Tragedy in Toulouse
Rabbeinu Bachye writes that Eisav is called a soneh of the Jewish people, while Yishmael is an oiyev. The difference between the two is that the former can sometimes show mercy, but not the latter. That cruelty, unmitigated by any trace of human mercy, was on ample in Toulouse last week when Mohamed Merah, a Muslim of Algerian descent, chased eight-year-old Miriam Monsonego, Hy"d, through the courtyard of the Otzar HaTorah school, grabbed her hair, and calmly executed her gangland-style, even after his first gun ran out of bullets and he had to switch to a second gun.
Early reports from Toulouse suggested that the murderer was a neo-Nazi. I hoped that would be the case. For if the killer were a neo-Nazi, there would be no sympathy for the murderer, no "explanations" of his savagery as a predictable response to harsh French laws against expressing support for Nazism. And the police would clamp down hard on neo-Nazi cells around France and hopefully be able to prevent Toulouse from spawning many imitators.
And I suspect that most French hoped the same thing, if only to allow them to maintain their denial of the magnitude of the threat faced from Europe's Muslim population. The Islamic motivation for atrocities committed by Muslims is consistently minimized or put in the context of legitimate Muslim "grievances."
The 2004 Madrid train bombings, the 7/11 bombings of the London tube a year later, and the 2005 French riots in the largely Muslim suburbs of Paris reveal that Europe is now home to millions of native-born Muslims, who are ripe for radicalization. Tens of thousands have visited lands, like Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Islamists are rampant. European police cannot keep all of them under surveillance.
Nor will the potential terrorists fit some ready profile of religious fanaticism. The lead 9/11 hijackers were engaged in decidedly un-Islamic activities the night before they crashed the hijacked planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Mohamed Merah was a small-time criminal and not notably religious.
Yet some ideologies offer ready outlets for anti-social misfits to cloak their violent impulses in heroic garb. Islamofascism is one. Merah filmed his brutal murderers because he knew they would gain him the adulation of millions of Muslims around the globe, as Caroline Glick sharply observed. The executioners of Daniel Pearl and the Muslim gang that tortured French Jew Ilan Halimi to death over a period of weeks in 2006 did the same. And they were not disappointed in the reaction.
France is awash in types similar to Mohamed Merah. Theodore Dalrymple, the leading chronicler of the British underclass, visited the largely Muslim suburbs surrounding Paris during the 2005 riots. These "cities of darkness" house "a population that derives the meaning of its life from the hatred it bears for the other 'official' society in France. This alienation . . . is written on the faces of the young men, most of them permanently unemployed, who hang out in the pocked and potholed open spaces between their dwellings. When you approach them to speak to them, their immobile faces betray not a flicker of recognition of your shared humanity . . . ."
Between 1959 and 2002, the French crime rate increased nearly sevenfold; from 1993 to 2000 cases of arson increased 25 times fueled in large part by the young and unassimilated Muslim population.
Official Europe does not wish to admit the magnitude of the internal threat. So instead it continues to fret about Islamophobia and strives to placate its Muslim populations.
But official Europe's crimes are not only one's of omission, but of commission. Merah did not have to turn to Islamic sites to enflame his hatred of Jews or Israel. It was, after all, French TV that fabricated the most potent of recent blood libels, the 2000 footage purporting to show a Palestinian boy, Mohammed al-Dura, shot by Israeli troops, while cowering behind his father. The outtakes, however, revealed that the entire incident was staged, and that Mohammed was alive and well long after his alleged death. French TV made the edited footage available free of charge to news organizations around the world.
EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton demonstrated, at the very least, the distaste that European elites feel for Israel, and by extension Jews, in her comments immediately after learning of the Toulouse massacre. She did not quite equate the Toulouse murders to the killing of Palestinian children in Gaza in Israeli military action, as she was initially accused of doing.
But she could not bring herself to linger, even momentarily, over the slaughter in Toulouse, or to identify those slain as Jews, before quickly linking "what happened in Toulouse" to what happened in Norway a year ago, and what is happening in Syria and Sderot and Gaza today. Indeed she continued with fulsome praise for the children of Gaza who continue learning despite the circumstances in which they live.
Beyond the lachrymose observation that it is sad when kids are killed, Ashton certainly suggested an equivalence between the children of Sderot deliberately targeted by Palestinian rockets and Palestinian children in Gaza, who are inadvertently killed, when Israel goes after the terrorists targeting Israeli civilians, who deliberately embed themselves among the civilian population.
