as well, coming close to controlling the entire state even if they don’t control all of its territory. Yemen, in fact, is coming apart at the seams in the same sort of violence between Shiite and Sunni extremists which has also devastated Syria and Iraq.

And what is the U.S. doing about it? For years U.S. Special Operations Forces and the CIA have maintained a small, below-the-radar presence in Yemen, working to train government security forces and to carry out drone strikes on terrorist suspects such as Anwar al-Awlaki, the AQAP ideologue who was killed by a Hellfire missile in 2011.

Such isolated, pinprick strikes may be necessary in the war on terror but they are hardly sufficient. They have not turned the tide in Yemen, nor will they do so in Iraq and Syria. A much more substantial effort is needed, as some of us have been arguing for some time.

In this Policy Innovation Memorandum released by the Council on Foreign Relations in November, for example, I laid out the steps needed to defeat ISIS which involve, inter alia, relaxing the restrictions on U.S. “boots on the ground” and doing much more to mobilize the Sunni tribes. The overarching need is for the Obama administration to end its flirtation with Iran which only alarms Sunnis throughout the region and drives them into the arms of extremists such as AQAP and ISIS. Sunnis must be offered a political endstate that will mobilize them to fight–and that hasn’t happened so far.

Until the Obama administration steps up its game, alas, jihadist groups of both Sunni and Shiite ilk will continue advancing, making further mockery of the “Yemen model” for fighting terrorists.

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Sisi, Charlie Hebdo, and the Search for an Islamic Turning Point

On Tuesday, FDD’s Michael Ledeen noticed that the media were not covering what seemed like an important story: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s speech to Cairo’s famed Al-Azhar University on Islam. The speaker and the venue were made all the more significant because of the content of the speech. Sisi castigated the assembled Islamic leaders, and by extension their global co-religionists, for breeding an extreme and intolerant Islam. The tragic events in Paris yesterday only reinforce the substance of Sisi’s message.

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On Tuesday, FDD’s Michael Ledeen noticed that the media were not covering what seemed like an important story: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s speech to Cairo’s famed Al-Azhar University on Islam. The speaker and the venue were made all the more significant because of the content of the speech. Sisi castigated the assembled Islamic leaders, and by extension their global co-religionists, for breeding an extreme and intolerant Islam. The tragic events in Paris yesterday only reinforce the substance of Sisi’s message.

The lack of coverage of Sisi’s speech was such that Ledeen found himself having lunch “with three gentlemen who are very well read, who follow the news attentively, and who would shudder to think they are victims of ideological censorship. Yet not one of them — and the trio includes a very famous former reporter (a first-class reporter at that) for one of the country’s top newspapers — had heard a word about” the speech. “All three watch TV news and read the leading dailies, so they were surprised that they hadn’t heard about it. They agreed that the story warranted banner headlines. World-wide.”

That lack of coverage–perhaps censorship is too strong a word to describe it, but it comes close–is also given new significance by the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s Paris office in which Islamist terrorists murdered twelve for the sin of insulting Mohammed. The resulting self-censorship, at a time when basic fortitude was called for, is a crucial part of the story. The scourge of political correctness cannot be held blameless for the media’s decision to ignore Sisi’s criticism of Islamic extremism.

According to Raymond Ibrahim, who provided a translation from Michele Antaki, Sisi said:

I am referring here to the religious clerics.   We have to think hard about what we are facing—and I have, in fact, addressed this topic a couple of times before.  It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world.  Impossible!

That thinking—I am not saying “religion” but “thinking”—that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world.  It’s antagonizing the entire world!

Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live? Impossible!

I am saying these words here at Al Azhar, before this assembly of scholars and ulema—Allah Almighty be witness to your truth on Judgment Day concerning that which I’m talking about now.

He added that Muslim clerics needed to approach Islam “from a more enlightened perspective”–a term likely chosen very carefully, and quite daringly–and that this necessitates a “religious revolution.”

So what is Sisi up to? Part of it, surely, is that he hopes his words are heeded. This is not an unselfish gesture: he wants his enemies, like the Muslim Brotherhood and their even more extreme allies and offshoots (including Hamas in Gaza, right on Egypt’s border), to do some of his work for him by tempering their own passions. It is dangerous for Sisi to say what he said, but he is already a marked man. I imagine he ran an improvised cost-benefit analysis in his head and decided, probably correctly, that the Hail Mary (forgive the analogy) was worth it.

Another explanation is the role terrorism plays in forging alliances. We saw one example at the end of December when an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian UN Security Council resolution was on track to pass (though it likely would have been vetoed by the U.S.), its momentum helped by a yes-vote from France. But the resolution failed when Nigeria surprised even the Israelis and voted against the Palestinian resolution. Nigeria’s struggle against Boko Haram reportedly was a factor:

Part of the change stemmed from the tightening relationship between Israel and Nigeria and from the common interests of the countries in the fight against global terrorism. Israel was one of the first nations in the world to offer the Nigerians help in the struggle against the Boko Haram terrorist group.

Sisi is looking abroad, especially to the West. Since the army’s coup deposed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi and handed Sisi the reins, and especially since Sisi’s violent crackdown on the Brotherhood and dissent more broadly following the coup, Sisi has not exactly been embraced by Western governments made doubly uneasy by military coups and by being seen as taking a stand against Islamists. Appeasement and capitulation are the trend among the Western left, though as France is learning this appeasement is not earning them any goodwill among Islamists.

And Sisi is also trying to get his house in some order. As long as ethnic and religious minorities will be violently persecuted by Egypt’s Muslim establishment and Brotherhood networks, the country will be an economic basket case. Sisi also cannot claim to stand with the West while allowing his country to be part of the bloody global war on Christians currently engulfing the Middle East and Central Asia most violently of all. That’s probably why Sisi made another historic gesture: he became the first Egyptian president to attend a Coptic Christmas mass.

Whatever the reasons for the speech and whatever its outcome, the brutal terrorist assault on Charlie Hebdo is just the latest proof of the fact that Sisi at least has the virtue of being right.

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Does CAIR Understand What “Free Speech” Means?

