Mere days after the brutal terror attacks in Paris that left 17 people dead – including four Jews who were murdered in a kosher grocery as they shopped for Shabbat – some public figures are already seeking to blame Jews and Israel for the attacks.
Some of these smears are predictable, coming from marginal individuals who routinely find ways to blame Jews and the Jewish state for all the world’s ills. For instance, one regular contributor to Iranian-backed Press TV wasted little time in writing that Israel “orchestrated” the Paris attacks – and for good measure, ludicrously added that Israel was behind Malaysian airplane crashes, too. The founders of the Free Gaza Movement, which has been endorsed by public figures such as Desmond Tutu, echoed this slander, posting on social media the patently false smear “MOSSAD just hit the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo in a clumsy false flag designed to damage the accord between Palestine and France…”
It seems that some of these lies are drifting from the marginal fringe into mainstream publications. The ADL has reported that news outlets including The International Business Times India, Tunisia Times and the Cairo-based newspaper Al Dostor have all picked up the false claim that Israel orchestrated the attack. Other papers, including Jordan’s Rawafed and the Lebanese news agency Middle East Panorama have also fabricated theories of Jewish or Israeli forces being behind the attacks.
On Thursday, January 8, 2015, the day after gunmen murdered 12 people in their attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, the official Twitter account of WikiLeaks bizarrely blamed a “Jewish pro-censorship lobby” for giving motive to the attacks. (WikiLeaks dug itself deeper into a hole trying to justify its logic. In an argument that defies most attempts to follow it, they seemed to blame an incident in 2009 when an employee of Charlie Hebdo was fired for writing an offensively anti-Semitic article. How this justified the murder of the magazine’s staff by radical Islamists six years later was never fully explained.)
At CNN, in the hours after the massacre, senior international correspondent Jim Clancy was sending a series of surreal tweets, dragging Israel into debates about the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and leading many to question his judgment as a reporter. After asserting that Charlie Hebdo never published cartoons that insulted Islam, Clancy started sending bizarre tweets to followers who argued otherwise, responding to their statements by attacking them for being pro-Israel, even though no one mentioned the Jewish state. Other responses were rejected as being what he called “Hasbara”, the Hebrew word for education about Israel. After hours of ever-stranger and more hostile tweets, the senior reporter was seemingly obsessed not with the mammoth news story the rest of his colleagues were reporting, but with Jews and Israel, sending his followers feverishly angry rants on Twitter such as “You and the Hasbara team need to pick on some cripple on the edge of the herd” and “Everyone who stands for Human Rights is anti-Semitic”.
For BBC anchorman Tim Willcox, the murder of four Jews in Paris isn’t much of a tragedy. For him, it seems to be a justified response to Israel’s supposed crimes, real or imagined. Interviewing a Jewish woman identified as Chava at the million-strong march against terrorism in central Paris on Sunday, January 11, 2015, he asked if she felt unsafe now living as a Jew in France. When she replied that she did and how conditions in France reminded her of Europe in the 1930s, saying, “We have to not be afraid to say that the Jews are the target now,” Willcox responded with a bizarre change of subject. “But many critics of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well,” Willcox responded. Confused, Chava tried to explain there is no comparison. “We cannot do an amalgam between—” she started before Willcox cut her off. “But you understand,” he snapped, “everything is seen from different perspectives.”
Willcox’s hostile interview was reminiscent of the words of Raymond Barre, who was Prime Minister of France in 1980, when a bomb destroyed a Paris synagogue and killed four passers-by; Barre condemned the attack that sought, in his words, “to target Jews… and struck innocent Frenchmen” outside instead. Barre was roundly criticized at the time for implying that Jews are somehow less-than-innocent than others and that attacking them is somehow justified.
Thirty-five years later this slander is being repeated. As many call for his resignation, Tim Willcox has tweeted an apology for his words, calling his “poorly phrased” question “unintentional”. But to millions of viewers, his live interview appeared extremely intentional and his attempts to explain or justify attacks on Jews abhorrent.
We must stand up to these and other smears. As the world continues to reel from the attacks in Paris, we cannot let respected journalists and media outlets repeat justifications or outright lies about them. Stay informed. Read your local Jewish press, or check out Israeli newspapers online. Call your local media when you see slanted or biased – or just plain made-up reporting. Websites such as www.honestreporting.com, www.camera.org, and www.aish.com can help you keep abreast of media developments. And reach out. Blog, use social media, connect with others. Encourage people in your community to stand up to biased or slanted reporting as well.