President Jimmy Carter laid part of the blame of terrorist attacks such as the massacre at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo last week on the State of Israel. His comments follow a similar demand from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “give an account for the children and women massacred” in Israel’s fight against Hamas.
Asked by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show whether Islamist extremism could be held fully accountable for the magazine massacre, Carter responded in his appearance last night, “Well, one of the origins for it is the Palestinian problem, and this aggravates people who are affiliated in any way with the Arab people who live in the West Bank and Gaza, what they are doing now… what’s being done to them. So I think that’s part of it.”
Turkey’s Islamist president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, read from the same playbook as Jimmy Carter. AFP reports Erdogan furiously demanded Netanyahu “give an account for the children and women massacred” during Israel’s battle with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. “How can you see this individual, who carries out state terrorism by massacring 2, 500 people in Gaza, waving his hand?” Erdogan fumed.
The comments follow Netanyahu’s presence at a unity rally in honor of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack on Sunday, and his comments condemning radical Islam at the nation’s Grand Synagogue.
Netanyahu’s Paris speech clearly identified the nature of the threat faced by the civilized world: “Our common enemy is extreme Islam – not Islam, not regular extremists, but extreme Islam.” Netanyahu also specifically refuted the fashionable talking point that Islamist terror is entirely a product of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or of Israel’s impudence in existing at all. “Radical Islam does not hate the West because of Israel,” he asserted. “It hates Israel because it is an organic part of the West. It rightly views Israel as an island of Western democracy and tolerance in an ocean of fanaticism and violence that it wishes to impose on the Middle East, Europe and the entire world.”
Carter’s and Erdogan’s remarks distract from this basic point: that “our common enemy is extreme Islam.” Bringing up the “Palestinian problem” at a moment like this is making a crucial concession to terrorism, granting it a scrap of legitimacy upon which to feast. When the scrap comes from a former American President, the serving of legitimacy is even more generous.
The support of Western politicians like Carter for Erdogan’s line guarantees that Hamas and other Islamist groups will use random terror assaults and human shield tactics again in the future, because they work. The rules of civilized conduct in warfare can be violated with impunity, while those who honor those rules to the best of their ability are held responsible for bloodshed.
If the Daily Beast’s man-on-the-street interviews are any indication of general sentiment among Muslims in France, there is reason to believe anti-Israel and anti-Western sentiment is a strong as ever. Conspiracy theories that Jews staged the Charlie Hebdo attack as a “false flag” operation to implicate Muslims were offered; in one version of the conspiracy theories, the Jews were assigned superhuman shape-shifting powers, like the character Jennifer Lawrence plays in the “X-Men” movies. Some Muslims said they thought they would be killed if they attended the unity rally.
Even some of the most reasonable and moderate French Muslims quoted by the Daily Beast expressed support for the idea of censoring material such as Charlie Hebdo publishes, or demanded that the alleged crimes of the Israel and American governments be prosecuted as thoroughly as the magazine massacre. There’s a huge and ominous “but…” floating after too many denunciations of the Kouachi brothers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a rough road to the Grand Synagogue in Paris. As recounted by Haaretz, Netanyahu wasn’t supposed to be in France for the grand rally against terror. Both the French government and Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, expressed concerns about his safety. Sources within the French government said President Hollande was worried that Netanyahu would “divert attention to other controversial issues, like Jewish-Muslim relations or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Hollande was also reportedly worried about Netanyahu electioneering at the unity rally, as there are elections in Israel coming up. Tension also flowed from Netanyahu’s invitation for French Jews to emigrate to Israel if they felt unsafe, following the horrific slaughter of children at a Jewish school in Toulouse by an Islamist gunman in 2012. Although Hollande would later deny it, sources claimed he personally asked Netanyahu not to attend the rally, and even threatened to invite Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas if the Israeli Prime Minster came. In the end, Netanyahu and Abbas both attended the rally.
The French government felt obliged to take wide-ranging security precautions on behalf of the Jewish population during the dual hostage standoffs on Friday, including an evacuation of the Grand Synagogue, which was prevented from holding Shabbat services for the first time since the Nazis rolled through Paris. A significant exodus of French Jews to Israel appears to be under way, with the Charlie Hebdo massacre serving as the final push for many who had already been considering relocation. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, himself of Spanish extraction, warned on Sunday, “If 100,000 French people of Spanish origin were to leave, I would never say that France is not France anymore. But if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.”