In the wake of yesterday’s horrific attack on French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an Islamic advocacy organization with somewhat extreme predilections, released a statement condemning the attack, while taking a few swipes at the victims:

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In the wake of yesterday’s horrific attack on French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an Islamic advocacy organization with somewhat extreme predilections, released a statement condemning the attack, while taking a few swipes at the victims:

We strongly condemn this brutal and cowardly attack and reiterate our repudiation of any such assault on freedom of speech, even speech that mocks faiths and religious figures. The proper response to such attacks on the freedoms we hold dear is not to vilify any faith, but instead to marginalize extremists of all backgrounds who seek to stifle freedom and to create or widen societal divisions.

It’s interesting to see CAIR condemn “any such assault on freedom of speech,” given its own activities doing just that.

Here, for example, is a letter the group posted on its website. It begins, “The Catholic Diocese of Sacramento acted wisely in canceling Robert Spencer’s speaking engagement on church property.” Hmm, they’re not calling for Spencer’s murder, but it sure seems that CAIR prefers to silence voices it dislikes rather than respect their right to free speech.

Here’s another press release from CAIR, which begins, “The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today thanked a prominent New York law firm for its decision to cancel an event featuring Robert Spencer….” Again, what a triumph for CAIR’s embrace of free speech. And these are not the only examples.

Now, I share with CAIR many differences with some of the speakers and other speakers I reserve judgment on because I have never heard of them. But, it sure seems that an organization which claims to defend free speech spends a major amount of time trying to limit it. And while some of CAIR’s targets are controversial and polemical, it seems a bit hypocritical for CAIR to hold itself up as a guardian of altruism against the forces of racism when the U.S. Justice Department has labeled CAIR a co-conspirator in a scheme to fund Hamas, a group whose charter openly seeks genocide.

When it comes to embracing free speech and understanding the importance of the marketplace of ideas, CAIR’s mendacity seems part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

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A Big Day for Craven Self-Censorship

One of the strangest reactions to today’s horrific terror attack in Paris has been the Western media’s collective freakout resulting in news organizations making a point of censoring their own work. I don’t mean having a policy of not showing certain images, although that’s part of the dispiriting response. But some news organizations seemed to have gone out of their way in order to demonstrate self-censorship. The result is major English-language media–organizations that are about as visible as it gets–trying to delete their own digital footprint.

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One of the strangest reactions to today’s horrific terror attack in Paris has been the Western media’s collective freakout resulting in news organizations making a point of censoring their own work. I don’t mean having a policy of not showing certain images, although that’s part of the dispiriting response. But some news organizations seemed to have gone out of their way in order to demonstrate self-censorship. The result is major English-language media–organizations that are about as visible as it gets–trying to delete their own digital footprint.

Now, I don’t subscribe to the notion that all visual media must show the offending Charlie Hebdo cartoons that were at the center of Islamist terror today. I don’t really think freedom of the press means we should bully newspapers and magazines into publishing something. They should be permitted, of course, to offend: that’s press freedom. But they don’t have a responsibility to offend just because we want them to. That said, there was a bizarre trend today in which media organs seemed to go out of their way to show the world that they were censoring the very images that were rallying the West to France’s side, even (or especially) when no one would have noticed if they hadn’t.

The best examples of this are what the New York Daily News did, which mirrored what the UK Telegraph did. After twelve people were killed in the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices, with the murderers reportedly yelling that Muhammad had been “avenged” by the attack, the Telegraph posted a photo in which a copy of the paper appeared but blurred the “offensive” part of the cover. Why post the photo at all other than as some kind of preemptive and desperate capitulation?

The Daily News did the same, in an especially undignified manner. The paper ran a picture (still up as I write this, at this link) of Charlie Hebdo editor Stéphane Charbonnier (known as Charb), who was killed in the attack. The photo shows Charb outside the wreckage of Charlie Hebdo’s offices after they were firebombed in 2011. Charb is holding up a copy of the paper, which the Daily News blurred. The symbolism of that particular picture, with the blurred cover, is perfectly on the nose.

Other preemptive self-censorship followed, usually after the discovery of just regular old self-censorship. In a roundup of censorship, Rosie Gray revealed that the Associated Press was removing photos from its library showing Charlie Hebdo covers that satirized Muhammad. The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney posted that despite this censorship, the AP was still selling its photo of “Piss Christ.” Soon after that, the AP took that photo down as well.

That latter move is actually somewhat insulting to Christians, though they don’t need me to register outrage on their behalf or presume to know how they should react. But it strikes me as creating the impression of a false equivalence: they don’t have to censor images like that because Christians won’t take up violence against them. Their censorship of images critical of Islam is to prevent the very real threat of Muslim violence in response to speech.

So taking down “Piss Christ” suggests one of two narratives, both false. One, that there is a threat of violence from Christians in some way equal to the threat of violence from Muslims. Two, that Christians desire censorship of images they find offensive. The former is less damaging because it’s patently ridiculous: there is no threat of Christian violence for blasphemy in the media. The latter is more damaging, potentially: it reverses what Christian objectors actually wanted today, which was, by and large, less censorship of all things instead of equal censorship across the board.

Christians are not campaigning for the end of free speech in the West, and yet the AP acts as though they are. That’s deeply dishonest, and completely misses the point when Christians complain of the double standard. That’s why I used the word “freakout” earlier to describe the media’s behavior. The Associated Press appears to have lost its collective mind.

One bright spot in all this darkness is the behavior of the French public. They are pouring into the street to proclaim they are “not afraid” and the pictures are compelling. At one rally, they projected the cover of Charlie Hebdo onto a monument in the center of the gathering. The media should look carefully at it: they might notice it’s not been blurred, and neither has the message they’re sending.

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We Must Stand with the Satirists

One thing that unites totalitarians, and would-be totalitarians, it seems, is a lack of a sense of humor. Hitler hated The Great Dictator. Kim Jong-un hates The Interview. And Islamist fanatics hate Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper known for making light of ISIS and others of their ilk. By contrast great democratic leaders such as Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan have been renowned for their humor.

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One thing that unites totalitarians, and would-be totalitarians, it seems, is a lack of a sense of humor. Hitler hated The Great Dictator. Kim Jong-un hates The Interview. And Islamist fanatics hate Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper known for making light of ISIS and others of their ilk. By contrast great democratic leaders such as Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan have been renowned for their humor.

As Reuters notes, “From publishing the Danish cartoons of Mohammad that sparked Middle East riots in 2005 to renaming an edition ‘Sharia Hebdo’ and listing Islam’s prophet as its supposed editor-in-chief, the weekly has repeatedly caricatured Muslims and their beliefs.”

