French-Jewish Activist Recalls Slaughter of Peer on 14th Anniversary of Hebrew University Bombing (INTERVIEW)
On the 14th anniversary of the bombing at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which left nine dead and scores wounded, a US-based French Israeli who set up a scholarship in the name of one of the victims told The Algemeiner about the shift that has subsequently taken place in the attitude in France towards Islamist terrorism.
Noam Ohana, founder and president of Tsarfat, the “voice of French Jews in the United States,” recounted the story of David Gritz, a student at the prestigious Parisian university Sciences Po who was killed in the Hamas attack on July 31, 2002.
Ohana, a Sciences Po alumnus – who worked for the French Prime Minister’s Office and at the Israeli Consulate in New York – took it upon himself to honor Gritz, murdered by Palestinian terrorists all for being a Jew. But the educational institution was hesitant to memorialize their dead student “in any practical way.”
In addition, Ohana told The Algemeiner, “The mainstream media then was eager to explain away Palestinian terrorism and contextualize it. Even an attack on a campus cafeteria could not really be considered ‘blind’ terrorism, as all parts of Israeli society supposedly shared some blame for the plight of the Palestinians. One French intellectual, Étienne Balibar, wrote a particularly horrifying note to Le Monde, to basically try and justify David’s death: by pointing to his having traveled to Jerusalem and studying at the Hebrew University. David’s parents had to respond to this attack while still in the midst of their month of mourning.”
This, said Ohana — who has written extensively about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the mainstream French and American press — was the atmosphere in France back then. Thankfully, however, he said, “Ten years later, my wife and I were able to convince Sciences Po president Richard Descoings to reverse course and agree to set up a scholarship in David’s name.”
Ohana also said that much has changed in France since then. “Terrorism has taken the lives of more than 200 people in the last two years alone, and the perception on the part of the general public and mainstream media has begun to shift in a material way.”
He added, “Though there are still attempts to distinguish Palestinian terrorism from any other terrorism, especially in some ‘progressive’ circles, it is getting harder to do, as ISIS terrorists use techniques employed by Palestinian terrorists, such as the truck-ramming on Bastille Day in Nice this month. Basically, the fact that Palestinians own the intellectual property of so many of the mass-murder methods makes it very difficult to distinguish between terrorist groups.”
Describing David Gritz as an accomplished musician and “a product of the very cosmopolitan Paris” that was targeted at the Bataclan Theater in November 2015 — his mother is an artist from former Yugoslavia and his father a New York Jew – Ohana said wrily, “ISIS would have loved to kill him, but Hamas beat them to it. His is a powerful reminder of the high price one pays for ignoring terrorism. Many French citizens felt at the time that his death in the cafeteria of a university in Jerusalem had little to do with them. Tragically, the first fundraiser that we held was the evening of the attack on the Jewish school in Toulouse in March 2012. Then, too, many French citizens looked the other way, thinking and hoping that this was more of a hatred tied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than with anything to do with them. We know what unfolded after these events. Terror then made its way to Charlie Hebdo and its journalists, before hitting the Bataclan and spreading all around killing police officers, bystanders at Bastille Day or an elderly priest in a church.”
In retrospect, said Ohana, “The second intifada in Israel – during which David Gritz was killed – was, very sadly, a taste of things to come across Europe. And looking back, Europeans should have showed more empathy to the mass murder of Jewish civilians.”
Ironically and tragically, Ohana concluded, “I am not really worried about David’s memory anymore. I think the new generation of French citizens who grow up with terrorism will likely find that this young brilliant man had much in common with them – much more than they could ever imagine when he was killed.”
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs released the following statement 14 years ago:
David Gritz, 24, of Peru, Massachusetts, was one of nine people killed when a bomb exploded in the Frank Sinatra cafeteria on the Hebrew University Mt. Scopus campus.
Shortly after 13:30, while about 100 people were eating lunch, a bomb exploded in the Frank Sinatra cafeteria on the Hebrew University Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem. The explosive device was apparently planted inside the cafeteria, which was gutted by the explosion. Nine people were killed and 85 were injured. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
David Gritz, the son of a Croatian mother and an American father, held dual American and French citizenship. David grew up in Paris, but spent his summers at his parents’ house in the small town of Peru in the Berkshires. He had arrived in Jerusalem to begin a graduate course in Jewish thought at the Hebrew University.
David held a masters degree in political science and philosophy from the Sorbonne in Paris. He came to Israel with the help of a $12,000 scholarship from the Hartman Institute to study philosophy and Judaism. He was one of two students to win the scholarship. David landed in Israel for the first time two weeks ago, despite his parents’ fears that it wasn’t safe. Wednesday their worst nightmare became a reality, when their only son was killed by the bomb on the Hebrew University’s Mt. Scopus campus.
David Gritz was buried in Paris. He is survived by his parents.
Four years ago, Ohana set up the David Gritz Scholarship, in the framework of the US Sciences Po Foundation. It is an annual grant to provide an Israeli student $14,000 to enroll in a Sciences Po graduate program.