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France must not push Muslims into the arms of extremists

The terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket were well-trained, spoke French and knew their actions would play into the hands of France’s Islamophobic right. Let’s not give them what they’re after.

By Yossi Dahan

As Israel’s news outlets covered the terrorist attacks in Paris, we watched how our analysts and correspondence suddenly became experts on the Republic of France and Islam. We watch as they compete over who does a better job mocking French naiveté – over the “political correctness” by which the French treat the Muslims as equal citizens. The French have likely not seen Tzvi Yehezkeli’s excellent series on Islam in Europe, otherwise they would have understood that Muslims pose the gravest existential threat to Europe. “They don’t understand how to treat this group,” said one of the correspondents. “They need to learn from the Americans how to declare war on Islamic terror,” added another.

In an article titled “What’s the Real Reason Al Qaida attacked ‘Charlie Hebdo’?” Juan Cole, a professor of Middle East history at the University of Michigan, gives an alternative explanation. Terrorist groups like Al-Qaida have trouble recruiting Muslims in their ranks. Most Muslims, writes Cole, are not interested in terror. Most aren’t even interested in politics or political Islam. In a country of 66 million people and five million Muslims, less than 2 million say they are interested in politics. The French Muslim community is the most secular Muslim community in the world. In Paris, where Muslims tend to be more religious and educated, most of the Muslims openly oppose violence and are loyal to France. While Al-Qaida is interested in taking control of the minds of France’s Muslims, it runs into opposition from the local Muslim community. If it succeeds in causing non-Muslim French citizens to hate the Muslims, it will be successful in creating a political identity that fights against anti-Muslim discrimination.

Protesters hold vigil for the slain journalists of Charlie Hebdo, Strasbourg, France, January 7, 2015. (photo: Claude TRUONG-NGOC CC BY-SA 3.0)

Protesters hold vigil for the slain journalists of Charlie Hebdo, Strasbourg, France, January 7, 2015. (photo: Claude TRUONG-NGOC CC BY-SA 3.0)

The terrorists who killed 12 Charlie Hebdo journalists and six people at a kosher grocery store were well-trained. They spoke French, and they knew that their actions would play into the hands of nationalist politician Marie Le Penn and the Islamophobic right. Their attacks weren’t in response to the debasement of Muslim symbols, but rather an attempt to provoke Europeans to commit pogroms against Muslims. This, in turn, would lead to an increase in Al-Qaida’s recruitment. Al-Qaida, which was led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, successfully developed this tactic of polarization in Iraq. There he planned attacks on the Shiite community and their religious sites, which provoked the Shiites to ethnically cleanse a million Sunnis from Baghdad, and eventually led to the creation and success of Islamic State. The most effective way to fight against this kind of strategic manipulation is to fight the urge to blame an entire community for the deeds of a few, and to oppose revenge attacks based on identity politics.

But we have a model for a proper response to terrorist provocations. After Anders Breivik murdered dozens of children at a left-wing Norwegian summer camp (due to the camp’s soft stance toward Islam), the Norwegian government did not start a war on terror. They judged Breivik in a court of law, and remained loyal to the modern principles which are worthy of our admiration.

Yossi Dahan is a law professor, the head of the Human Rights Division at the College of Law and Business and the co-founder of Haokets. This article was first published in Hebrew on Haokets.

France needs no one’s advice on fighting Islamist terror
The real reason Bibi wants French Jews to move to Israel
Putting the Charlie Hebdo attack in context

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    1. Brian

      Bravo, Yossi Dahan. The best comment on the situation I’ve read yet. Excellent perspective.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn4

      Indeed. The attacks that killed a dozen people at a satirical magazine and another four in a Kosher grocery were first and foremost targeted at Muslims. And clearly the best way to defend French Muslims at this point is to allow Islamist fundamentalists to kill more journalists and Jews rather than looking at the phenomenon of French-born French-educated Muslims carrying out terrorist attacks. Is that what you got out of that?

      Reply to Comment
    3. GilGamesh

      Sorry but Coles theory doesn’t hold water. If these guys were interested in provoking outrage by the French right they certainly could have picked better targets than CH and a kosher market. How can you honestly say the attacks were not in response to debasement of Muslim symbols. There is not an iota of evidence, to back up this theory.

      Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        I think that neither Cole nor Dahan, nor the Islamic extremists are as simple or single minded as you seem to be imagining them to be. Clearly the motives for the attackers and those who sent them are at least two-fold: the extremists can be both responding to debasement of Muslim symbols and aiming for strategic recruitment purposes to provoke the French right into overreacting and polarizing the French populace. Why can’t both motives be in play?

        Reply to Comment
    4. Phil Fumble

      If this were not published in 972, I would be complimeting the author on a perfectly executed item of Poe’s law.

      I don’t remember the last time I read something so pathetic.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Susan

      It is true that most Muslims are not violent, but the attacks on Jews in France have come entirely from French Muslims.

      We should not ignore the fact that classic Western Christian antisemitism has permeated the Muslim world. Moderate peaceful Muslims believe that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are true.

      Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        Nice try Fumble. You thought you’d try to cram the Christians, the Muslims and the Protocols into one nifty, smelly Slug dropping but all you do is discredit Jews. I assume you’re a Jew. But maybe you’re just a weirdo.

        Reply to Comment
        • Susan

          Your comment makes no sense. I don’t see how I am discrediting Jews.

