President Obama started 2015 well a statement to a UN General Assembly Meeting in January: “Anti-Semitic attacks like the recent terrorist attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris pose a threat that extends beyond the Jewish community. They also threaten the values we hold dear—pluralism, diversity, and the freedoms of religion and expression. Moreover, when the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Jews are repressed, the rights and freedoms of other minorities and other sectors are often not far behind. For all these reasons, combating anti-Semitism is an essential responsibility for all of us.”
Unfortunately, he has stumbled badly since.
Complaining in an interview with Matt Yglesias in online Vox magazine that the media focuses too much on terrorism compared to “less sexy” stories like climate change, the President scoffed: “What’s the famous saying about local newscasts, right? If it bleeds, it leads, right?” He subsequently added: “It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”
What do we currently know about the motivation of the shooter at Hyper Cacher (“Super Kosher”) where four Jews were cold-bloodedly murdered by a jihadi guman? The killer was Amedy Coulibaly, a hard-core criminal radicalized by a prison imam who desired to fight in Iraq or Syria and declared allegiance to the Islamic State.
Unsurprisingly given his target, he seems to have been more single-mindedly anti-Semitic than his co-conspirators, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, who slaughtered the victims at Charlie Hebdo.
In August 2014, Coulibaly and his girlfriend, Hayat Boumedienne, approached a Jewish school, and asked if “it was true that there were Jews inside of the building.” They were asked to leave by school security. Coulibaly’s hostage video, made in front of an ISIS flag, takes credit for the deaths of a policewoman and “five Jews.” There were also reports that his car contained a map marking Jewish schools for future attack.
It is true that initial reports about the Hyper Cacher siege were vague about Coulibaly’s motivation in attacking a kosher market at which some Muslims also shopped for halal meat. One may have thought that President Obama, who did not visit or march in Paris, heard only sketchy reports and was never updated on the facts.
Unfortunately, the troubling fact is that, following the release of Obama’s interview in Vox, the White House and State Department “doubled down” as Jonathan S. Tobin put it in Commentary, in the face of criticism:
Does the president have any doubt that those terrorists attack that deli because there would be Jews in that deli?” Jonathan Karl asked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest “It is clear from the terrorists and the writings that they put out afterward what their motivation was,” Earnest responded. “The adverb that the president chose was used to indicate that the individuals who were killed in that terrible, tragic incident were killed not because of who they were but because of where they randomly happened to be.” “These individuals were not targeted by name,” Earnest added. “Not by name, but by religion, were they not?” Karl asked. “There were people other than just Jews who were in that deli,” Earnest said. After Karl asked again if there was any doubt by the president that the shop was attacked because of the likelihood the terrorists would be able to kill Jews, Earnest finally said, “No.”
Worse than Earnest’s belated “no” was the stonewalling by State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki. “Does the administration really believe that the victims of this attack were not singled out because they were of a particular faith?” asks AP reporter Matt Lee. “Well, as you know, I believe if I remember the victims specifically, they were not all victims of one background or one nationality,” Psaki said. “Does the administration believe this was an anti-Jewish or an attack on a Jewish community in Paris?” Lee pressed. “I don’t think we’re going to speak on behalf of French authorities,” Psaki responded.
Skepticism is a wonderful thing—but not about whether the world is round or that that Jews in Europe have been the perennial target of “non-random” mass murder—most recently especially by Islamist terrorists whose actions, both the Presidents of the U.S. and France have insisted, “have nothing to do with Islam.”
Now, both Earnest and Psaki have tweeted that nobody in the White House ever suggested that the Hyper Cacher attack was not motivated by anti-Semitism. But still no admission that murderer was an Islamist fanatic. The Obama Administration seems almost intent on erasing the Islamist fingerprints on attacks—from the Brussels Jewish Museum, to Paris, and now to Copenhagen.
Striving to gain respect in Tehran, which hosts international conferences awarding “the best” Holocaust Denial cartoons, the Obama Administration won’t increase its leverage in seeking to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions by making believe that Islamist anti-Semitism does not exist.