When the Victims of Terror Are Not Jews
The terrorism of Nice and the world's select outrage.
Nice has till now been world renowned as the capitol of the French Riviera. Founded by the Greeks long ago, it became a resort for the elite – the cultured, the artistic, the sophisticated, the liberals and the intellectuals who gloried in its symbolic status as paradigm of 21st century paradise.
Today Nice has joined the geographic list of monuments to the tragedy of terrorism. The names of the cities stand as powerful reminders of the universal threat to civilized society. It is no longer just Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. It is Paris and Brussels, San Bernardino and Orlando, Istanbul and Dhaka.
And so we have come full circle.
For years now Europe has been in the forefront of those justifying Palestinian atrocities - terrorist acts of murder of innocents, of slayings of Jews at prayer, children asleep in their bedrooms, mothers in front of their children - all deemed permissible with the torturous logic that people who believe they have no other alternative are morally permitted to carry out brutal and barbaric violence.
Is wholesale murder in fact ever tolerable because the executioners are convinced that their ultimate goal is noble?
But surely now the world needs to ask the question: When does terrorism cease to be terrorism? Is wholesale murder in fact ever tolerable because the executioners are convinced that their ultimate goal is noble? Is there any possible vindication for driving a truck into a crowd of celebrants of Bastille Day, supposedly to distribute free ice cream to the revelers, viciously killing and injuring small children as well as hundreds of others in its path?
I ask because the response to the tragedy in Nice has been notable for the kind of words which its spokespersons previously so often made clear they do not believe.
Listen to the leading Muslim clerics who united in condemning the attack and calling for a joint struggle against extremism because, as they piously exclaim, they are opposed to extremism in any form.
Listen to United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan who said: "This heinous terrorist crime makes it imperative for all to work decisively and without hesitation to counter terrorism in all its forms and manifestations."
Listen to Sunni Islam's leading center of learning, Al-Azhar which said the "vile terrorist attack" contradicted Islam and urged the world to unite efforts "to defeat terrorism and rid the world of its evil".
Listen to Iran which also decried the "criminal terrorist incident" in Nice. "As we have repeatedly said before, terrorism is an evil phenomenon that will only be eradicated through international unity and collaboration," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said.
Senior Egyptian Muslim cleric Shawki Allam condemned the assailant as an "extremist". "People who commit such ugly crimes are corrupt of the Earth, and follow in the footsteps of Satan... and are cursed in this life and in the hereafter."
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi denounced "in the strongest terms the vile terrorist attack," his office said.
Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit condemned the "craven terrorist attack," his spokesman said.
What happened in Nice is not nice because it was the kind of violence whose victims weren’t Jews, whose targets weren’t Israelis. But when it is a marketplace in Tel Aviv or a bedroom in Kiryat Arba terrorism appears to lose its obscene stench for all the hypocritical mouthpieces of moderation who would like us to believe they are opposed in principle to murder inspired by fanatic motives and targeted at innocent victims.
It is both strange and appalling that at one and the same time the world could condemn with great fervor the fanaticism of terrorism against some nations while continuing to justify those very crimes against those for whom they share hatred and animosity. And it is precisely because of this hypocrisy – the implicit belief that “my terrorism is not your terrorism” - that civilization is so powerfully imperiled.
How long will the world praise terrorists in one corner of the globe and assume it won't become victimized everywhere else?
The Jewish calendar long-ago cautioned us about the danger of this approach. The most tragic day of the year for Jews is the ninth of Av, Tisha B’Av. It was the exact day on which both of the temples were destroyed. It is a day of fasting and mourning, meant to ensure we never forget the tragic events it commemorates as well as our spiritual failings which contributed to the terrible events of this day. But what is a remarkable is that three weeks before the ninth of Av, this coming Sunday, we observe an additional day of fasting and mourning. It is the 17th of Tammuz. On that day the Temple was not yet destroyed. Yet it needs to be equally remembered because that is the day on which the walls of Jerusalem were breached. It was the beginning of the end – and the beginning of our downfall needs to be recalled as much as the day of final tragedy.
It is a message of great contemporary relevance. The day when the walls first fell, which allowed for all that followed, was when the world failed to respond to terrorism even though it wasn’t their house that was burning nor their children who were brutalized; when it was Tel Aviv and not Paris, when it was Jerusalem and not Istanbul, when it was just Jews celebrating a Passover Seder in the seaside resort of Netanya and not proud French citizens in the beautiful capital of the Riviera.
Terrorism didn’t appear to be such a terrifying threat when the wall of civilized behavior was first overrun. But inexorably the 17th of Tammuz is followed by Tisha B’Av. Evil un-confronted and un-challenged has taken the first step to victory.
How long will the world fail to understand this? How long will the world continue to praise terrorists in one corner of the globe and blindly assume it will not become similarly victimized everywhere else?
Our fate rests on the correct answer.