          Reply to Comment
          • ICat

            No one takes Brian seriously around here. He acts incessantly as if he suffers from attention deficiency syndrome and his unemployment does not make his particular situation any better. Female posters usually trigger something in his head and play a significant role in his calculations as to where he attaches himself with his incomprehensible rants seeking attention.

            Reply to Comment
          • Josh

            Everyone takes Brian seriously around here. Except he or she is a zio-fascist wacko. Like you obviously

            Reply to Comment
    6. Phil Fumble

      The fact that the Synagogue closed (as a result of further attacks against Jews) while mosques remained open is a very ovious sign that the article is nonsense. Utter nonsense.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Good to see Fumble that you do not waste all your time infecting this site, but are also an avid reader of the German-language press. Or was this a talking point passed on to you from Hasbara Central Control.

        Reply to Comment
        • Phil Fumble

          Your comment added nothing to the conversation. You are pathetic.

          And promoting the idea of a non-existing, secretive, shadowy, Jewish controlled organization that you call Hasbara Central Command is obscenely anti-Semetic and a sign of your psychiatric issues.

          Get the proper help you revolting ugly troll. Fix your yellow, crooked limey teeth and give back the Falklands before you dare lecture Israel.

          And stop thinking so much about Jews.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            If you say so Phil then Israeli PR efforts are a non-existent – I certainly do not believe its “secretive, shadowy, or Jewish controlled”. These activities have been out in the open for many years, are very well-funded and are not organized by Jews but by the Israeli government (which let me remind you is the the elected democratic government of a successful multicultural society, where Druze, Bedouin, Christians, Moslems, Jews and secularists all sit down as equals around the table.) I therefore find the accusation of antisemitism inappropriate, unless you have redefined it to mean not a dislike of Jews but a failure to love Israel enough).

            In 1984 the Hasbara Project was founded as an internship program established to train foreign-service officers in communications. Shmuel Katz played an important role with his 1973 book “Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine”, described as “an encyclopedic source-book for those involved in Israel’s hasbara (public relations) effort” and a 1977 appointee of Prime Minister Menachem Begin as “Adviser to the Prime Minister of Information Abroad.” In 2001 Katz argued that Hasbara “must be tackled not by occasional sudden sallies but by a separate permanent department in the government.” In response the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Jewish Agency for Israel operated a campaign called “Hasbara, Israeli Advocacy, Your Guide to the Middle East Conflict” In 2007-8 Hasbara and CAMERA began a project to rewrite Wikipedia according to the official propaganda line, resulting in several editors being banned. In 2009 the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced it would assemble an “internet warfare” squad to spread a pro-Israel message on various websites, with initial funding of 600,000 shekels. Now the position is much improved with the tracking of what supporters see as anti-Israel media bias and the organisation of mass e-mail campaigns on behalf of Israel. Now according to Neil Lazarus “Israel’s hasbara seems to be becoming more dynamic… Even day schools … have been conscripted to the task.”

            Various manuals such as “The Hasbara Handbook: Promoting Israel on Campus” (http://www.sott.net/signs/hasbara.pdf) have been published and make interesting reading, though perhaps add little to what those familiar with this site understand about the cynical manipulation of truth.

            See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_diplomacy_%28Israel%29

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            Phil says you are “pathetic”, “obscenely anti-Semitic”, have “psychiatric issues”, have “yellow, crooked, limey teeth”, are a revolting, ugly troll”. If I were your internet Hagannah commanding officer I would tell you to get your sloppy act together, to polish your boots, do up your uniform buttons, clean your rifle, and turn up on parade with ready for action, with your bayonet ready.

            The hasbara manual makes it quite clear that “violent or abusive attacks (on Jews) as part of political exchanges are always wrong.” The manual says nothing about such abuse in defense of Israel, but since its authors attach great weight to not employing double standards we can assume your c.o. would disapprove of your abusiveness. The manual insists that Israel advocates “dig deep to find the strength to be pro-active, to help Israel, and spread a message of peace and non-
            violence” so on that basis we can be sure your c.o. would disapprove of your sloppy approach. As to the charge of anti-Semitism, the manual states that the term must be restricted to those who hate all Jews simply because they are Jews, and that “Not everybody who attacks Israel is Antisemitic. It is legitimate for those who oppose Israeli policies to express this opposition in public, just as it is legitimate for Israel activists to defend Israel. It is important to defend the right of those who disagree with Israeli policies to express their opinions, and to be clear that this is a legitimate part of public debate.”

            Smart proactive Israel advocates realise that when you are stuck for a response it is better to remain silent than to resort to abuse, that there is nothing wrong with admitting that Israeli policy (like any state’s policy) will sometimes be wrong, that bullying attacks are not well-received by impartial observers, that recklessly casting around accusations of anti-Semitism with no justification devalues what is serious bigotry, and that if the product you are trying to sell is defective and dangerous it takes inspiring well-considered and well-researched salesmanship to convince very wary consumers. Think on Philip.


            Reply to Comment
    7. There is no secret, shadowy Jewish controlled organization – it’s all very much in the open for anyone to see and it is called http://www.hasbara.com. Also for you brain surgeons out there who say “stop thinking so much about Jews” – newsflash! This is web site that is all about tomatoes! No, Jamaica man! No, it is all things Israel/Israelis/Jews. You see the conundrum?

      Reply to Comment