Statements from the European Union in wake of the tragedy go beyond the pale.
On Thursday, French police in Toulouse managed to corner and kill a serial-killer/terrorist who had murdered seven people over the past two weeks and wounded others, some gravely. The seven dead included three off-duty French soldiers and, on Monday, four French Jewish civilians—including three young children—at a Jewish school in Toulouse.
The killer is Mohammed Merah, a 24-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin who claims to be an Al-Qaeda member. Merah had been in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan in 2007 he was arrested for bomb making, but escaped months later in a large-scale Taliban jailbreak.
As for his recent attacks, he told police negotiators they were motivated by the French army’s involvement in Afghanistan and by a desire to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children.
In that regard Merah’s words were remarkably similar to those of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Monday, the day of the school massacre. Speaking to a conference in Brussels called “Engaging Youth—Palestinian Refugees” that was sponsored by the Belgian government and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, she said:
when we think of what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, when we see what is happening in Gaza and in different parts of the world—we remember young people and children who lose their lives.
These words—clearly connoting that children in Gaza are brutally murdered by Israeli forces—sparked enraged responses in Israel, including from the prime minister, foreign minister, and opposition leader. On Tuesday, Ashton’s office issued a purported “clarification.” It stated that she had “referred to tragedies taking the lives of children around the world and drew no parallel whatsoever between the circumstances of the Toulouse attack and the situation in Gaza.”
The problem, though, is that Ashton’s statement clearly did draw that parallel, and her “clarification” is a weak and unconvincing denial rather than a genuine retraction. Israeli officials reportedly—with justice—see it that way and remain “unwilling to forgive” her remarks. As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had put it, “What gets me especially incensed is the comparison between the targeted slaughter of children and the surgical, defensive activities of the Israel Defense Forces that are meant to hit terrorists who use children for human shields.”
Now that it turns out the Toulouse killer shares Ashton’s perception that Palestinian children are wantonly murdered by Israel, her words emerge in an even grimmer light.
Indeed, in her statement on Monday, it was not enough for Ashton to evade and dilute what had happened in Toulouse by sweeping it into a larger category. (Mareh chased after one of the victims, eight-year-old Miriam Monsonego, grabbed her by the hair, and shot her point-blank in the head.) By mentioning Gaza along with the Norwegian and Syrian atrocities, Ashton made sure that—even in this grisly instance—Jews would not be allowed just to be victims.
Ashton thereby expressed a sentiment—especially pronounced in Europe—that Jewish victimhood is a thing of the past, associated particularly with the Holocaust, while today Jews are perpetrators whose victims are the Palestinians. That notion of Palestinians as the victims, and Jews as the “new Nazis” as they are commonly regarded (see here and here) in much of Europe, still carries such powerful resonance that even an incident like Monday’s drew an amorally perverse response from a top EU “diplomat.”
The French police have acted swiftly and laudably in tracking down Mareh. But the Arab and Muslim ethos that produces all too many like him, centering on perceived victimhood along with anti-Semitic and anti-Western hatred, remains. A situation made even worse when Westerners not only are too cowardly to counter that ethos but confirm and encourage it.
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