Joel Braunold has written a great piece on Haaretz today regarding the Toulouse shootings.
Perhaps the most shocking piece written on the murders came from Oxford Professor and Islamic thinker Tariq Ramadan, who declared that Merah was a young man, “imbued neither with the values of Islam, or driven by racism and anti-Semitism.” He was merely attacking symbols, “the army and Jews.”
His analysis was joined by a piece on France 24 that his trigger was due to the loss of a job or a political act. The Guardian in their editorial worries about the politicization of the incident and the general threats to society of violent extremisms, but never mentions the term anti-Semitism.
The reduction of the French Jewish community to a mere symbol of a Western European society demonstrates a dehumanization of Merah’s victims. How does the slaughter of a religious leader and three small children of a particular minority community merely become a symbol of attacking society in general? Do the victims’ identities mean nothing to these analysts except to demonstrate this was another disaffected immigrant angry at the West and demonstrating that anger in just any way he knew how?
As someone who was once the convener anti-racist, anti-fascist campaign for the National Student Movement in the U.K., I understand the tinder box of inter community violence all too well. The desire for the far-right to have been the perpetrator, the boogie man that we can all agree to hate, is overwhelmingly strong. The last thing we want to do is exacerbate Jewish-Muslim tensions.
Yet this noble desire cannot mask the fact that this man’s victims were not random. They were Jews. His lip service to the Palestinian cause as justification makes him no more a symbol of their movement, as his victims were symbols of Western Society. Merah got it into his head that one should kill Jews; it was something that was correct in his eyes to do. His brother is proud of what he did. Is that also because he lost his job or is disaffected? When will it be allowed to say that these two people hated Jews?
Tariq Ramadan’s whitewashing of this atrocity is indeed problematic. Ramadan reduces Jews to mere abstracts and ideas i.e., symbols and doesn’t see them as human beings with who can feel pain unlike ideas, and abstracts, which cannot. Hence, to Ramadan just as one can attack ideas in order to express outrage (e.g. burn flags or Qurans, or write angry letters to the editor) so too one can attack Jews, both are justified in his eyes.
But let’s hypothetically say that Merah indeed was driven to attack symbols and not driven by Anti-Semitism. Such a thesis is self-negating. On the one hand Ramadan says that Merah was not “driven by racism and Anti-Semitism” since he saw the Jews as symbols, but that would mean that Merah did not see Jews as human beings, the core of all Anti-Semitic philosophy.
Another example of Ramadan’s self-negation is contained in the following lines:
Religion was not Mohamed Merah’s problem ; nor is politics. A French citizen frustrated at being unable to find his place, to give his life dignity and meaning in his own country, he would find two political causes through which he could articulate his distress : Afghanistan and Palestine.Wait a minute! If politics was not Merah’s problem why did he find two political causes “through which he could articulate his distress?”
The simple answer is that Ramadan is a champion of double-speak, as Hussein Ibish and Christopher Hitchens noted a long time ago.
Ramadan then goes on to make Merah an oppressed victim wishing that the reader draws some sort of sick and pitiful sympathy for the guy. Ramadan states:
A pathetic young man, guilty and condemnable beyond the shadow of a doubt, even though he himself was the victim of a social order that had already doomed him, and millions of others like him, to a marginal existence, and to the non-recognition of his status as a citizen equal in rights and opportunities.I don’t doubt that discrimination and social-injustice against Muslims exist in France, but that is not a scapegoat or an excuse to attack and kill other people who themselves are subjected to social-injustice. All one has to do is read “The 2011 annual report on antisemitism in France.”
Since I don’t speak French I had to consult Wikipedia to find out what exactly is in this report. Wikipedia claims that the report concluded:
100 graffitis, 46 flyers or mails, 114 insults) and 129 crimes (57 assaults, 7 arsons or attempted arsons, 65 deteriorations and acts of vandalism but no murder, attempted murder or terrorist attack) recorded2012 is a different story. Murders and terrorist attack will be reported.
Furthermore, consider the fact that the ADL has found:
In France, where a shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse yesterday claimed the lives of three small children and a teacher, the overall level of anti-Semitism increased to 24 percent of the population, an increase from 20 percent in a previous ADL poll conducted in 2009. In France, 45 percent of respondents attributed the violence against European Jews to anti-Jewish feelings, an increase from 39 percent in 2009.Amidst this tragedy two things have lifted my emotions just a little.
Other findings for France include: 45 percent of the population responded "probably true" to the statement "Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country; 35 percent agreed that "Jews have too much power in the business world; and 35 percent believe that "Jews still talk too much about what happened to them during the Holocaust.
The first is that as Braunold noted:
Perhaps the only positive thing of note has been the reaction of the French Jewish community. After a rabbi and three small children were murdered in France, and declared by the persecutor as an act in the name of the Middle East conflict, there were no riots, nor firebombs lobbed at mosques. During the 2009 War in Gaza there were riots in London, shops smashed and firebombs thrown at synagogues.The Second is that the Palestinians themselves have refused to turn Merah into a victim and a martyr as Ramadan did.
The French Jewish community’s silent and powerful protest in arms with other communities in response to such violent provocation demonstrates that even at the pinnacle of rage rioting in the streets of Europe is not justified. So as we think about what lead a man to target Jewish children, let us also recognize the control of a community, a control that we could only hope to emulate if we found ourselves in such circumstances.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad said:
"It is time for these criminals to stopmarketing their terrorist acts in the name of Palestine and to stop pretending to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children who only ask for a decent life,"These two reactions make me believe that there is still hope for peace and reconciliation between Jews and Muslims throughout the world as well as between Israelis and Palestinians.