Last March, when the French Muslim terrorist Mohamed Merah murdered a teacher and three children at a French Jewish school in Toulouse, a media firestorm resulted. Things have not gotten easier for French Jews since then. As the New York Times noted this week, French Jews say anti-Semitic threats have in fact escalated since March, Merah’s act having stirred “empathy” and “emulation.”
Indeed, the main thing that appears to have prevented further catastrophes is good police work. On Saturday French police raided the Strasbourg apartment of a 33-year-old French Muslim named Jeremy Sidney and ended up killing him in a shootout. Sidney’s DNA had been found on a grenade that, in September, was thrown into a kosher supermarket in Sarcelles (near Paris), wounding a customer.
Sidney, it turns out, was born in Melun, France, got a two-year sentence for drug trafficking in 2008, and converted to Islam while in prison. And he was no isolated case. As part of the same far-reaching operation on Saturday, police arrested twelve other suspected Islamic terrorists in Paris, Tours, Strasbourg, and Cannes.
“All,” reports CNN, “are being held on suspicion of…manufacturing deadly explosives, illegal possession of weapons and attempted homicide of police officers. Three of them have criminal records for drug trafficking, theft or violence….” AP says all of them were, like Sidney, “French and recent converts to Islam.”
CNN also tells us: “Police seized a number of items such as ammunition, a list of ‘Israelite’ organizations in and around Paris, a publication produced by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, wills, computer equipment and 27,000 euros ($35,000) in cash….”
As part of the probe, on Wednesday police also found bomb-making materials in an underground parking lot near Paris.
Israeli commentator Boaz Bismuth notes that one of the cell members, Jan Ansako, “was addicted to fundamentalist websites and uploaded [to his own site] photos of dead Palestinian babies and a photograph of an Israeli soldier aiming his weapon…. ‘How can you not hate this cursed nation?’ he wrote.”
The above-quoted New York Times article reports that these suspects “were described in various news reports as admirers of Mr. Merah, and some of them even called his actions ‘the battle of Toulouse.’”
Bismuth adds: “Although Jews are not the only targets on this terror cell’s list, they appear at the top.”
A few things are worth pointing out here.
First, while terrorists like Merah and the rest are extreme manifestations, they are part of a much wider phenomenon. As Israeli historian Robert Wistrich put it: “The scale and extremism of the [anti-Semitic] literature and commentary available in Arab or Muslim newspapers, journals, magazines, caricatures, on Islamist websites, on the Middle Eastern radio and TV news, in documentaries, films, and educational materials, is comparable only to that of Nazi Germany at its worst.”
While this hate has been metastasizing from Arab and Muslim countries themselves to far-flung immigrant communities, especially in Europe, far more attention has been directed to scattered, minor, generally much less extreme anti-Muslim expressions in Western media, a certain YouTube video being the latest example. Meanwhile the tide of Jew-hatred flowing from Arab and Muslim countries is now powerful enough to “convert” originally non-Muslim Westerners and to pose a daily, murderous danger to Jews in France and elsewhere in Europe—while Westerners hasten to apologize to Muslims for what are no more than insults.
Second, while Muslim anti-Semitism is rooted in the Koran and predates the rise of modern Israel by fourteen centuries, Israel is today an obsessive focal point—as in the abovementioned case of the terror suspect with his photos of “dead Palestinian babies” and an armed Israeli soldier. For that terror suspect, though, the proper object of hate was “this cursed nation”—meaning not just Israeli Jews but all Jews, thereby giving the hate a genocidal scope in the strictest sense. Hence, French Jews—whatever their concern or lack of concern for Israel, “the Palestinians,” or the “two-state solution”—are part of “the nation” and potential targets for murder, whether children in a school or customers in a supermarket.
For a religion comprising well over a billion people worldwide, and fifty-seven countries, to focus so much obsessive hate on a vastly smaller people is, to put it mildly, not something to take pride in. One would like to believe that, if the Islamic world could really see itself in a mirror, it would not like what it sees.
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