Comment: Israel and Denmark - We are one

Danish Ambassador to Israel Jesper Vahr reflects on the aftermath of this past weekend's deadly shooting attacks at a synagogue and cafe in Copenhagen.

February 16, 2015 02:53
2 minute read.
denmark israel

An Israeli flag at a memorial for the victims of the deadly attacks in front of the synagogue in Krystalgade in Copenhagen. (photo credit: REUTERS)

This past weekend the scourge of terrorism struck Denmark. Twice.

On Saturday afternoon one person, film director Finn Nørgaard, was killed and three policemen wounded as shots were fired at the entrance to an arts center where a conference entitled “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression” was taking place.

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And shortly after midnight a member of the Jewish community in Copenhagen, Dan Uzan, who was guarding the synagogue and Jewish community center, was killed and two policemen wounded as a man, presumably the same perpetrator, fired shots outside the synagogue in Copenhagen.

Danes are deeply shocked at these reprehensible acts of terrorism. We consider them to be an attack on fundamental values that constitute the cornerstone of our society: democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and tolerance.

Saturday, many Danes paid visits to the two crime scenes to express their sympathy with the victims and the bereaved families. But also to make the point that these values are part of the DNA of Danish society – and that we are determined to defend them when challenged.

Danes – headed by Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt – flocked to the synagogue to share the grief of the Jewish community and to make it absolutely clear that an attack on the Jewish community in Denmark is an attack on all of Denmark and on all Danes, as the prime minister put it.

We are one.

I am grateful for the warm expressions of sympathy that I have received from Israeli friends of Denmark. We are united in our sorrow – but also in our strong commitment to the basic values that were challenged, once again, this past weekend.

As we Danes look ahead, it is essential not to draw the wrong conclusions.

Regardless what the ethnic origins of the perpetrator were, and regardless of his religious beliefs, this is not about a specific religion or a specific community. I am heartened by the fact that representatives of all monotheistic faiths in Denmark have forcefully condemned these acts of terrorism.

If we let those who are behind such acts drive a wedge between us – whether based on ethnicity or religion – and if we let them drive us to compromise on the fundamental values of freedom and tolerance that we hold so dear, they will have won. We cannot let that happen!

The writer is Denmark’s ambassador to Israel.

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