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April 6, 2012 11:33 am

Terrorism In France: Let’s Not Pretend Jews Aren’t The Targets

avatar by Julien Balkany

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Students walking together in the aftermath of an attack on a French Jewish School where 4 were murdered. Photo: screenshot via IrishTimes.

As the serial killing saga of self-styled Islamic extremist and al-Qaeda sympathizer, 23-year old Mohammed Merah, comes to a close in Toulouse, France, it might help to look at the lessons this event unwittingly provides, particularly as political correctness all too often impedes doing so.

First, let us start by being honest about who the real victims are: not “the nation of France,” not “people of all races,” not “unity,” but Jews. As Yann Moix, in the French magazine, “La Règle du Jeu,” stated: “When a Jew is assassinated because he is a man, it is an assassination. When a man is assassinated because he is a Jew, it is an act of anti-Semitism.”

This is hardly the first time violence has rocked a French political election – and it is not the first time French people of the Jewish faith have been targeted for death during such a period. During the 1981 campaign season that saw Francois Mitterrand take power from President Valery Giscard D’Estaing, terrorists bombed a Jewish synagogue in Paris, killing four people and injuring 40 others. Jews were the overt targets. The perpetrator did not set out to assassinate “French society” or “national unity”– just Jews.

In last month’s event, people of the Jewish faith – a Rabbi and three young children — were again targeted in one of the three sets of killings. The targets of the other two killings were French military personnel of North African and Caribbean origin who had put their lives on the line to defend France, and whom the killer possibly deemed worthy of the same fate because of the courageous foreign policy of President Sarkozy in his fight against terrorism.

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These incidents can create a public panic that automatically increases the range of acceptable responses. Measured reason and thoughtfulness then look as if they have become the extreme view. The correct reaction is indeed not to accept such acts — but to respond surgically, with considered, specific measures. This is precisely the strategy for which President Nicolas Sarkozy can be credited for proposing: precise, new, targeted legislative actions.

We are learning, for example, that Merah had spent considerable time in Afghanistan, where he was arrested and subsequently repatriated. Despite being on the French authorities’ watch-list since 2008 after making yet another trip to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border last year, and despite squirrelling away in his home enough weapons to supply a small army, he was reportedly considered “harmless” by security services.

One hopes that questions are being asked about why this case was permitted to progress to the point of disaster. Sarkozy, however, understanding the need for strategically applied surgical reinforcement through new legislative action, announced in the immediate aftermath of the standoff that “any person habitually consulting websites promoting terrorism, hatred, or violence will be lawfully punished” as will anyone who goes overseas “for the purposes of indoctrination in terrorist ideology,” as determined by due process consistent with democratic values.

As I have traveled across North America over the past several months, I have met with French nationals of all backgrounds who, like me, have been “adopted” with open arms. In this spirit, we should all act and speak relentlessly to defend and protect our Jewish brothers and sisters who are repeatedly targeted on account of their beliefs.

Julien Balkany is a French National Assembly currently campaigning to represent French citizens living abroad in the United States and Canada, and New York based co-founder and managing partner of private investment firm, Nanes Balkany Partners.

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