Selective History and the Paris Massacre
The death of the Jihadist murderers near Paris days after the death of 17 people across France brought little solace to an entire nation and even to communities beyond. Two days of extremist-violence in France, the deadliest in roughly two decades, and the response of millions of people in support of the direct and indirect victims, ushered in a titanic scale of condemnation of the massacre.
With it trickled the disapproval of religious leaders and statesmen from around the world, notably Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who spoke alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during the anti-terror rally in France.
Sharp words followed accusations by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jos Ignatius Kaigama that the West selectively responds to atrocities and pays no attention to what happens in Africa.
These statements collectively lend credence to the understanding that France, deeply victimized, is being forced to atone for its de trop “role” in the deadly attacks. A nation in mourning might not have expected such pressure from arrogant spectators abroad
Swathes of people from around the world have drawn attention to the offensive semantic features of these leaders’ public appearances this past week, which has regrettably led to a regress of “who’s done what to whom?” throughout history.
Erdogan’s comments about Israeli Prime Minister’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s attendance in Paris smacks distinctly of the hypocrisy aimed at the West. “How can a man who has killed 2,500 people in Gaza with state terrorism wave his hand in Paris, like people are waiting in excitement for him to do so? How dare he go there? You should first give an account for the children and the women you have killed” (quoted in Reuters), stated Erdogan.
Yet, Erdogan found himself under attack this past summer by Israel’s Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz, who opined sharply, “[i]n 1915 the Turks massacred a million and a half Armenians and he accuses us, who are fighting his friends in the Islamic movement, of [systematic] genocide [in Gaza]?” (quoted in Arutz Sheva).
Erdogan jabbed at a traumatized Europe, attempting to cast a spotlight on its so-called hypocrisy, with mention of “racism, hate speech, and Islamophobia” (quoted in Reuters). Rather than a show of support to Europe and its communities during the surge of anti-Semitism witnessed in several countries in 2014, the worst since the Nazis took power in Germany, Erdogan’s acerbic attacks against Israel stoked violence. The Representative Council of the Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) reported on the assault against eight synagogues, one of which was attacked by a mob of about 400, and crowds chanting and displaying banners displaying the words “Death to Jews” and “Slit Jews’ Throats” (quoted in The Guardian) – sentiments of strong contrariety from banners that might otherwise have read “Death to Israelis.”
In Germany, a violent firebomb assault was made against the Bergische synagogue located in Wuppertal, which had not been targeted with such malice since the nationwide program known as Kristallnacht took place November 9-10, 1938. “The silence of the lambs of cultured Europe, politically correct Europe, toward a neighborhood and anti-Semitic bully like Erdogan and his friends brings us back to the reality of the 1930s,” said Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (quoted in The Jerusalem Post).
A great number of people have also chosen to focus on the initial attacks that took place in Paris, not because they were directed by national governments or institutions to do so, but because the attacks struck at the heart of cherished values considered the conglomerate the binds Europe together.
French President Francois Holland and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s appeal not to confuse the attacks by terrorists as an attack by Islam demonstrated those same values through discursive appeals. They simply had “[n]othing to do with the Muslim religion,” Holland said in Paris.
These comments were not made in the absence of the Nigerian’s ability to cultivate a spirit of responding positively to attacks like those by Boko Haram that have allegedly left thousands dead. Goodluck publicly admitted that he is certain of the existence of Boko Haram sympathizers within his own government. Journalist and commentator Tolu Ogunlesi stated openly that “[n]o senior security officers have lost their jobs, nothing seems to have been done” (quoted in The Christian Post).
For detractors, though, it is simply easier to point the finger in any direction, especially when the finger-pointer has faced criticism within his own country for not taking necessary steps to protect Christians against religious extremists in the northern region of the country.
Over the past week, even Palestinians appeared to be surprised as their president stepped alongside national leaders in protest against terrorism in the French capital. A Palestinian journalist in Ramallah, in an open letter to the French president, expressed hope that we can see through the “dictatorship of the Palestinian Authority for what it is” instead of “creat[ing] the false impression that he cares about freedom of speech and independent journalism” (Gatestone Institute).
France’s mourning should not be interpreted as a failure to take part in collective action to stop extremism elsewhere in the world or as a lack of courage to address egregious matters that appear to lie far from Europe.