Granted, many of Charlie Hebdo’s offerings were in poor taste–and not only it mockery at the expense of Islam. It has also been scathing in its denunciations of the Catholic Church. Likewise The Interview was in many ways a risible flick that intersperses stupid penis and buttocks jokes amid its mockery of North Korea.

But it is vitally important to resist the impulse–so common among “responsible” institutions, whether foreign ministries or large newspapers–at a time like this to somehow imply that the victims brought their fate upon themselves and that the best line of defense against such attacks is to practice greater self-restraint in the future. The Financial Times, for example, is a great newspaper but it is inappropriate, on today of all days, for it to be calling Charlie Hebdo “stupid” for offending (some) Muslims. That is giving the terrorists precisely what they want, indeed the very reason they carry out such attacks is to deter others from similar mockery in the future.

The right to offend is the very essence of free speech–and as long as a publication doesn’t incite violence (which neither Charlie Hebdo nor The Interview did) its right to say whatever it likes must be defended to the last inch. That is, after all, the very bedrock of freedom upon which Western democracies rest–and the very opposite of the kind of totalitarian state that Islamists have created in Iran and a large chunk of Syria/Iraq.

At a time like this there is not much more to say than “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie)–the lone message carried today on Charlie Hebdo‘s website. We must all stand with the satirists, however tasteless, lest we find “serious” political commentary becomes the next target of the haters and killers.

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A French Intifada?

The footage that is emerging from today’s terror attack in Paris—some of the most graphic now being circulated over social media—shows a gun battle on a Parisian street that conjures the impression of a warzone. We see masked men, dressed entirely in black, carrying assault rifles and then executing a police officer as he lies injured on the ground. In all twelve have been killed, two police and ten journalists of the small satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which some years ago published a cartoon of Muhammad. Naturally, then, there are those who are already approaching this event as a question about freedom of the press. Back in 2011 when the offices of Charlie Hebdo were firebombed, it was primarily an issue of free speech. But now, given the nature of this attack, and the fact that it comes alongside a spate of other Islamist attacks in France, if matters go much further then these risk being the early rumblings of a French intifada.

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The footage that is emerging from today’s terror attack in Paris—some of the most graphic now being circulated over social media—shows a gun battle on a Parisian street that conjures the impression of a warzone. We see masked men, dressed entirely in black, carrying assault rifles and then executing a police officer as he lies injured on the ground. In all twelve have been killed, two police and ten journalists of the small satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which some years ago published a cartoon of Muhammad. Naturally, then, there are those who are already approaching this event as a question about freedom of the press. Back in 2011 when the offices of Charlie Hebdo were firebombed, it was primarily an issue of free speech. But now, given the nature of this attack, and the fact that it comes alongside a spate of other Islamist attacks in France, if matters go much further then these risk being the early rumblings of a French intifada.

Some have speculated that those who carried out today’s attack were in some way affiliated with (or inspired by) ISIS. The last piece tweeted out by the magazine was a cartoon of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. An eyewitness, however, has reported that the men claimed to be from al-Qaeda. Either way, this attack has now put much of Paris on lockdown and France has gone into its highest state of alert while those who carried out the attack remain at large. The fear is that they will be seeking to go down in a gunfight with the police, or worse still in some kind of explosion as jihadists have been known to do in other attacks.

Even before today’s incident France was already on edge given a series of attacks in the run-up to Christmas. In both Dijon and Nantes Islamic radicals had driven vehicles into shoppers at Christmas markets, while in Tours police were attacked by a man brandishing a knife. Similarly, Islamic radicals and others from France’s large Muslim population have also targeted the Jewish community as anti-Semitism in France has skyrocketed. Synagogues and Jewish businesses have been attacked in recent months, with riots in Paris this summer seeing Jews being forced to barricade themselves into a synagogue. And in addition to the 2012 shooting at the Jewish school in Toulouse, it was a French jihadist who carried out the attack on the Brussels Jewish museum last May.

This move from attacks on the Jews to attacks on others, not least those representing liberal Western values such as Charlie Hebdo, is hardly surprising. But France has for some time now been grappling with the problem of Islamic radicalism and the unassimilated and disaffected parts of its Muslim population. In the fall of 2005 Parisian housing projects and other French cities were subjected to several days and nights of intense rioting by immigrants, something that began to be referred to as “the French Intifada.”

However, Europeans also have to be wary about the backlash against Islamic radicalism that is mounting from the far-right. In France the only somewhat moderated National Front is making significant gains at the ballot box. Meanwhile, in Germany a new anti-Islamist mass movement is emerging, with 18,000 marching in Dresden earlier this week. Yet there are serious concerns about the extent to which this movement may already be associated with violent fascistic and neo-Nazi tendencies. An open confrontation between such groups and Islamists could lead to an intifada scenario on the streets of Europe.

After today’s attack in Paris we are once again left wondering what kind of strategy Western leaders really have for confronting any of this. In the past the debate about mass immigration and about how to assimilate immigrants was all but shut down among shrieks about racism. Similarly, more recent discussions about how to deal with Islamic extremism have quickly descended into such accusations. Indeed, for so many Western leaders, the main takeaway from such attacks seems to be to keep emphasizing that Islam is a religion of peace, while the left-wing media scolds the public for supposedly causing Islamic extremism through its latent Islamophobia.

In August a poll suggested that 16 percent of French citizens have sympathies for ISIS and it is thought that well over 800 French nationals are currently overseas fighting for that group. But France also has to worry about the extremists who stay at home. For as today’s attack has shown, heightened security can only do so much, and for now it appears there are no serious proposals for what is to be done about those French Muslims who seem increasingly hostile to the surrounding society.

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A Consequential Terror Attack in Paris

The U.S. has 9/11. Spain has 11-M (the March 11, 2004, bombings of the Madrid commuter trains which killed 191). Britain has 7/7 (a reference to the July 7, 2005 bombings which killed 52 people taking public transportation in London). And now, on a slightly smaller but still horrific scale, France has 1/7: the assault by three masked gunmen on the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, which left 12 people dead.

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The U.S. has 9/11. Spain has 11-M (the March 11, 2004, bombings of the Madrid commuter trains which killed 191). Britain has 7/7 (a reference to the July 7, 2005 bombings which killed 52 people taking public transportation in London). And now, on a slightly smaller but still horrific scale, France has 1/7: the assault by three masked gunmen on the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, which left 12 people dead.

