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January 7, 2015 11:20 am

Charlie Hebdo Attack Proves Islamist Terrorism is a ‘Matter of Life or Death’ for Western Democracies, French Jewish Leader Declares (UPDATED)

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CRIF President Roger Cukierman described the attack on Charlie Hebdo as an assault on French democracy. Photo: Screenshot

Roger Cukierman, the President of French Jewish communal organization CRIF, has described today’s terrorist attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo as an “awful attack on French democracy,” warning that the sense of insecurity among French Jews will increase as a result.

Hours after the attack took place, twelve people were reported to have been murdered, among them the magazine’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier. Around 20 are injured, with four people in critical condition. Corine Rey, a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist, said she was forced at gunpoint to lead the assailants, who were armed with Kalashnikov rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade, into the magazine’s building. Rey said the terrorists spoke “perfect French” and identified themselves as Al Qaeda.

“This is a fight the Islamists are fighting all over the world – from Syria to Iraq, from Mali to Gaza, and now to Paris,” Cukierman told The Algemeiner by phone from Paris. “The Islamists want to impose shari’a law on the rest of the world. We have to understand that this is a matter of life or death for western democracies.”

Cukierman pointed out that French Jews were already anxious about their security before today’s attack. Speaking in the wake of the killings, French President Francois Hollande said that all potential terrorist targets across France have been put under the highest protection, adding that several possible incidents had been foiled in recent weeks.

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Jewish concern about security was reflected, Cukierman said, by the “substantial increase in aliyah [to Israel] in 2014.” Around 6,000 Jews emigrated to Israel last year, and Cukierman said that “the general expectation is that aliyah will continue in high numbers.”

Asked about the reaction of French Muslim leaders to the attack, Cukierman said that many of them had condemned it without reservation, though some “had their usual reaction, talking about Islamophobia and pushing responsibility onto the magazine.” In 2012, Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, including a cover image showing him being pushed in a wheelchair by an orthodox Jew. On the cover of this week’s edition, Charlie Hebdo featured French writer Michel Houellebecq, whose latest book “Soumission,” in which he imagines a France run by a Muslim president, has stirred a controversy in France.

“I hope that western countries will fight this phenomenon with all their energy,” Cukierman implored.

Other French Jews drew a link between the Charlie Hebdo attack and terrorist outrages elsewhere.

“Paris today, like New York and Jerusalem, has been the victim of an act of barbarism,” French-Israeli activist and prominent artist Ron Agam told The Algemeiner. “We are under attack from a merciless fanatical ideology.”

Michel Gurfinkiel, a French political analyst who has published widely on the subject of anti-Semitism in France, said the question now for French Jews was a simple one.

“Will the French public understand that there is no difference between attacks on western society and attacks on Jews, no difference between attacks on France and attacks on Israel?” Gurfinkiel told The Algemeiner.

“Today is the moment of truth for the government, for the French political class, for French Muslims, and for French society at large,” Gurfinkiel continued. “Only tomorrow or the day after will we know whether its various players have passed the test.”

French Jewish parliamentarian Meyer Habib described the attack as “our September 11.” In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 broadcaster, Habib said, “We warned that this would come to all of France, and to our sorrow it came.”

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