Friday, 16 January 2015

Anti-Semitism and the battle against Jihad

          Talking of cartoons, shortly after the huge and impressive Charlie Hebdo rallies had taken place in Paris and across the Western world, a telling cartoon appeared in the Jerusalem Post.  A boy sits across the table from his father. 
“Why were cartoonists killed?” he asks.
“Over freedom of speech,” says his Dad.
“So, why were Jews killed too?”
“Over freedom of existence.”

And indeed, one has to ask what connection could there be between the murderous attack on the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo and the customers in a kosher supermarket?  The same question might have been asked following the Mumbai massacre of 2008, in which a series of twelve coordinated shooting and bombing attacks were carried out by Pakistani jihadists. Why was the Nariman House Jewish community centre included among the hotel, hospital and cinema targets?  

The world is beginning to understand that within the warped Islamist ideology, bitter resentment at Western intervention into the affairs of Muslim states, fury at less than respectful references to the Prophet, and hatred of Jews, Judaism and Israel are all intermingled.  In their philosophy, terrorist action directed against any is equally justifiable .  So to Amedy Coulibaly, acting to support the terrorists who attacked and killed the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, a kosher supermarket seemed an entirely appropriate target to select.  Just as, in the mindset of Pakistani terrorists engaged in what was essentially an Islamist war against India, murdering Jews was a basic component in the strategy.

From phone conversations between those in Pakistan directing the Mumbai operation and the terrorists – recorded by Indian authorities on November 27, 2008, and later published in The Hindu newspaper – it is clear that the lives of those taken hostage in the attack on the Jewish community centre were of no consequence.
Pakistan caller:  If you are still threatened, then don’t saddle yourself with the burden of the hostages. Immediately kill them."
Mumbai terrorist at Nariman House: Yes, we shall do accordingly, God willing.
Pakistan caller:  Another thing: Israel has made a request through diplomatic channels to save the hostages. If the hostages are killed, it will spoil relations between India and Israel."
Mumbai terrorist: "So be it, God willing."
In the event six Jewish lives were added to the 158 victims mowed down during those four days of terror in November 2008.

Coulibaly, too, having murdered four of his hostages, spoke on the phone and gave a TV interview during the course of his siege of the kosher supermarket.  Claiming he was sent by al-Qaeda in Yemen as a defender of the Prophet, and that his attack had been synchronized with that by the Kouachi brothers on the Charlie Hebdo offices, he offered no justification for attacking a Jewish supermarket. Clearly he assumed that none was called for.

“Sir – In all the comment about last week’s atrocities in Paris, there has been much said about the rights and wrongs of insulting Muslim beliefs… Extraordinarily, I have not heard or seen a single comment that questions the motive of a killer who enters a Jewish supermarket and kills random shoppers. It seems there is no need to explain. They were killed not because they said or did things that were blasphemous or provocative, but because they were probably Jews. Is the world so inured to this that the question “Why?” is not even deemed necessary?

But the reason is not difficult to discern.  Islamists seek to destroy Western freedoms throughout the world and substitute their own version of a Muslim caliphate, and integral to their worldview is not only a total intolerance for Jews, but a positive injunction to kill them whenever possible. This hatred for Jews and Israel has been brought to Europe as part of the baggage of radical Islamist preachers. So far Western governments and organisations have failed to recognize – or at least to acknowledge – two basic truths about all jihadists, whatever their hue: first, that they are in earnest in their desire to pull down the institutions of democracy and obliterate the Western way of life; and secondly that a hatred of Jews, Judaism and Israel is locked into their ideology. 

Joining the dots, it becomes abundantly clear that for decades Israel – an island of Western democracy in a turbulent Muslim ocean – has been in the vanguard of the anti-jihadist fight.  The extremist Islamist entities of Hamas to the east, Hezbollah to the north, and Iran to the west – all vehemently anti-Semitic and dedicated to Israel’s destruction – have been joined by jihadist factions in Syria and Iraq, led by Islamic State (or “Daesh”, as Australia’s prime minister, Tony Abbott, proposes dubbing it, a term it is said to loathe). 

Now, in the light of the assault on the French cartoonists and innocent supermarket shoppers, the Western world seems to have committed itself to a determined effort to combat Islamist terror. Many seem to have understood that this must also mean addressing the way Jew-hatred has become acceptable in European society.  To repeat the mantra “Jews are the canary in civilization’s coalmine,” is almost jejune, yet the aphorism remains as valid as the day it was coined.  If Jews cannot live freely without fear of attack in a democratic society, then everyone is at risk. The rising tide of anti-Semitism throughout Europe is a danger signal for Western democracy as a whole.

Perhaps some are beginning to appreciate the connection between anti-Semitism and the distorted form of Islam promulgated by jihadists of all hues.  A hopeful development is the news that on January 22 the United Nations General Assembly is to hold its first-ever special meeting on “the global outbreak of anti-Semitism.”  The session was arranged following a petition to the President of the General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, signed by 36 countries and mounted on the initiative of the Israeli mission to the UN.  Appropriately enough, the signatories include all 28 members of the European Union – indicating that all acknowledge the recent worrying rise in anti-Semitic activity within the countries of Europe.

Jihadist terrorism is by no means exclusively anti-Semitic, but all anti-Semitic activity panders to the brutal, inhumane and unacceptable world-view philosophy peddled by jihadists.  The time has come for all people of goodwill, whatever their religion or none, to take a determined stand against those who believe that killing innocent people is an acceptable way to achieve their objectives.

Published in the Jerusalem Post on-line, 19 January 2015:

Published in the Eurasia Review, 16 January 2015:

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