Any hack anti-Israel media outlet could frame the Paris supermarket massacre as rough justice for the Palestinians but it takes a Beeb reporter, I think, to add the fragrant phrase “Jewish hands.” Normally Israel’s critics are quick to distinguish Israel as a state from Jews as a people when they’re challenged on their criticism; that’s the foundation of their defense that opposing Israel specifically or even Zionism generally isn’t anti-semitic. No pretenses here for BBC reporter Tim Wilcox, though. Maybe the spectacle of mass solidarity with jihadists’ victims, including and especially France’s beleaguered Jews, was too much for the network to take.
David Bernstein relays an excellent point made to him by a friend on Facebook about the assumptions driving Wilcox’s question:
“Interesting that there are two contradictory assumptions made at the same time. First, that Jews aren’t really Europeans even when they live in Europe; instead, they are Israelis or at least some form of collectively non-European other. Second, that Jews in Israel/Palestine are not really from there, either, but are some sort of colonizers that is oppressing the natives. The assumption seems to be that Jews are a stateless people, deserving to call nowhere home, but a coherent one that must answer for its collective guilt.”
We must not conflate Israel with Jews as a whole — except to the extent that Jews everywhere must answer for Israel’s policies, even when they’re besieged to the point that thousands of soldiers are now required to protect Jewish religious and cultural sites. It’s the flip side of the impulse among some to argue that, yes, machine-gunning cartoonists is wrong but Charlie Hebdo did sort of provoke the reaction it got by being so horribly irreverent towards Mohammed. When you’re grasping for ways to explain why Jews are being treated horribly somewhere, you’ve always got Israel’s existence as an all-purpose “provocation.”
All of which makes this news unsurprising, if depressing:
After the French government began to send invitations to world leaders to participate in the rally against terror, Hollande’s national security adviser, Jacques Audibert, contacted his Israeli counterpart, Yossi Cohen, and said that Hollande would prefer that Netanyahu not attend, the source said.
Audibert explained that Hollande wanted the event to focus on demonstrating solidarity with France, and to avoid anything liable to divert attention to other controversial issues, like Jewish-Muslim relations or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Audibert said that Hollande hoped that Netanyahu would understand the difficulties his arrival might pose and would announce that he would not be attending.
The source noted that one of the French concerns – not conveyed to representatives of the Israeli government – was that Netanyahu would take advantage of the event for campaign purposes and make speeches, especially about the Jews of France. Such statements, the Elysee Palace feared, would hurt the demonstration of solidarity the French government was trying to promote as part of dealing with the terror attacks.
On the one hand, asking the leader of Israel not to attend a rally which has, implicitly if not explicitly, solidarity with France’s Jews as one of its themes is a keen way to make the point that the Jewish diaspora is not responsible for Israeli policies, contra the BBC. On the other hand, shooing Netanyahu away from a rally which seemingly every other leader in the western world had an open invitation to attend is a bracing signal of Israeli exceptionalism, and a concession to the sort of cretins — many of them among France’s Muslims, no doubt — who want Israel destroyed. No wonder Netanyahu insisted on showing up. And no wonder the Jewish exodus from France is picking up speed.