The terror attacks perpetrated by Islamic State in Paris on Friday, Nov. 13, spurred a huge wave of solidarity from around the world. Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Israel stands united with France in the fight against radical Islamism. Social media networks overflowed with expressions of sympathy, and many people added the French flag to their Facebook profile pictures. Cities around the world, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, lit up landmarks in the colours of the French flag.
French President Francois Hollande called the terrorist attacks an act of war, and made it very clear that France would defend itself. On Nov. 15, French jets struck the heart of Islamic State-controlled territory in the first direct retaliation. According to the French Defence Ministry, 12 aircraft bombed a command and control centre, a jihadi recruitment centre, a munitions depot and Islamic State training camp in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State’s “caliphate”.
“It was normal to take the initiative and action and France had the legitimacy to do so,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said about the airstrikes. “One cannot be attacked harshly, and you know the drama that is happening in Paris, without being present and active.” A slightly different tone than the one employed when Israel retaliates against rocket attacks on its own civilians.
Other heads of state also spoke plainly after the Paris attacks. US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that America stands in solidarity with France “in outrage for this vicious act of violence.” British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were equally forceful.
Interestingly, most mainstream media outlets, which usually bend over backwards to avoid any mention of the word “terrorism” with regard to terrorist attacks in Israel, found no difficulty in calling the Paris attacks by their rightful name. Indeed, the Agence France Presse (AFP) published a chronological list of worldwide terror attacks since 9/11, including of course the Madrid and London bombings, Mumbai, Kenya and many others. Israel, however, was completely missing from that list.
Apparently, according to AFP, there have been no terror attacks in Israel since 9/11.
That is the crux of the matter for many Israelis, as the world embraces France with sympathy and solidarity and declarations of understanding that this terrorism must be fought hard, even with the same kind of retaliatory airstrikes that the world so intensely deplores when Israel conducts them.
As Israelis and human beings, we also show solidarity with the French. We only wish this solidarity was truly universal and not something reserved only for Western Europeans or Americans. The Facebook community does not add the colours of the Israeli flag to profile pictures when Israelis are murdered in terrorist attacks. No state leaders declare that it is a crime against humanity when Israeli parents are gunned down in cold blood in front of their children. Somehow, all this is irrelevant because of “occupation”.
Furthermore, this outpouring of Western solidarity – cheap as it is, since declarations, tinting your Facebook photo with the colours of a flag and writing pretty words of solidarity are gratuitous – never extends to the victims of Islamic State outside of Europe. The group has been ruthlessly torturing, raping, enslaving and murdering Yazidis, Christians and Muslims, women, children and men throughout the Middle East. Where were and are heartfelt statements of solidarity with them? Did anyone put up a Russian flag when 200 Russian citizens lost their lives in a terrorist attack over the Sinai Peninsula recently?
Every time the world is hit by mass terrorism, Israel hopes that the world community will finally understand Israel’s predicament. It hoped so after 9/11, the Madrid bombings in 2004, the London bombings in 2005, and even after the Charlie Hebdo massacre last January.
“You can’t fight terrorism selectively,” Netanyahu said. “You can’t say these are the good terrorists and these are the bad terrorists. All terrorists are bad.
“Just as we have condemned murderous acts around the world, so too I expected condemnation to be issued against the murders that occurred yesterday, of Yaakov and Natanel Litman [a father and son shot to death near Hebron on Nov. 13].”
No such condemnation from the world will be forthcoming.
However, the relativism when it comes to terrorism against Israelis is not only problematic for Israel, but in the end also for the proponents of that relativism. Israel and the rest of the West are fighting the same enemy – radical Islamism. It is impossible to win a war when you refuse even to name the enemy.
Judith Bergman is a writer and political analyst living in Israel. © Israel Hayom, reprinted by permission, all rights reserved.
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