What all of these events have in common is, of course, the Islamist ideology which animated the killers–a ruthless willingness to kill the innocent in pursuit of far-fetched religious and political objectives. In all three cases jihadist fanatics saw Western nations, whether the U.S., Britain, or France, as obstacles to their designs–and understandably so, because all three back moderate regimes in the Middle East and have intervened with their own armed forces to fight the forces of terrorism, whether in Mali, Iraq, or Afghanistan.

Of these attacks, only one–9/11–so far has been proven to have been directed by a terrorist organization based abroad: al-Qaeda, which at the time enjoyed sanctuary in Afghanistan. There were rumored links between the 7/7 bombers–mostly children of Pakistani immigrants–and the al-Qaeda organization, by then based in Pakistan, but nothing was ever proven. Likewise rumors of links between the Spanish bombers and al-Qaeda or its North African affiliates were not proven. We will have to wait to find out if the 1/7 attackers had direct links to a terrorist organization such as al-Qaeda or ISIS (there are unverified reports that they were connected to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) or whether they were a self-radicalized cell acting on their own initiative.

Whether the 7/7 attackers were in touch with terrorist organizations abroad or not, their actions did not need much planning or coordination, unlike the intricately choreographed attack in 2001 on American passenger aircraft. Indeed it is a wonder that we have not seen more such assaults, especially in the U.S., given the prevalence of massacres by deranged gunmen from Aurora, Colorado, to Newtown, Connecticut. France, for its part, has seen a spate of low-level “lone wolf” attacks in recent weeks, with attackers driving their cars into crowds or attacking police officers with a knife.

Part of the explanation may lie in the greater success that the U.S. has had in assimilating immigrants–there is not a large underclass of resentful Muslim immigrants in this country as there is in Britain, France, and other European countries. But it doesn’t take many fanatics to carry out a terrorist attack and our air of complacency might well have been punctured if the 2010 car bombing of Times Square by a Pakistani immigrant had gone off as planned.

Beyond the need to assimilate immigrants such attacks point to the need to monitor extremist organizations. There has been much controversy in both the U.S. and Europe about the actions of the NSA, but its eavesdropping is the first line of defense–indeed in many ways the best line of defense–against such attacks. The same goes for the much-maligned New York Police Department whose now-disbanded Demographics Unit infiltrated the Muslim community with undercover officers to be alert to extremist activity.

Such intelligence-gathering, especially in the domestic sphere, raises civil-liberties hackles and there is no question that such activities can lead to abuses, as occurred decades ago with the FBI’s Cointelpro intelligence gathering against antiwar activists and civil-rights activists. But, if carefully regulated (as is the case with the NSA and NYPD, from all accounts) such programs are necessary not only to ward off the murder of innocents but the far greater violations of civil liberties that are likely to come after a successful major terrorist attack.

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Writing a Better UN Resolution Won’t Work

European and American diplomats have spent the last week locked in negotiations with representatives of the Palestinian Authority over a draft resolution that may be presented tomorrow to the United Nations Security Council. The measure will be an attempt to get UN recognition for a Palestinian state in the lands taken by Israel in the Six-Day War and to force the Jewish state to accept this diktat. But the effort expended trying to modify the resolution so as to make it a genuine step toward peace is a waste of time. If the Palestinians wanted to negotiate peace with Israel, the conflict would have ended a long time ago. The purpose of this exercise is not to jumpstart negotiations; the purpose is to help the Palestinians avoid them while placing intolerable pressure on Israel to make dangerous concessions.

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European and American diplomats have spent the last week locked in negotiations with representatives of the Palestinian Authority over a draft resolution that may be presented tomorrow to the United Nations Security Council. The measure will be an attempt to get UN recognition for a Palestinian state in the lands taken by Israel in the Six-Day War and to force the Jewish state to accept this diktat. But the effort expended trying to modify the resolution so as to make it a genuine step toward peace is a waste of time. If the Palestinians wanted to negotiate peace with Israel, the conflict would have ended a long time ago. The purpose of this exercise is not to jumpstart negotiations; the purpose is to help the Palestinians avoid them while placing intolerable pressure on Israel to make dangerous concessions.

In theory, the work of the Americans and the Europeans, especially the French, after whom the current draft is being called, is laudable. Knowing that the Palestinians intend to push hard for a resolution at the Security Council, the diplomats have reacted instinctively and sought to create a draft that will do as little harm as possible. In practice that means they have tried to include language that would call for the parties to recognize each other and even hinted at a text that would recognize in some way that Israel is a Jewish state. They’ve also sought to make it require the two sides to negotiate peace before Israel would be forced to withdraw to the 1967 lines and allow a sovereign Palestinian state to be created in the West Bank and part of Jerusalem.

On the surface, that sounds fair to most people. After all, Israel’s position all along has been that it is willing, even eager to negotiate peace with the Palestinians and even the supposedly “hard line” Netanyahu government has said that it was willing to accept a two-state solution. But contrary to the conventional wisdom of the mainstream media, it has never been Israel or Netanyahu that was the obstacle to negotiations or peace. The Palestinians turned down Israeli offers of peace and statehood including Gaza almost all of the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem in 2000, 2001, and 2008 and blew up the talks with Netanyahu last year because PA leader Mahmoud Abbas feared being put in a position where he would have to either accept an accord or formally turn it down.

What Abbas wants is to avoid being put in such a difficult position again. That is why he has undertaken an end-run around the peace negotiations sponsored by the U.S. The purpose of the stunt is not to jumpstart more talks but to avoid them altogether.

The point is, even if the draft produced by the French and the Obama administration were to include language about mutual recognition of “Palestine” and a specifically Jewish state of Israel and stating that a withdrawal from the West Bank and Jerusalem would have to be preceded by talks between the parties, that wouldn’t motivate the Palestinians to negotiate peace. Indeed, once they have the force of a UN resolution mandating Israel’s complete withdrawal from the territories they would be officially absolved of any need to talk. They would then merely sit back and wait until the two-year deadline expired and then demand, with the support of the rest of a world that is irredeemably hostile to Israel, a complete Israeli withdrawal from all of the land including Jerusalem without paying for any of it in terms of mutual recognition, security guarantees, or any real assurance that they are prepared to end the conflict.

