The news from Paris this month was shocking and tragic. It began, January 7, when Islamist terrorists attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine known for its uncompromising skewering of politicians and religion. Ten of the magazine’s staff members – mostly editors and cartoonists – and two police officers were massacred.
The next day, a policewoman was murdered in what first seemed to be an unrelated incident.
And, then, on Friday, January 9, when the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket was crowded with Jewish shoppers preparing for Shabbat, a terrorist from the same al-Qaida-inspired cell as the Charlie Hebdo murderers, entered the store, killed four of the shoppers, and took many more hostage.
At about the same time as the Hyper Cacher events were unfolding, police had the Charlie Hebdo terrorists under siege. In almost simultaneous raids, the terrorists in both locations were killed and the hostages freed.
We later learned that the policewoman killed on January 8 was murdered by the Hyper Cacher terrorist. In all, 17 people were murdered during the three days of terror. The “City of Lights,” and the surrounding areas, had become places of so much darkness.
Almost all of 17 murdered victims were killed for one of three reasons.
• Ten were killed because they worked for a magazine the terrorists took offence to for its depictions of the Muslim prophet, Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Many Muslims believe it is forbidden to depict Muhammad in any way – let alone mockingly as many Charlie Hebdo cartoons had done over the years.
Perhaps it should be noted that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists had no sacred cows when it came to skewering religion. They were equal opportunists who would offend Christianity, in particular Roman Catholicism, France’s dominant religion, Judaism and other religions no less than they would Islam.
In 2008, Charlie Hebdo actually fired one of its cartoonists because he refused to apologize for an anti-Semitic cartoon that drew complaints from the Jewish community.
• Three more were killed because they were police officers, representatives of the French state. Some might argue that two of them were killed because they just happened to be on the scene of the Charlie Hebdo attack, but that argument cannot be made about the policewoman murdered the day after. And, in reality, the police on the scene at Charlie Hebdo were there because the state’s fundamental values of freedom were under threat of precisely the kind of terrorist attack that took place. Ironically, one of the murdered policemen at the magazine massacre was himself a Muslim.
• The final four victims were killed simply because they were Jewish. Exactly seven decades after the end of the Holocaust, European Jews were murdered just because they were Jewish.
As National Post columnist Christie Blatchford asked, “It’s curious, isn’t it, how, for some people, when push comes to shove, it’s always about the Jews?
“Does anyone believe for a minute that, when Amedy Coulibaly, in presumed solidarity with his alleged associates the Charlie Hebdo killers, chose to make a grand gesture, he randomly picked a Hyper Cacher supermarket on the eastern edge of Paris?”
And it wasn’t just about the Jews for the terrorist who attacked the kosher supermarket. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories quickly surfaced about the Charlie Hebdo attack. The most prevalent of them spread by some anti-Israel activists like Greta Berlin who blamed the attack on Mossad agents posing as Islamist terrorists.
While Wikileaks didn’t blame Israel for the attack, it did take to Twitter to say the “Jewish pro-censorship lobby” legitimized the attacks on Charlie Hebdo because of the complaints about the anti-Semitic cartoon in 2008.
I mentioned that each of the 17 murdered victims was killed for one of three reasons. Actually, one of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre was killed for two reasons.
Columnist Elsa Cayat was the only woman killed at Charlie Hebdo. Apparently, the terrorists told the women on the scene they would not be killed. They made an exception, though, for Cayat because she was Jewish. So, it wasn’t just about the Muhammad cartoons for the Charlie Hebdo terrorists; it was about the Jews for them too. Another of the victims, 80-year-old cartoonist Georges Wolinski was also Jewish.
These attacks were the latest in the long string of anti-Semitic incidents that have had many in France’s Jewish community – the second largest Diaspora community in the world – questioning whether they have a future there.
If there was any silver lining to those terrible in events in France, it was the unprecedented solidarity of literally millions and millions of French citizens who marched through the streets of Paris and in other French cities on January 11 standing solidly against terrorism and for the principals of Western democracy and human rights.
The Paris marchers were joined in the streets by dozens of world leaders at the head of the demonstration. And, among their front ranks, standing just a few feet apart, were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. While some might be cynical about the of the two of them marching together – especially with all that has been revealed about the machinations behind both being there – it was a symbolically significant moment.
In light of such terrorism and the clear rise in anti-Semitism across Europe, the world and its leaders need to keep up this united front – and take it well beyond mere symbolism.