Comment: If only symbols could defeat terrorism

What years of talks failed to do, a week of terror in the heart of Paris accomplished.

January 12, 2015 00:50
1 minute read.
French terror attacks

World leaders including Netanyahu and Abbas flank French Presdient Francois Hollande at Paris solidarity rally. (photo credit: REUTERS)

PARIS – Down Voltaire Boulevard they walked. Under a gray sky on a brisk Parisian afternoon, some 60 world leaders – Europeans, Africans and Asians. And, in the front row, waving to the crowd and immediately identified by their silver hair, were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

What years of talks failed to do, a week of terror in the heart of Paris accomplished – getting the two men within shouting distance of one another, Netanyahu to French President Francois Hollande’s right, separated by two or three leaders, and Abbas to his left, separated by the same number.

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They waved to the crowd as they walked, as if they were grand marshals in the Rose Bowl Parade.

The hopeful among the throngs, and they were many, expressed “amazement” at the sight of so many world leaders – including those at tremendous odds, like Netanyahu and Abbas – walking almost arm-in-arm to express solidarity in the fight against Islamic terrorism.

The cynical among the crowd shrugged, saying this was a show for the world that symbolized nothing – more words and symbols in a battle that needs less visuals and more actions. Plus, there – in the front line of the leaders – was Abbas, a man who has formed a national- unity government with Hamas, an organization the EU still considers a terrorist group. So what exactly is the message being sent to Islamic terrorists? Still, if the message by the leaders was mixed, there was something powerful about the site of more than a million people of all colors, multi-cultural France, streaming to the center of Paris with signs saying “Je Suis Charlie,” and “Je suis Juif” and “I am Charlie, I am Jewish, I am a cop.”

They didn’t chant, they didn’t yell, they struggled unsuccessfully to get to Voltaire Boulevard, where the action was. And when the million people failed, they just stood in place – here and there, when the camera lights shined – singing the La Marseillaise, and sent a message of defiance.

If only that was enough.

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