The reason why this is not an abstract point is that Palestinian nationalism remains inextricably tied to a war against Zionism that has lasted more than a century. Abbas, the supposed moderate, remains adamantly opposed to recognition of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn and continues to speak of a “right of return”—a measure that is synonymous with Israel’s destruction. Meanwhile his erstwhile partners/rivals, the Hamas terrorist group that operates an independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza, remain wedded not merely to the principle of Israel’s destruction but to waging active war upon it.

A Security Council resolution that will have the effect of binding international law will not merely further stiffen the resistance of either Hamas or Abbas’s Fatah to making the sort of concessions that are required for peace; it will embolden them never to do so. Indeed, that is why the wording of the final text doesn’t matter. So long as it contains language that demands that Israel withdraw from all of the land, there will be nothing to negotiate about. The Palestinians will simply demand everything and unless it is prepared to repeat the experiment of the Gaza withdrawal in the West Bank, Israel must say no and face mounting international isolation.

This may please some Americans, including the Obama foreign-policy team, which has always sought to pressure the Israelis into wholesale withdrawals regardless of the consequences for its security or its rights to what is disputed territory. But such a resolution is a guarantee that not only is peace impossible but that the process the U.S. has worked so hard to revive will be dead as well.

That is why the Obama administration should cease wasting time negotiating with the French over the language of the resolution and instead concentrate on ensuring that it does not get the nine voters in the Council that would force a vote. If it does come to a vote, the U.S. must, regardless of President Obama’s antipathy for Netanyahu, veto it. The alternative is the end of any hope for peace as well as of any U.S. influence over events.

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Why Do States Choose to Kill Dissidents in Paris?

Over the past couple days, I have been in Brussels to attend and speak at a conference addressing the challenges Turkey and the Kurds pose to the European Union. One speaker, French lawyer Antoine Comte, provided an update into the investigation concerning the murders almost two years ago of Sakine Cansiz, a co-founder of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), as well as Kurdish activists Fidan Doğan and Leyla Söylemez, shot dead in their office in Paris. He noted the long history of political assassinations in Paris. In 1965, Moroccan dissident Mehdi Ben Barka disappeared in Paris, allegedly killed by the Moroccan security services. And a few years later, Chadian dictator François Tombalbaye apparently had exiled politician Outel Bono killed in Paris. According to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, the Islamic Republic has assassinated at least 11 dissidents in Paris. Algerian, Syrian, Palestinian, South African, and Basque activists, politicians, and terrorists have all been killed in Paris.

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Over the past couple days, I have been in Brussels to attend and speak at a conference addressing the challenges Turkey and the Kurds pose to the European Union. One speaker, French lawyer Antoine Comte, provided an update into the investigation concerning the murders almost two years ago of Sakine Cansiz, a co-founder of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), as well as Kurdish activists Fidan Doğan and Leyla Söylemez, shot dead in their office in Paris. He noted the long history of political assassinations in Paris. In 1965, Moroccan dissident Mehdi Ben Barka disappeared in Paris, allegedly killed by the Moroccan security services. And a few years later, Chadian dictator François Tombalbaye apparently had exiled politician Outel Bono killed in Paris. According to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, the Islamic Republic has assassinated at least 11 dissidents in Paris. Algerian, Syrian, Palestinian, South African, and Basque activists, politicians, and terrorists have all been killed in Paris.

Back to Cansiz, Doğan, and Söylemez: At the time, I speculated the Iran might have been responsible. The preponderance of evidence which has emerged since the murders, however, makes it pretty clear I was wrong, and that Turkey’s security service was to blame. The most damning evidence is a leaked, ten-minute conversation in which the alleged assassin discusses the mission and targets with members of the Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı (MIT), Turkey’s intelligence service. In addition, a leaked MIT document (consistent with MIT paper stock including watermarks) corroborates those who allege MIT complicity. The French daily Le Monde summarizes the allegations.

The French government, however, has gone silent on its investigation and the French Interior Ministry appears to be stopping its investigation so as not to antagonize the Turkish government. After all, should Paris pursue an investigation that might antagonize Ankara, contracts could be at risk. Alas, with France, the same story repeats.

And it will keep repeating—with Paris being ground zero for murders of dissidents and political opposition—until the French government recognizes that putting its own commercial interests above the rule of law makes it not a dream destination for honeymooners but rather a playground for regimes seeking to quiet their oppositions. Rather than deep-six the investigation into the three Kurdish activists, it is long past time for the French government to pursue the investigation quickly and publicly, wherever it may lead and whomever it might implicate.

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Symbolic Votes and Anti-Semitic Incitement

Yesterday the French parliament voted to recognize the nonexistent state of Palestine in a nonbinding move, in keeping with France’s firm commitment to base its foreign policy on delusions, appeasement, and surrender at the first sign of trouble. My initial instinct was to dismiss it, both because of France’s general irrelevance to the defense of the free world and because of its symbolic nature. But I was wrong to do so. In fact, the symbolic nature of France’s action is precisely what makes it so deadly, so dangerous, and so utterly indefensible.

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Yesterday the French parliament voted to recognize the nonexistent state of Palestine in a nonbinding move, in keeping with France’s firm commitment to base its foreign policy on delusions, appeasement, and surrender at the first sign of trouble. My initial instinct was to dismiss it, both because of France’s general irrelevance to the defense of the free world and because of its symbolic nature. But I was wrong to do so. In fact, the symbolic nature of France’s action is precisely what makes it so deadly, so dangerous, and so utterly indefensible.

What specifically changed my mind was the story accompanying this headline in the Algemeiner yesterday: “Paris Jewish Community in Shock Over Rape, Home Invasion ‘Because You Are Jews’.” On Monday, anti-Semitic thugs robbed a Jewish family in a Paris suburb and raped the 19-year-old woman, telling them it was because they were Jewish. I was far from alone in making the connection between the two stories–not because one caused the other (the vote happened after the rape) but because it makes clear the French government has no interest in protecting its Jews and no intention of combating–when it isn’t promoting it itself–the anti-Semitism that courses through the blood of French society.

The barbaric has become the prosaic in France today, and the parliamentary vote on “Palestine” is a good indication of why that is and will continue to be the case. Of course such votes against Israel are not victimless crimes, since Israel does suffer in the court of world opinion and subsequently at home: two more Israelis were stabbed today by an Arab terrorist who knows the world won’t muster outrage at the targeting of Jews simply for being Jews. After all, that’s how it is Western Europe today.

