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Paris & St. Louis - is there a similarity between the appalling anti-Semitic attacks in these two vastly diverse cities?

Vandalized Jewish Cemetery in St. Lious

In America, the flare-up in anti-Semitism is somehow related to the ascension of President Donald Trump. But just what is the connection? Trump's daughter Ivanka even converted to Judaism and he has 'three beautiful Jewish grandchildren'. However, there is another way of looking at it. The new President is keeping his word about cracking down on Muslims at large. But in advancing this highly controversial policy, the President has run afoul of the US Constitution, as was pointed out to him by a federal judge. Nonetheless, he may have sent unintentionally a viral message to violent anti-Semites, who may be now saying to themselves:

    'Look at what Trump is doing to the Muslims; he not only talks, he does something about them! We must get off our asses and also do something about the Jews. Hell, they've even infiltrated Trump's family for Christ's sake!'

Although there may be no love lost between Muslims and Jews in America, there is no indication that Muslims are involved in any way in the desecration of the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in St Louis. On the contrary, Muslims have donated $100,000 dollars to restore the 154 damaged headstones in a good-will gesture to show that Jews and Muslims should be on the same side. In fact, Trump is new but the anti- Semites are the same old garden-variety of white low-life racists.

Attacks on Jews are so common that leading Presidential Candidate Marine Le Pen has advised religious Jews to stop wearing the kippah (yarmulke) for their own safety.

Greater Paris is a totally different story. There, Jews are wary of revealing their religious identity in public, and with good reason. The suburb of Bundy was the site of the most recent vicious assault. Three Muslims in a van identified two young Jewish brothers by their kippahs (yarmulkes) driving in a car. They forced the Jews' vehicle off the road and, aided by other Muslims, started beating them while yelling, 'Dirty Jews you're going to die!'

One of the Muslims grabbed a hacksaw and went for the throat of one of the Jewish brothers. The two were roughed up but managed to hold off the attackers. Police arrived and the two Jewish victims were taken to hospital but were not seriously injured. It is not clear if any of the Muslim attackers were arrested. Just look at the figures that show that French Jews face a frightening future in Paris.

Consider this: there are some 1,500,000 Muslims in a total population of over 11,000,000 in the greater Paris area. Many of these Muslims are second and third generation, born in France of North African parents, but they also live in poverty and have turned to radical Islam. These Muslims are tuned in to Daesh and al Qaeda. So, Jews are ready targets for these Muslim Frenchmen not only because of Israel but also because of their socio-economic condition. Attacks on Jews are so common that leading Presidential Candidate Marine Le Pen has advised religious Jews to stop wearing the kippah (yarmulke) for their own safety. Think about it: Le Pen has told French Jews it's dangerous for them to reveal their identity. There is no sign things will get better; on the contrary, faced with such a huge number of angry young Muslims, it could go from bad to worse. That's what Marine Le Pen has been warning. So, it's not surprising that more of France's 475,000 Jews have left or are considering emigrating from the country. The future for Jews looks pretty dark in the city of lights, and that is why thousands of them have arrived in Israel over the last couple of years.

It is imperative the US President ... nip the threat in the bud.

Obviously, there is no such problem in St. Louis. and the rest of America. But it is likely the vandals who desecrated the St. Louis cemetery and the others who have threatened Jewish community center and synagogues voted for Right wing Trump and may feel they are following his example. Therefore, it is imperative the US President not only make statements condemning the rising anti-Semitism but also order the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to launch an immediate and visual investigation to nip the threat in the bud. If the hoodlums, such as those who desecrated the cemetery, realize Trump takes this very seriously, they and others of their ilk may think twice next time.

Then there's the Jewish community in St. Louis and others all over America. Statements of outrage and breast-beating may not be enough. They should also send their own signal. For example, after the cemetery attack, maybe some of the young Jewish men should have stood guard the following night at the graveyard in solidarity with the deceased. And maybe they should have brought along their baseball bats. Would this be taking the law into their hands? Not really, if you are simply defending the final resting place of your grandparents, or your community centers or synagogues. (I wonder what the US Constitution might say about it.) This approach might spark a hue and cry against the danger of a new Jewish Defense League, but it would alert the authorities to take rising anti-Semitism more seriously than they have been.

