Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt (C) reacts after the funeral ceremony of shooting victim Dan Uzan, who died on Saturday when a gunman attacked a synagogue, in Copenhagen February 18, 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
President Barack Obama’s “random folk in a deli” comment sounded stupid when he said it last week, referring to the victims, all four of them Jewish, in the January attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris.
We should be thankful for small mercies.
When a similar pattern of attack on a meeting of caricaturists in Copenhagen was followed a few hours later by a deadly assault on a bat-mitzva party at a synagogue in the Danish capital on February 14, the American president who has such trouble enunciating the words “Islamist terror” did not, at least in public, pretend that death of a Danish Jewish guard was just a matter of bad karma.
My heart goes out to the families of Dan Uzan and the man killed in the first attack and to the bat-mitzva girl and her friends and relatives.Keep up to date on the latest opinion pieces on our new Opinion & Blogs Facebook page
The attack wasn’t random, but I hope the girl will grow up understanding that it wasn’t her fault. The assailant is to blame and all those who aided him, be it logistically or by fostering the kind of atmosphere in which anti-Semitism and hatred thrive.
My sympathies are also with the families of the 21 Egyptian Copts whose execution was shown on yet another Islamic State slick, sick video. Their deaths weren’t random either.
They were a message to the Christian world.
It wasn’t subtle, although you might miss it if you stick your head in the sand and ignore the images of the blood of the beheaded men flowing into the sea.
The death of four-year-old Adele Biton this week barely blipped on the radar outside Israel and the Jewish world, but she too is a victim of terror. Tiny Adele died of complications from pneumonia two years after suffering serious head wounds when Palestinians threw rocks at the car she was traveling in with her mother and sisters.
There’s so much pain out there.
And so much stupidity.
While all this bloodshed was going on – actually, much, much more blood was being shed; Muslims have been killing Muslims in the thousands in the four years since the outbreak of what was so optimistically termed the Arab Spring – more than 100 British artists decided the best path to world peace is to boycott Israel.
In a letter to The Guardian on February 14, the group known as Artists for Palestine UK wrote: “Along with more than 600 other fellow artists, we are announcing today that we will not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with Israel. We will accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government. Since the summer war on Gaza, Palestinians have enjoyed no respite from Israel’s unrelenting attack on their land, their livelihood, their right to political existence... The Palestinian catastrophe goes on.
“Israel’s wars are fought on the cultural front too. Its army targets Palestinian cultural institutions for attack, and prevents the free movement of cultural workers. Its own theater companies perform to settler audiences on the West Bank – and those same companies tour the globe as cultural diplomats, in support of “Brand Israel.” During South African apartheid, musicians announced they weren’t going to “play Sun City.” Now we are saying, in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Ashkelon or Ariel, we won’t play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, run master classes or workshops, until Israel respects international law and ends its colonial oppression of the Palestinians.”
A British-born Israeli friend couldn’t take the hypocrisy and submitted his own letter, which the Guardian published this week.
Stephen Malnick, a doctor, wrote: “As a citizen of Ashkelon who was nearly killed in the recent conflict with Gaza when part of a missile missed my car by a few meters, I have a message for those artists with a selective communal conscience. I do not want you to visit my city and insult 120,000 people who were under daily attack in violation of international law. There are no military targets in Ashkelon but lots of Jews.
“After you make a stand against the extrajudicial killing of people in Gaza, and after you make a stand on the whipping of a blogger in Saudi Arabia, and you apologize to the citizens of Ashkelon, I will consider extending you hospitality.
“I will continue my daily tasks, including treating Gazans who are brought to the medical center I work in for advanced medical treatment. Odd, isn’t it, that they visit but you won’t? Even odder that I will welcome them and not you.”
Malnick neatly sums up the absurdity. He can heal Palestinian patients but there’s no cure for either idiocy or hatred.
And, no, State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf, providing jobs is not the answer to Islamic State’s recruitment efforts as you so naively suggested on MSNBC’s Hardball. Military psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was employed, remember? He was working for the US Army when he went on his killing spree, mowing down 13 soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009 while shouting “Allahu akbar” (which does not mean “For God’s sake give me a job”).
Leila Khaled, the former poster-girl for Palestinian terrorism, was feted by some in South Africa during her visit last week. Following her speech at the Durban University of Technology on February 11, the Students Representative Council decided that “Jewish students, especially those who do not support the Palestinian struggle, should deregister.”
Vice Chancellor Ahmed Bawa, showing moral courage in the current atmosphere, called the deregistration demand “outrageous” and “a deep violation of our National Constitution and every human rights principle.”
But look out for Israel Apartheid Week which kicks off on campuses in the UK on February 23 and spreads from there around the global village for the next month. The atmosphere it creates is lethal.
The boycott movement is guilty of many sins. By delegitimizing Israel’s existence it is legitimizing attacks on Israelis and Jews everywhere.
It also serves as a distraction, as my friend noted.
While the world obsesses over its distorted perception of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, it does not focus on where the real injustice – and mass murder – is taking place. There are millions of Muslim victims out there. They aren’t the victims of Jews.
Last month, I was asked by a British radio station to comment on the remarks of member of parliament David Ward. As marchers gathered for the solidarity rally following the Paris terror attacks, he tweeted “Je suis Palestinian” and that the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris “makes me feel sick.”
Ward serially offends me: He has compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Holocaust, and last summer while Hamas and Islamic Jihad were launching thousands of rockets on Israel he tweeted: “The big question is – if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes.”
He later apologized if his comments had given the impression he supported the rocket fire.
During the brief interview, I noted that now, more than ever, is a time for unity and pointed out, not for the first time, that Israel is on the front lines of the fight against radical Islam and global jihad.
Hamas, a local offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, was not firing rockets at Israel and planning mega-attacks via its carefully constructed warren of terror tunnels because of poverty and unemployment. On the contrary, if it stopped channeling so much of its funds into terror, it could solve most of the socioeconomic problems from which it suffers. But that’s not the goal. The aim is to try to bring down Israel and establish its own Shari’a-abiding state in its place.
That some British parliamentarians – Ward is sadly not alone – and at least 100 artists prefer to support the forces of destruction against Israel does not offer much hope when it comes to tackling Islamist extremism elsewhere, including the pockets that can be found in Britain itself.
Roger Waters, one of the best-known boycotting artists, tried very hard to persuade Alan Parsons not to perform here last week. It’s only because I don’t like violence that I won’t recommend Waters take his act featuring an inflatable pig and go fly the porcine prop above a stage in Gaza.
Meanwhile, I’m praying that Israel continues to avoid Gaza’s main exports: terror attacks, rockets and mortars.
Acts of kindness, random or otherwise, will always do more good in the world than boycotts and terrorism. That’s why the plan by a group in Norway to form a “ring of peace” around the synagogue in Oslo this Shabbat is heartening. The organizers belong to a Muslim grassroots group trying to fight hate and extremism.
Their acts are braver and better-intentioned than anything Roger Waters and his ilk even aspire to.