Yet aside from the impact on Israel’s diplomatic isolation, it’s also not a victimless crime at home. Indeed, the fact that the votes are symbolic is no justification at all. If the “Palestine” vote were replaced with something more than symbolic, if the French were playing some constructive role in an active (and actual) peace process, they could at least claim they were helping all parties take steps toward peace. The Israelis make sacrifices for peace all the time.

But the French are admitting that they are not doing anything of the sort. The vote is symbolic, meaning that it’s simply a case of the French government yelling again about the Jews and how the French government believes they must be blamed.

During this past summer’s Gaza war, France saw an uptick in anti-Semitic violence. This is because bigots draw no distinction between the Jewish state and the Jewish people. When they are angry at Israel, they start a pogrom; they aim their violence not at embassies but at synagogues. And when the French government makes a show of standing against Israel, it serves only one purpose: incitement.

As the New York Times reports, Europe’s Jewish community is bracing for the fallout:

Serge Cwajgenbaum, the secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, an organization in Brussels representing European Jews, played down the political consequences of the vote, calling it toothless. But he said it reflected a worrying attitude in some quarters of Europe that threatened to further undermine the faltering Middle East peace process.

Mr. Cwajgenbaum said he feared the vote was an effort by some on the French left to curry favor with Muslim voters.

“Such votes can have negative consequences for the Middle East peace process because it can radicalize people, while pushing Palestinians to abandon the negotiating table in favor of seeking recognitions,” Mr. Cwajgenbaum said.

“I can’t exclude the possibility that there can be repercussions of the vote on the Jewish community,” he added, “as criticism of Israel can be construed by some extremists as an excuse for incitement against Jews.”

French President Francoise Hollande can distance himself from the vote all he wants, he’s done nothing to change course. When the last bout of anti-Semitic violence broke out, the French Jewish community mobilized to defend itself, since the state wouldn’t. The state then moved to disarm the Jews.

Hollande is overseeing the further disintegration of civilized French society. I’m sure he and others would love to believe that, as the Times claims, “the strident tone of parts of the parliamentary motion and the wide margin of passage reflect Europe’s growing impatience with the breakdown of negotiations over a two-state solution,” rather than the truth, which is a far greater indictment of European society and its leaders.

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Survey Reveals Extent of French Muslim Anti-Semitism

A new survey has been published revealing the extent of anti-Semitism in France. But what the survey exposed most starkly was the drastic degree to which the Muslim population in France–on the whole–adheres to a radically anti-Semitic outlook. The survey exposes a worrying reality, one in which a sizable minority of the French population holds views about Jews that are by any measure bigoted. Yet when one looks at how French Muslims responded to the same questions in the survey, we see a picture of a religious and ethnic community in which an alarming majority appear to be feverishly anti-Semitic.

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A new survey has been published revealing the extent of anti-Semitism in France. But what the survey exposed most starkly was the drastic degree to which the Muslim population in France–on the whole–adheres to a radically anti-Semitic outlook. The survey exposes a worrying reality, one in which a sizable minority of the French population holds views about Jews that are by any measure bigoted. Yet when one looks at how French Muslims responded to the same questions in the survey, we see a picture of a religious and ethnic community in which an alarming majority appear to be feverishly anti-Semitic.

The recent French survey, which posed the same set of questions to both the general population and to those from Muslim backgrounds, came back with some alarming findings. It is disconcerting that, as the survey revealed, 25 percent of Frenchmen believe Jews have too much influence over the nation’s economy. But compare that to the survey’s parallel finding that 74 percent of French Muslims endorse such a view. When asked if they thought that France’s media is controlled by the Jews, 23 percent of the general population said that they did. That, however, pales in comparison when held up against the 70 percent of the French Muslims polled who held such a belief.

Interestingly, when respondents were asked a question about whether Jews exploit the Holocaust, the gap between the Muslim and general populations diminished somewhat. On this question a much larger than usual proportion of the general population, 32 percent, came out with an anti-Semitic position, answering in favor of the view that Jews use the Holocaust for their own benefit. Yet among French Muslims the numbers holding this anti-Jewish view was down on previous questions, albeit with 56 percent still answering in the affirmative.

Nor do these questions relate to Israel. When both groups were asked about the existence of a global Zionist conspiracy, both seemed less taken with this suggestion than they were with some of the others. So while 16 percent of the general population confirmed that they believe in such an outlandish notion, a similarly reduced proportion of the Muslims polled, 44 percent, held such a view.

This may be surprising. No doubt many would claim that what appears to be anti-Semitism on the part of French Muslims is in fact a somewhat high-spirited expression of solidarity for their Muslim brothers the Palestinians. And yet, according to this survey at least, French Muslims weren’t so taken with the idea of a Zionist plot. Far more popular, however, was the good old-fashioned conspiracy theory that says that Jews control the media and economy. These notions that were once the staple of European anti-Semitism now appear to have been taken up with far greater enthusiasm by the continent’s Muslim immigrants.

The findings from this survey would appear to confirm the picture painted by another from just over a year ago. That survey—released by Europe’s Agency for Fundamental Rights—found Europe’s Jews reporting that a greatly disproportionate degree of the anti-Semitism that they experienced came from the left and those identified as “Muslim extremists” than from any other group. So for instance in France, 73 percent of Jews surveyed said that they had witnessed or experienced anti-Semitism from someone with “Muslim extremist views.”

The problem with that survey was that it simply monitored the Jewish perception of anti-Semitism and so could all too easily be dismissed as nothing more than paranoia from a community that has convinced itself that it is being picked on. That has been a problem across Europe; take this piece from August that the BBC produced, seemingly with no other purpose than to downplay and question the notion that anti-Semitism is on the rise in the West.

And if there have been those who for political reasons have been reluctant to admit that anti-Semitism is a growing problem in Europe, then these same people have tended to be all the more stubborn about conceding the role that parts of Europe’s Islamic population is playing in this trend. When the infamous 2012 terror attack took place on the Jewish school in Toulouse, there was no shortage of those in the media who volunteered the hypothesis that this would turn out to be another far-right Anders Breivik-style attack. By the time of the shooting at Brussels’s Jewish Museum last May, most were prepared for news that this was the work of yet another Islamist radical.

With the anti-Jewish riots witnessed in Paris this summer, accompanied as they were by overtly anti-Semitic protests in Germany and a rise in violent anti-Semitism in Britain, European leaders do now seem ready to acknowledge that they have a problem on their hands. As yet, however, any open and public discussion of which groups are driving that problem is still well off the cards.

