Ceremony for Paris victims.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Double standards During a visit on Tuesday to the site of the murderous attack on a kosher grocery in eastern Paris, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the tendency to employ a double standard when it comes to Islamist terrorism.
Islamist terrorism must be fought everywhere, “even when it is against Israel and the Jews,” Netanyahu said.
A senior official, expanding on the prime minister’s message, told The Jerusalem Post
’s Diplomatic Correspondent Herb Keinon that when murders are perpetrated by Islamist extremists against European journalists, there is “wall-to-wall horror” and no attempt is made to look for justification. But when Israelis or Jews are attacked, too often a link is drawn between the Islamic violence and the “occupation.”
This insidious distinction applied to Islamist-motivated violence when it is directed against Jews seems to have infected President François Hollande.
According to news reports, Hollande and others in the French government were opposed to Netanyahu’s participation in the multi-million rally against terrorism that took place in Paris on Sunday. Hollande reportedly did not want the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to deflect from the focus on solidarity with France.
In essence, Hollande seemed to be conveying his belief that the circumstances of Islamist terrorism perpetrated by organizations such as Hamas or Hezbollah against Israelis or by an Islamic State terrorist against Parisian Jews are somehow different – and perhaps justify acts of violence – than the massacre of the French journalists, satirists and editors of Charlie Hebdo.
And this sentiment does not stop with Hollande, it is widespread in Europe. If the terrorist attack on the kosher market had been the only one, we would not have witnessed such an overwhelming response. It would have been seen as connected to the larger Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, in some sense, understandable. The March 2012 shooting of a rabbi and schoolchildren in Toulouse did not elicit such a backlash of outrage among the French.
It would be wrong to argue, however, that only the taking of Jews’ lives by Islamist extremists is somehow discounted, at least with regard to the force of Western reactions.
About the same time terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida and Islamic State were gunning down French journalists and Jews in Paris, Boko Haram was committing mass murder in Nigeria. About 10 days ago the organization, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language, seized control of the town of Baga in northeastern Nigeria and went from house to house massacring families. Hundreds were murdered. Needless to say, no great outrage was registered in the West, no big rallies were held and no senior political leaders bothered to visit Nigeria.
The relative indifference to the atrocities taking place in Nigeria, Mali, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and other developing nations might be the result of cultural chauvinism. It is as if people from the West – particularly those with a progressive point of view but not just – were saying that this sort of barbarism is part of the culture. Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran,
once reacted to this sort of argument by noting, “It’s like saying the culture of Massachusetts is burning witches.” Almost all cultures have reprehensible aspects to them, some more than others.
We should have the courage to speak out against them.
Similarly, Europeans’ double standard when it comes to Islamists murdering of Jews – even on European soil – might be a reflection not of anti-Semitism but of a cultural bias, as if Jewish victimhood at the hands of Muslims is somehow a natural extension of the culture of conflict that exists between Jews and Muslims.
A helpful way of combating this bigoted thinking is adopting a clear definition of what constitutes terrorism and taking steps to fight it, no matter who the victim – or the perpetrator.
It must be agreed internationally that the intentional targeting of civilians (as opposed to military personnel), no matter who they are, constitutes terrorism. A system of international laws and conventions should be put in place to prohibit all forms of terrorism. These laws must then be strictly enforced against the perpetrators of terrorism and their supporters.
Perhaps this modest proposal will be a step toward ending double standards, whether they be directed at Jews, Nigerians or anyone else.