2015 began with heinous attacks in Paris by Islamic extremists directly targeting Jews and those perceived to be treating Islam inappropriately. Two gunmen, brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, attacked the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 9, killing 11 members of the staff and a policeman. Two days later, on January 11, a friend of the Kouachis, Amedy Coulibaly, went into a HyperCacher supermarket – at the height of pre-Shabbat shopping - and took those in the shop hostage, killing four.
The Paris attacks came on the heels of a year marked by a surge of violent anti-Semitism, including the horrific attack on the Brussels Jewish museum, and scores of attacks targeting Jews and Jewish institutions in Europe, Latin America, Australia, and elsewhere during the summer’s conflict in Gaza. The rise in anti-Semitic violence, rhetoric and discourse comes against the backdrop of ADL’s landmark Global 100 Survey of anti-Semitic attitudes in over 100 countries, released last May, which found that 26% of those surveyed harbor anti-Jewish sentiment.
International Condemnation: Leaders in France and around the globe reacted with horror to the Paris attacks and vigorously condemned hatred and anti-Semitism. In a stirring address to the French National Assembly, Prime Minister Manuel Valls pledged that France will confront it: “Without its Jews France would not be France, this is the message we have to communicate loud and clear. We haven’t done so. We haven’t shown enough outrage. How can we accept that in certain schools and colleges the Holocaust can’t be taught? How can we accept that when a child is asked ‘Who is your enemy’ the response is ‘the Jew?’ When the Jews of France are attacked France is attacked, the conscience of humanity is attacked. Let us never forget it.”
ADL is calling on concerned individuals to sign an open letter commending Prime Minister Valls for his passionate speech and calling on all European leaders to join you in stating that anti-Semitism is reprehensible and unacceptable, and in committing to the actions necessary to stop it now.
On January 22, the United Nations General Assembly held a historic session on the rise of anti-Semitic violence worldwide. ADL praised the importance of the informal plenary session as an important recognition of this pernicious hatred but said it was “long overdue” by an organization that has long failed to acknowledge anti-Semitism.
Conspiracy Theories: Of course, there were some who chose to use the attacks as a further excuse to promote hate against Jews, Israel and others. U.S.-based anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists blamed Israel for the attacks, claiming Jews were waging a war against Islam. International media outlets, including those in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and India, espoused similar sentiments attempting to establish a Jewish connection to the attacks. ADL also said it was disturbed to see Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu ratcheting up their anti-Israel rhetoric by using the tragedy of the Paris terror attacks to further virulently anti-Israel views, which contributes to a growing anti-Jewish atmosphere within Turkey. ADL also pointed to anti-Semitic comments made by the Mayor of Ankara Melih Gokcek claiming the Israeli Mossad was behind the Paris attacks as the latest example of this disturbing trend, and said the mayor was “guilty of perpetuating the age-old canard of Jews causing conflict and anti-Semitism.”
What Can be Done? With the growing concern for the safety and well being of Jewish communities, many asked if this alarming upsurge of anti-Semitism means there is no future for Jews in Europe. In a series of op-eds, ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman addressed what European leadership must do to ensure that Jews feel safe and secure.
The problem is severe in France he wrote in the Florida Sun–Sentinel: “Since 2008, an average of 77 physical assaults on Jews in France has occurred annually, or about one every five days.... When the French Jewish community has confidence that the daily assaults will be controlled and reduced, only then will their fears subside. Only then, can there be a positive answer: Yes, Jews do have a future in France.”
Writing in the Miami Herald, Foxman asserted: “The future may have very little to do with French Jewry. It will depend heavily on whether the French government and society can fully integrate their Muslim citizens. If they do there still will be some violent extremists, but the dynamic in society could change and make it more hospitable for Jews. If Muslims are not more fully integrated in society, terrorist attacks against Jews will grow, as will the extreme right National Front party, which has a history of anti-Semitism and stridently anti-immigrant rhetoric. Neither will be good for the Jews of France.”
Fundamentally, ADL has argued, Europe needs to confront and challenge radical Islam. In a statement issued following the kosher supermarket attack, ADL declared: “The attacks on Charlie Hebdo and on a kosher store are linked by the perpetrators’ ideology, not just their acquaintance. Islamic extremism is a common enemy of Jews and democratic states. That message needs to be heard and internalized by governments and mainstream society. Anti-Semitism is at the core of Islamic extremist ideology, interwoven with its hatred of basic democratic freedoms, and continues to motivate adherents around the world. The packaging of anti-Semitic narratives has radicalized followers and influenced numerous international and domestic extremists with tragic results.”
And in an op-ed in the Huffington Post, Abraham H. Foxman wrote, “If we want to win the war against radical Islam -- and in my view it should be the number one priority of the Western and Muslim worlds -- we need to call it what it is. Too often, out of a misplaced sense of political correctness, political leaders, including President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande, avoid identifying the extremists as proponents of a radical Islamic ideology… The basic message from political, religious and civic leaders must be that all good people are in this struggle together. The Islamic extremists are a threat to Muslims, a threat to Jews, a threat to civilization.”