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The Fallout from Europe’s Failing Economy

The economic situation in Europe is bleak. The continent that represents almost one-fifth of the world’s total economic output is now looking squarely at the prospect of its third recession in just six years. But the consequences, including the political instability that could result, would be felt far beyond the European continent itself.

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The economic situation in Europe is bleak. The continent that represents almost one-fifth of the world’s total economic output is now looking squarely at the prospect of its third recession in just six years. But the consequences, including the political instability that could result, would be felt far beyond the European continent itself.

To see just how stark the problems are, one only has to look at the predicament of the eurozone’s two largest economies: France and Germany. Having grown by 0.7 percent in the first months of 2014, the German economy then shrank by 0.2 percent between April and June. German industrial output is down by 4 percent, exports are down 5.8 percent. And France too is in trouble. Since 2008 France’s economy has grown by just 0.3 percent and no great increase is predicted for the coming year. This is a poor performance from both economies when one looks across the channel to Britain where—free from the Euro and the constraints set by Brussels—economic growth is expected to stand at 3.2 percent by the end of the year. And while the eurozone struggles to shake off its stubborn unemployment rate of 11.5 percent, unemployment in the UK is currently at 6 percent.

The situation in France and Germany may be bad, but the eurozone harbors other horror stories. Most infamous of course is Greece. There the economy is burdened by a debt equivalent to 175 percent of GDP. Then there are countries such as Spain and Italy where youth unemployment languishes at 40 percent. In Portugal the situation is only a little better, although there at least the imposition of greater fiscal responsibility has seen a slight reduction in unemployment and some forecasts for better growth next year. There has been no such fiscal responsibility in France, however. In that country, where the state already accounts for 56 percent of GDP, high government spending is going to see France yet again flout EU regulations on the budget deficit.

The violent riots that rocked Athens in 2011 were only the most immediately visible consequence of the ongoing economic hardships afflicting many European societies. While Europe’s political class appears to have pursued a business-as-usual attitude, beneath the surface there have been the stirrings of extremist forces that will not tolerate the status quo for a great deal longer.

Concrete evidence of the kind of radical movements that are afoot came with the elections to Europe’s parliament last May. Parties vocally hostile to the entire European project topped the polls in several countries, but more alarming was the fact that a number of these parties espouse the kind of extreme views that once would have banished them from the realms of acceptability for most voters. In France Marine le Penn’s Front Nationale came in first place; this is a party that many believe is still be mired in its racist and neo-fascist past. Similarly, Austria’s right-wing Freedom party saw a doubling in the number of seats it won, whereas Spain and Portugal saw gains for the far left. And in Greece there was a rush to both ends of the political extremes, with the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) winning first place and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn coming third, taking 10 percent of the vote and 3 of the 21 seats allotted to Greece in the European parliament.

The kind of sinister resentments with which these parties are associated were most overtly evidenced by the anti-Jewish riots witnessed in Paris over the summer. Not that the resurgence of European anti-Semitism can be explained away as a primarily economic phenomenon–the culture of hostility toward Israel has been brewing for some decades now. Yet it also seems quite conceivable that the conspiratorial messages pushed by those such as the anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonne will have an added resonance with a population that is experiencing the kind of deep frustrations that are now common among many young people in France.

Finally, if Europe’s economic situation does continue to worsen, and does so over a sustained period, this will inevitably begin to impact Europe’s influence on the world stage. Long unwilling to employ military intervention, European diplomats seem to believe that economic sanctions are their secret weapon. Sanctions were what Europe instinctively reached for during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And there have of course been increasing murmurings of Brussels setting Israel red lines which if crossed would incur sanctions. Yet European business has already been kicking back against the sanctions disrupting their trade with Iran as it is.

Should the eurozone economies continue to founder, then the constant recourse to sanctions may become an increasingly unpalatable option for Europe’s politicians. Besides, with stirrings of unrest and extremism at home, European statesmen may soon find they have their own more pressing concerns. Still, the temptation to find distractions and scapegoats will likely only increase if the European economies continue to stagnate.

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President Hollande’s Colonialist Solution

During Friday’s press conference with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, France’s President Francois Hollande voiced his support for the United Nations Security Council imposing a solution on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The very notion that warring sides can be forced into peace with one another is of course absurd. Presumably, a deal that had to be imposed from outside would, by its very nature, not have the full or equal endorsement of both sides. But which side might be on the receiving end of such an imposition? Who would need coercing? Well, the clue was standing to the right of the French president.

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During Friday’s press conference with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, France’s President Francois Hollande voiced his support for the United Nations Security Council imposing a solution on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The very notion that warring sides can be forced into peace with one another is of course absurd. Presumably, a deal that had to be imposed from outside would, by its very nature, not have the full or equal endorsement of both sides. But which side might be on the receiving end of such an imposition? Who would need coercing? Well, the clue was standing to the right of the French president.

A beaming Mahmoud Abbas was nodding along to what is after all an endorsement of his very own plan. It is Abbas who is now pushing for a “solution” to be imposed on Israel. But what on earth is a European leader doing getting behind such an idea? Didn’t France get the message that the days when European politicians drew the borders of other people’s countries are over?

Hollande justified his position by arguing that negotiations have dragged on too long. Well, quite. But it is obscene that he should make such a statement alongside Abbas and while endorsing Abbas’s plan. It is, after all, Abbas who has acted as a serial negotiations blocker. Most of the time Abbas simply holds up efforts to even get negotiations started, usually demanding that before he can undergo the horror of sitting down to talk with Israeli officials, he must first be paid a tribute of extortionate concessions by Israel. Once negotiations finally get going, Abbas generally wastes time until the window allotted to negotiating expires, then he demands some more concessions before he will permit the talks to be resumed.

So yes, President Hollande is correct, fruitless talks have gone on too long. And yet, from the fact that he was making this announcement during a press conference with Abbas it seems reasonable to assume that the blame was not being placed at the Palestinian door. It also seems reasonable to assume that since this entire initiative originates with Abbas, the “peace plan” will be somewhat weighted in favor of the Palestinians. The Israelis, much to their cost, have repeatedly shown a readiness to surrender territory whenever they thought there was a chance of peace and security being achieved. If they were being offered a deal that genuinely guaranteed them that, then there would be no need to enlist the UN Security Council resolutions.

