UPDATE: Danish media are reporting that the man killed in the synagogue attack was a young Jew protecting the community center. Danish police appear to have killed the alleged gunman at the railroad station.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the Islamist terrorist who appears to have attacked a Danish cafe and the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen is, besides being a murderer, an idiot as well. If you were a militant willing to resort to violence, but who maintained a somewhat coherent political-theocratic agenda, you might wish to attack Israelis or real haters of Islam. But to attack Jews praying on Shabbat and a cafe hosting a event embracing freedom of expression–that is truly insane.
If you attacked the State of Israel or its representatives (settlers the military, etc.) or attacked avowed Muslim-haters at least you could make the argument that your actions were consistent with your principles. But how does killing Diaspora Jews accord with any vision of Islam?
In fact, this sort of thinking is what motivates Bibi Netanyahu’s claims that when he speaks on behalf of Israeli interests he’s really speaking on behalf of all world Jewry. Why would anyone in their right mind, even an Islamist terrorist, want to reinforce such a message? Unless, of course, your ultimate aim is an Armageddon-final days war between Islam on the one hand, and Christianity and Judaism on the other. And if that is your goal, you will lose.
You could argue that a more consistent program merited the support of other Muslims. Not that I would necessarily agree, but at least it might be a credible argument. But what Muslim can support wholesale murder?
I also believe that if Muslims try to directly assault western targets who position themselves as champions of free speech, the former lose. You can make a legitimate argument that those who deliberately degrade religious icons seeking to incite a response, whether violent or otherwise, aren’t worthy of support. But to create a juxtaposition between free speech and protected religious expression will not present Islam as credible.
If Islamism wants to project a holy war or jihad between the west and Islam, they will lose. Not only that, they will play directly into the hands of the most vicious anti-Muslim extremists. They will justify attacks by loons like Anders Breivik and the verbal assaults of provocateurs like Pam Geller and David Yerushalmi. Attacks like the ones in Copenhagen and Paris make the haters look prescient. It makes them mainstream. This is, in part, why settlers and Kahanism have become Israel’s political state religion. It is why France is in danger of electing Marie LePen its next president.
Islamists couldn’t have given Bibi a better pulpit to preach to the U.S. Congress on March 5th about the dangers the world faces from Islamism (see Eli Wiesel’s ad touting the speech), especially in Iran. He will use the backdrop of the Jewish holiday of Purim, which falls the next day, to remind his listeners that a cabal of Persian anti-Semites sought to commit genocide against the nation’s Jews, when they were thwarted. Instead of a genocide against Jews, there was a wholesale slaughter of Jew-haters like Haman and his followers.
Make no mistake, while Islamist terrorists harbor a vision of blood and mayhem, Bibi Netanyahu, spouting his addled interpretation of Scripture, spouts a no less bloody violent brand of mayhem. The difference between them is that Islamists have automatic rifles and Israel has F-16s and WMD. Though I fear and oppose both, I know which one frightens me more.
It’s worth noting that within a few hours of this terror attack the White House had released a statement deploring it. It took Obama three days to make any statement about the North Carolina Muslim murders. Think on that.
Susan Jacoby published an op-ed in the NY Times which places latter-day Muslim terror (ISIS, to be specific) in the historical context of the First Crusade, whose earliest victims were Jews. The article is very instructive.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.