Watching the images of the terrified hostages released from hiding in the freezer at the Hyper Cacher market on the television last week, I could not help but feel that French Jews must be having terrible flashbacks of the Holocaust and that they could not help but think of Anne Frank, hiding in her attic.
The whole world is watching how France will react to the horrible terrorist acts in Paris, to the war against freedom of expression and the war against the Jews. A rally of over one million marchers took place in Paris in response, with thousands holding Je Suis Charlie, Je Suis Juif and Je Suis Achmed signs.
Over seventeen people died in the attacks, starting with the massacre at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, on January 7th, which took the lives of twelve, the shooting death of a French policewoman the next day, a siege in Dammartin and a hostage situation in east Paris the following day, in which four were murdered in a kosher market. The terrible events are a wake up call for Europe: there is a problem with radical Islam in Europe, which has, deeply embedded in its ideology, a hatred of Jews.
When Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist who killed four and held fifteen others hostage at the Hyper Cacher market in Paris spoke to a journalist, “He explained why he did this: to defend oppressed Muslims…notably in Palestine…and finally he explained his target, why this kosher store: because he was targeting Jews.”
When France voted to recognize the Palestinian state in their recent failed UN statehood bid, they did not care that their ‘yes’ vote would endanger Israel and leave it exposed. Palestinian rejectionists have a long track record of using terrorism to achieve their ends. In a legal maneuver in December, the EU removed Hamas from its terror list only months after it fought a war with Israel, firing over 4,500 missiles at Israeli civilians. These decisions to seem to have come back to haunt the French.
The lesson that the Europeans must take away from these terrible events is that the anti-Semitism that has taken hold in Europe in recent years must be exposed and expunged. Europeans who support economic sanctions and divestment from Israel have to realize that there’s a strong connection between anti-Israel policies and rhetoric and anti-Semitic attacks and murders.
70 years ago, French police rounded up the Jews and sent them to Auschwitz, on Nazi orders. Following the attacks last week, for the first time since the Holocaust, the Great Synagogue in Paris was closed for Sabbath services. The Jews of France in other words, have a tenuous history and they do not feel safe in France right now. A record number emigrated to Israel in 2014 and more are on the way. France now faces a pivotal moment in its relationship with the Jews. This is the deciding moment.
Lassana Bathily, a heroic Muslim employee at Hyper Cacher was the one who hid the Jews in the freezer during the siege, and saved their lives. He was not indifferent, he was exceptional. Ahmed Merabet, also a Muslim, was the first policeman at the scene at the Hedbo offices. He was shot in cold blood.
Maybe this is the watershed – the opportunity in France, which is once again in the spotlight vis a vis the Jews and freedom. The question for the French is whether the Jews will be defended as passionately as free speech.
As I’m watching the rally in Paris on the television, and I see signs in support of Charlie Hebdo, free speech and Jews. There seems to be a resolve that anti-Semitism cannot be swept under the rug anymore in France. Muslims are also holding the Je suis Juif signs and I can’t help feeling a sense of hope that Jews and Muslims in France may be able to come together. When I see Benjamin Netanyahu walking with Mahmoud Abbas in solidarity with France, I wonder if I am dreaming that maybe one day the Muslim world will recognize Israel’s right to exist.