Yet Abbas has never found the level playing field of bilateral negotiations to his liking. For many years now he has been championing the notion of the Palestinians forcing an Israeli retreat via international diplomacy. This, of course, would allow him to push Israel back to something close to the 1949 armistice lines—which have no weight in international law as actual borders—without Israel receiving any meaningful guarantees regarding its security. And that really is why an imposed peace is so ludicrous. Even in the event that Abbas marshaled the international community for doing his bidding and imposing an Israeli withdrawal, it is doubtful that there would be any peace. In what way would Hamas, Islamic Jihad, ISIS, Hezbollah, Iran, and the rest of its proxies be beholden to this supposed solution?

If Hollande is proposing to return to the old colonial days when countries like his imposed borders on peoples and nations living overseas, then with what army does he intended to force this peace? He can have as many votes at the UN as he likes, but he would do well to remember that it is the Israeli army that is currently sheltering UN “peace keepers” in the Golan Heights. Presumably France would recommend the sanctions route that is now so beloved by Europe, bludgeoning Israel into choosing between poverty or insecurity.

Then there is also the question of why Hollande has been prepared to go along with this plan at a time when the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the last Middle Eastern issue that a world leader ought to be expending time or energy on. Would Hollande, or any European leader, have appeared alongside Netanyahu and voiced their support for imposing a solution on the Palestinians? Of course not. This isn’t about advancing peace or fairness, this is about promoting the Palestinian cause. As a man of the European left this is a cause that Hollande no doubt sympathizes with, but there is more.

During Israel’s war with Hamas this summer, Paris saw Europe’s most violent riots as France’s North African immigrant population vented its fury over what they perceived as French support for the Jewish state. In the course of these riots the mob trapped several hundred Jews in a Paris synagogue. Yet now it is not the plight of the Jews, but rather the cause of their attackers that has been taken up by the French government in what appears to be a blatant, and no doubt ill-fated, act of appeasement.

France’s colonialist past has brought a large Arab-Muslim population to its cities. Yet that last chapter of colonialism is apparently now opening the way to a new chapter of colonialism as Hollande seeks to dictate to the Israelis what their country should look like and where their borders should lie. All with a total disregard for the mounting regional turmoil that would seek to engulf Israel at the first opportunity.

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The Fabled Non-Anti-Semitic Gaza Protests

Last week, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Italy released an unusual joint statement. They banded together, they explained, to denounce their own countries. Specifically, they wanted to denounce the rank anti-Semitism that has exploded throughout Europe, where the public used the Israeli counteroffensive in Gaza as a pretext to rally in support of the destruction of the Jewish state and in some cases the extermination of the Jewish people on the whole. The main source of disagreement among Europe’s pro-Hamas demonstrators is the desirable extent of the anti-Jewish genocide.

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Last week, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Italy released an unusual joint statement. They banded together, they explained, to denounce their own countries. Specifically, they wanted to denounce the rank anti-Semitism that has exploded throughout Europe, where the public used the Israeli counteroffensive in Gaza as a pretext to rally in support of the destruction of the Jewish state and in some cases the extermination of the Jewish people on the whole. The main source of disagreement among Europe’s pro-Hamas demonstrators is the desirable extent of the anti-Jewish genocide.

It’s a difference in degree, not in kind. And while at first glance the foreign ministers’ joint statement might appear to be laudable, such goodwill evaporates when you realize that they are talking instead of doing. Anti-Semitism is often a lagging indicator of state rot, and it is no different here. The foreign ministers are essentially pleading with the world to withhold judgment for their states’ respective failures. In France, the state has given up on protecting its Jews; “France’s Jews are staying indoors for fear of their lives,” a resident of Paris told the Algemeiner recently. In Germany–in Germany–protesters called for the Jews to be gassed. And the best the German state can come up with is to sign a joint letter denouncing such hateful barbarism.

The joint statement is a white flag. European governments have no idea what to do. France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, took to the pages of the New York Times on July 10 to declare: “France Is Not an Anti-Semitic Nation.” Three days later, an attempted pogrom broke out in Paris. The France of Laurent Fabius’s imagination is clearly a wonderful place. The one that actually exists is descending into madness.

All this is drawing attention to another aspect of the world’s discomfort with Jewish self-defense. We are constantly told that you can criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic; this is undoubtedly true. Israeli officials are criticized in Israel as much as anywhere else. But the demonstrations claim to be in protest of Israeli policy or in the name of peace. That sounds awfully nice in theory. In practice, the demonstrators aren’t keen on making such distinctions.

It’s not just in France, Germany, and Italy, of course. A pro-Gaza protest in London called for the elimination of Israel. Here’s the Daily Beast on how protests in the Netherlands have become outright rallies in support of ISIS, the too-violent-for-al-Qaeda terrorist offshoot carving up Iraq:

Many of the demonstrators covered their faces with Palestinian scarves or balaclavas. “Anyone who doesn’t jump is a Jew,” someone shouted as the whole group started jumping in a scene that might have been ludicrous if it weren’t for the hateful message. “Death to the Jews!” the crowd shouted in Arabic.

This scene last Thursday came in the wake of an earlier demonstration supposed to defend the Palestinians suffering in Gaza, which turned quickly into a hatefest targeting Israel, with people carrying placards that screamed “Zionism is Nazism.” But while the comingling of pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic sentiment has become all too common in European protests in recent weeks, that the battle flag of the Islamic State waved in the streets of The Netherlands on July 24 is something new and particularly dangerous.

Read that last sentence again: “the battle flag of the Islamic State waved in the streets of The Netherlands.” I’m sure behind that black flag is just genuine concern for the humanitarian needs of Gaza City. America has not been immune to this phenomenon, in which protesters insist they care about Palestinian statelessness so they can push thoroughly disgusting anti-Jewish blood libels. Here is a picture our own Abe Greenwald took at a rally in Manhattan. Above scenes of blood-soaked children are the words “This is Bloody Israel! These are Bloody Jews!” And then, if you still didn’t get the point, in parentheses: “Blood Suckers.”

It’s not subtle, and it’s not about humanitarianism. The anti-Israel rallies around the world have been marked by consistency. We are told of the existence, or of the possibility at least, of pro-Palestinian rallies or protests against Israeli policy that are not about pushing a medieval hatred of Jews. We should not have to take it on faith, or make do with Laurent Fabius’s deepest apologies.

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