Bibi gets great welcome 'down under'

Australian PM Turnbull and his wife with the Netanyahus in Australia (CC Turnbull Malcolm Twitter Feed)

In Australia, Israel's leader was wined and dined by Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the warm Jewish community. Australia is a very strong supporter of the Jewish state and opposes the unprecedented campaign waged against the Jewish state in the UN and other international bodies. Turnbull told Bibi that if Australia had sat on the UN Security Council it would have voted against the recent anti-Israel resolution. In a meeting with Australia's Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, Netanyahu disclosed that if there were to be a two-state solution, Israel would insist on security control over the West Bank. This was non-negotiable in light of the repeated Arab attempts from that area to wipe Israel off the map.

In fact, Netanyahu would probably have loved to spend another few days 'down under' rather than return home to face three police investigations and a damning State Controller's Report. At this time, the details of the State Comptroller's examination have not been released. but credible leaks indicate Bibi and his inner security cabinet failed to cope with the threat of the Hamas tunnels dug into Israel from inside the Gaza Strip. Those tunnels, which were known about, were responsible for the deaths of Israeli soldiers and civilians, and have been a subject of controversy both in and out of Netanyahu's government.

From what has been leaked the Prime Minister bears the brunt of responsibility for grave omissions in government actions. Bibi has argued that he repeatedly expressed his prior concern about the tunnels before the outbreak of the brief war with Hamas in the summer of 2015. However, it is the PM's job not just to talk about security threats but to also guarantee that solutions have been implemented. Bibi will have a hard time talking his way out of this one. Even inside his own coalition government, his Right-wing rival Naftali Bennett has been criticizing Bibi for this failure. Bennett and the Opposition will now have a field day bashing Bibi, who likes to bask in his reputation of 'Mr. Security'. Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and the previous IDF Chief of Staff will also be hauled over the coals.

Making the punishment fit the crime for IDF Sergeant Elor Azaria?

In the end, the court-martial sentenced the IDF soldier to eighteen months in prison and demoted him to Corporal. His crime was shooting dead a wounded Palestinian terrorist in Hebron who had been shot eleven minutes earlier after he stabbed Azaria's friend, another IDF soldier. The wounded Palestinian was lying in the street near another terrorist who was already dead. The officers at the scene of the incident had deemed the wounded terrorist no longer posed a threat. Azaria, a medic, who had just treated his wounded friend, walked over to the scene and after an Israeli civil bystander shouted, 'the terrorist is moving' Azaria raised his rifle and shot him dead in the head. Thus began perhaps the hottest debated IDF court-martial in Israel's history. At the time, both Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz sharply criticized Azaria's action declaring Israeli soldiers are forbidden from shooting wounded prisoners, even if they were terrorists. However, opinion was split. Many Israelis argued the twenty-year-old soldier had volunteered to serve as a medic in a combat unit in the midst of a deadly wave of Palestinian terrorism.

Facts & figures in the 'lone-wolf' attacks since September 2015:

  • Stabbings - 169
  • Shootings - 133
  • Vehicular attacks -55
  • Car bombing -1
  • Murdered - 47
  • Wounded - 659

The terrorists come at you with sub-machine guns, explosive belts usually concealed under their shirts or dresses, axes, hatchets, butcher knives and even scissors. In a new twist, the terrorists often step on the gas and deliberately steer their vehicles into Israeli soldiers and civilians, trying to kill as many people as possible. Israeli security personnel must be ready to respond immediately; a second's hesitation can cost you or someone else's life. In Azaria's case, the court- martial found he should not have opened fire, although he argued that he thought the wounded terrorist might have been trying to detonate an explosives belt. However, there were extenuating circumstances, and therefore, he was sentenced to only eighteen months in the brig.

In how many other foreign armies would a decorated soldier face a court-martial and be penalized under similar conditions? Let's consider cases of American soldiers in Vietnam or Iraq? Maybe the Brits in Northern Ireland, or the Falklands, where the first commandos into the fray were ordered to shoot Argentinian soldiers, who had tried to surrender, because their first mission was to reach as quickly as possible the British civilians on the islands and they could not lose time taking prisoners. Just how many court-martials did the French Army conduct of its troops in Algeria or the Russians in Chechnya, not to mention Syria today?


David Essing

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