Obama’s reluctance to call attacks anti-Semitic or terrorists Islamic radicals is troubling.
As reports of terror attacks on Jews and Jewish targets in
In the summer of 2010, I spent a few days, including Shabbat, in
On an earlier trip to
Back in the spring of 1998, I visited the Israeli Embassy in
Four years later, within a five-week period in the spring of 2002, the embassy in
In addition to thinking “there, but for the grace of God, go I,” these reminders of the long history and wide scope of terror attacks against Jewish targets were all the more jarring to me in light of President Obama’s seemingly willful efforts to deny that anti-Semitism is the common denominator here.
In a recent interview he said, “It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in
Perhaps, in his defense, one could note that the president, known for his eloquence, was speaking casually. But the offensive nature of the remark — “randomly shoot a bunch of folks” — was compounded when two administration spokespersons sought to defend Obama’s words. White House press secretary John Earnest said the next day that “the adverb the president chose was used to indicate that the individuals who were killed in that terrible incident were killed not because of who they were, but because of where they randomly happened to be.”
But the use of “randomly” is precisely what is so upsetting, given that the Islamic terrorist, Amedy Coulibaly, said during the tragic event, “I have 16 hostages and I have killed four, and I targeted them because they are Jewish.”
When pressed by a reporter, Jon Karl of ABC News, whether the “deli” was picked because it was kosher, Earnest replied, “No, Jon. Any random deli, Jon.”
And State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki described those murdered at the French supermarket as “not all victims of one background or nationality.” In fact, though, all four were Jewish.
She and Earnest later sent out tweets acknowledging that the attack was anti-Semitic. But their initial efforts, and President Obama’s remarks, are consistent with the administration’s policy of avoiding terms like radical Islamic terror. This is especially troubling when The New York Times reports that ISIS, the Islamic State that succeeds in attracting volunteers by trumpeting its barbarity, “is expanding beyond its base in
But you can’t win a war against an unidentified enemy.
I understand the unwillingness of authorities to jump to conclusions about perpetrators and motives of violent acts. Most notably, we recall the
At first the murder was described as a random act, and later the FBI described the motive as “road rage.” Only the persistence of Ari’s mother, Devorah Halberstam, in pursuing justice, led to the later acknowledgment that the murder was an act of terrorism and that the intended target was the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who was being driven home to Brooklyn after surgery in
The refusal of the White House to identify terrorism as terrorism and anti-Semitism as anti-Semitism, or to admit that the great majority of such barbaric acts come from Islamic radicals (whose most frequent targets are fellow Muslims), transcends semantics. It speaks to a resistance in recognizing a painful reality and a lack of fortitude needed to defeat — not avoid, placate or compromise with — the enemy not only of Jews but also of modern values and civilization.
Until that happens, “Never Again” will mean nothing more than “again and again.”