Bibi isn’t Charlie, neither am I. Neither are most of the world leaders seen in that photo op supposedly linking arms for free speech in the face of the nasty ‘Islamist horde.’ I would have no problem if Charlie and his supporters made this about the scourge of terror. The massacre of the French magazine artists and the patrons of the Jewish market was a horrible crime all right-minded people must oppose.
But once you turn this into a campaign for free speech, then it gets a lot more complicated, especially for those world leaders attempting to link their faces and reputations to such a principle. To be clear, I favor free speech. But the problem is that most of them don’t. Mahmoud Abbas represses the Palestinian media. He harrasses and arrests troublesome journalists on a regular basis. Often because they expose inconvenient truths about the PA. Among them, the rampant cronyism and corruption that prevails.
And Bibi? Don’t get me started. I’ve chronicled for years here the erosion of traditional values like free speech and press freedom in Israel. For example, Bibi’s destruction of independent Channel 10, his fiercest critic, by driving it into insolvency. As for freedom of the press, Bibi doesn’t have Abbas’ worries on that score since he has a wealthy patron who has bought the presses for him. Sheldon Adelson, as I’ve recounted here, sinks $40-million every year into Yisrael HaYom (aka Bibiton) which is Israel’s most popular newspaper (in large part because it’s free).
When the government and security services find a reporter particularly troublesome either they arrest him or in some cases try and imprison him. Uri Blau discovered how that game is played. Alternatively, they haul in the publisher and warn him that if he doesn’t toe the line the government will withdraw his license to publish. That makes for a good deal of a priori self-censorship and a willingness to censor material that’s already been published.
And whatever can’t be stopped through legal threat or prior censorship can be stopped by military censorship. As international rankings of press freedom repeatedly show, Israel doesn’t fare well in these surveys. If that wasn’t bad enough, during last summer’s Gaza war the IDF murdered ten Palestinian journalists, many if not all of them deliberately, rather than accidentally targeted.
A Haaretz op-ed has noted that Charlie Hebdo could never be published in Israel. There are stringent laws on the books going all the way back to the British Mandate (following the 1929 Riots) prohibiting any publication that ‘mocks’ religion. A settler version of Charlie Hebdo even roamed the streets of Hebron plastering the walls with images of a pig trampling a Koran. Her name was Tatiana Soskin. After she was apprehended in 1997, she was tried, convicted and jailed for violating these laws. By the way, she would no longer be treated like this. More likely she’d be carried through the streets of Hebron on the shoulders of settlers (though only by women, not men, since strict gender segregation is enforced).
So in a number of ways, the sensibilities of the Israeli state are the same as those of the Islamists who killed the journalists in Paris. The difference is that the killers didn’t have the apparatus of a State at their disposal to enforce their will. Israel is quite capable of preventing any Charlie Hebdos without resorting to murder to do it.
Pres. Obama has come in for a round of criticism for his decision not to attend the Paris march, nor send any major U.S. officials. While I understand the reasoning behind the criticism, can you imagine how the President would’ve looked in that picture defending free speech? The U.S. politician who’s done more in the past eight years to attack press freedom and jail reporters than any president before him, including George Bush. Not to mention, the assaults on constitutional rights represented by the NSA revelations of Edward Snowden. Of all western leaders, Obama perhaps had the least right to attend this march.
Social media is awash with images of the cover of the upcoming edition of Charlie Hebdo. You can see it displayed here. I find it totally disingenuous on multiple levels. It’s presumptuous, condescending and flagrantly false. First, no one in the Muslim world identifies with the editorial line of Charlie Hebdo regarding Islam. So for Luz to portray Mohammed saying “je suis Charlie” is patronizing. For the cartoonist to claim that Mohammed is crying for the murders is again something Charlie has no right to assume. Third, and most annoying, the cartoon says “All is forgiven.” By what right does he speak for the dead and their survivors? How can he say that the killers have been forgiven for their crime? Not to mention, that the image carries a conviction that Mohammed (i.e. Islam itself) is the cause of the murders. That phrase connotes that the magazine and the victims have forgiven Islam for its attack on them. Jonathan Cook has an excellent post about his take on the cartoon here.
This heinous killing was no more an attack by all of Islam than Baruch Goldstein’s mass murder of 29 Palestinians was a crime of the entire Jewish people.
I wanted to return to Bibi’s insulting call for the Jews of France to leave their fetid hell-hole of a Muslim-infested state (irony alert) and come home to the Jewish homeland, where all Jews supposedly can live a safe and secure life. I’ve mentioned that the vast majority of French Jews aren’t heeding the call and that a leader of French expatriates in Israel explicitly rejected Bibi’s sentiment, saying it would give a victory to the terrorists.
Another of the arguments I offer to those who, here and elsewhere, claim there’s a massive wave of French Jewish emigration coming is that it’s actually safer for Jews in France than in Israel. Far more Israeli Jews are killed every year in acts of terror than are killed in similar acts in France. So let the uber-Zionists rattle on about the alleged scourge of anti-Semitism in France. But don’t let them forget that the rampant Islamophobia among Israeli Jews, along with Israel’s brutal approach to neighboring Muslim states, has earned it the unyielding enmity of Muslims throughout the region. In many ways, the idea of French Jews emigrating to Israel is going from the frying pan into the fire.
Eran Wolkowski’s brilliant satiric cartoon makes this abundantly clear. In it, arriving French Jews are greeted at the fortified gates of Israel by a “Welcome”sign, Bibi Netanyahu, and Naftali Bennett dressed like a settler and bearing an assault rifle. Israel is pictured as a garrison state bristling with rockets, guns and cannons. That’s some welcome!
A recent Pew survey of French attitudes toward Jews and Muslims finds, in fact, that views of these two minority groups in France are the most favorable on the continent. The country with the second-most favorable views is Britain. It’s probably no accident that these are the European countries containing the most Jews and Muslims. This should tell you that the clamor of Euro-‘analysts’ and anti-Semitism ‘experts’ regarding French anti-Semitism is a whole lot of sound and fury signifying (almost) nothing.
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