And before waxing so elegiac about the young Palestinians bravely carrying on with their studies, Ashton might have considered that in the Hamas-run schools in Gaza they are being taught to celebrate the killing of Jews -- a religious imperative according the Hamas charter.
True, Ashton is an imbecile, who first came to public attention as head of a group advocating unilateral Western nuclear disarmament in the face of the Soviet Union. But the views of the EU Foreign Minister are common among European elites.
IT REMAINS TO BE SEEN whether the attack on the Otzar HaTorah school in Toulouse will trigger a more rapid exodus of French Jews for Israel. There has already been a sharp jump in Jewish emigration from France in recent years, as France's 600,000 strong Jewish community – Europe's largest – feels increasingly insecure in the presence of a Muslim population of five million.
Adam Garfinkle, editor of The American Interest, cautioned against one possible reaction: Portraying Toulouse as just one more example of an unbroken history of "one holocaust after another." "Judaism is about life, not death; joy more than sadness; optimism more than futility," he wrote.
Moments after reading Garfinkle's post on Erev Shabbos, I came across the most poignant and powerful affirmation of his words, in the form of a message from Rebbetzin Eva Sandler, the wife of the slain Rabbi Yonatan Sandler, and mother of Aryeh, 6, and Gavriel, 4, Hy"d, who were shot by Merah when they rushed to the side of their fallen father. To all those who asked what they could possibly do to bring some consolation to the family, Rebbetzin Sandler replied :
"Parents, please kiss your children. Tell them how much you love them, and how dear it is to your heart that they be living examples of our Torah, imbued with the fear of Heaven and with love of their fellow man. Please increase your study of Torah, whether on your own or with your family and friends. Help others who may find study difficult to achieve alone. . . . The holiday of Passover is approaching. Please invite another Jew into your homes so that all have a place at a Seder to celebrate the holiday of our freedom."
She concluded: "The spirit of the Jewish people can never be extinguished; its connection with Torah and its commandments can never be destroyed."
Fairness for Some
We are all in debt to Duke professor Stanley Fish for an unusually frank and robust defense of the practice of the New York Times and much of the liberal left. For weeks, the mainstream media has been in an uproar about some ugly comments made by right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh about a female Georgetown law student.
A number of right-wing bloggers noted that left-wing icons, like Bill Maher and Ed Schultz, had used even uglier, more vulgar language about women of whom they disapproved, without those same critics uttering a peep. A similar double standard applies with respect to charges of "racism." Critics of President Obama are routinely accused of racism for objecting to the President's policies, even where his race is never discussed, while liberal commentators are given a pass for some openly racist slurs – "Uncle Tom," "minstrel show" – and not so subtle insinuations of mental deficiency against blacks of whom they disapprove, such as Justice Clarence Thomas.
Fish, who is nothing if not iconoclastic, is nonplussed by the charge of hypocrisy, and does not think any liberal should be intimidated by it. For him, the distinction is clear: "Shultz and Maher are the good guys; they are on the side of truth and justice. Limbaugh is the bad guy; he is on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy. Why should he get an even break?"
As a description of the modus operandi of the Left, Fish is dead on. Examples of Left-wing double standards are rampant. Those who oppose the government forcing religious institutions to purchase contraceptives for employees are accused of waging "a war on women." But the same brave feminist warriors have nothing, absolutely nothing, to say about the real oppression of woman in Muslim societies – denial of medical care, honor killings, female mutilation, and forced child brides.
Simlarly, Israel is held to an impossible standard with respect to collateral civilian casualties inflicted while going after terrorists who are deliberately targeting Israel's civilian population. But the slaughter by the Syrian government of more than 8,000 of its own citizens barely merits a yawn from those same critics of Israel.
Fish's chiddush, however, is to offer a philosophical defense of the credo of a community organizer. "Good" and "bad," he explains, are the crucial moral distinctions; fair and unfair, less so. And so any double standard can be justified; it all depends on whether the actor is "good" or "bad."
Conservatives are often accused as having poisoned political debate and of a lack of civility. But nothing poisons public debate more than politicizing every judgment, as Fish bids us to do, in terms of who wins and who loses. That is just the opposite of Conor Cruise O'Brein's definition of an intellectual, as one "who can admit when someone else has made a point in a debate."
I have a problem with Fish on philosophical grounds as well. If there are no neutral standards to apply to actions, and the judgment of actions depends solely on whose ox is gored, how will Fish's eager partisans eventually be able to tell who are the good guys, i.e., the defenders of truth and justice, and who are the miscreants, who deserve to be pilloried whenever possible.