Eye on the Middle East May/Jun 2015

French and German leaders have criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for saying Europe is no longer safe for Jews and encouraging them to move to Israel. Was Netanyahu wrong?

On January 9, jihadi gunman Amedy Coulibaly killed a policewoman and four Jews taken hostage at a kosher supermarket in Paris. He told a French journalist he had deliberately targeted Jews. A stunned Parisian Jewish community was forced to close the Grand Synagogue’s Shabbat service, a first since World War II.   

In February, police shot and killed a 22-year-old, Danish-born jihadist who killed a young Jewish man at a Copenhagen synagogue and a film director at an event promoting free speech.

These are not isolated events. In 2006 Ilan Halimi, a young Frenchman, was kidnapped, tortured, and killed because, said his captors, “He was a Jew.”

In 2012 Mohammed Merah killed seven people, including three children and a rabbi, outside their Jewish school in Toulouse, France. In 2014 at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, radical Islamist Mehdi Nemmouche shot and killed four people, two of them Israelis.

Last year during the Gaza War, eight French synagogues were attacked, including one that was firebombed by a mob of 400. A kosher supermarket and pharmacy were smashed and looted as crowds chanted “Death to Jews!” and “Slit Jews’ throats!”

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who declared, “To attack a Jew because he is a Jew is to attack France,” was accused by a former French foreign minister of being under the influence of his Jewish wife.

In Germany, Molotov cocktails were lobbed into Bergische Synagogue in Wuppertal, with cries of “Destroy the Zionist Jews. . . . Count them and kill them to the very last one.” Dieter Graumann, former president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, said, “These are the worst times since the Nazi era.”

Apparently, however, U.S. President Barack Obama disagrees. When 3.7 million people, including 40 world leaders, rallied in Paris in January to protest against terrorists, Obama was conspicuously absent. Vox.com’s Matthew Yglesias asked him, “Do you think the media sometimes overstates the level of alarm people should have about terrorism?”

The President replied, “If it bleeds, it leads, right? You show crime stories and you show fires because that’s what folks watch.”

For Obama, the Paris murders were merely violent crime, not worthy of his attention. “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,” he said, “or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”

Random? The deli attack was anything but random. Amedy Coulibaly was an al-Qaeda terrorist who specifically wanted to kill Jews.

Obama’s administration consistently refuses to acknowledge the threat of radical Islamists. In 2011, as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton refused to place Boko Haram on a list of terrorist organizations. Yet the jihadist organization targets and murders thousands of Christians in Nigeria.

CNN’s Jeremy Diamond quoted the president as being mindful of the “terrible cost of terrorism” and believing terror groups aren’t an “existential threat to the United States or the world order.”

Like the sons of Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12:32, Netanyahu understands the times and knows what to do. Speaking at a memorial service in Paris following the rally, he said,

Here’s the truth: Radical Islam is an enemy to us all. This enemy has many names––Islamic State, Hamas, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, al-Shabaab, Hezbollah––but they’re all branches of the same poisonous tree….They all want to impose a dark tyranny on the world, to take humanity 1,000 years back….Their greatest hatred is for Western culture that reveres freedom.  

Today an option exists that did not exist for Jews in Nazi Europe. As Netanyahu said, they have “the right to join their Jewish brothers in our historic homeland––the land of Israel.” Clearly, he is being criticized for telling the truth.

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