HAIFA, Israel – The Islamist rampage that gripped France this week shocked the European nation to its core, but such savagery has long been part of everyday life in Israel.
Israelis monitored events in Paris, beginning with Wednesday slaughter of 12 at a satirical magazine noted for publishing forbidden cartoons of Prophet Muhammed and wondered if that attack and the subsequent sieges that led to the deaths of a pair of jihadist brothers and their Islamist confederate would prompt the west to take the terrorist threat more seriously in the way the U.S. did after 9/11.
“This attack on France is an attack on us all.”
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Following the Paris massacre at Charlie Hebdo, Israelis gathered outside the French Embassy in Tel Aviv bearing signs saying “Je suis Charlie.” One person who attended the vigil outside the French embassy in Tel Aviv told Ynet.com the frightening scenes from France were something seen all too often in clashes between Israel and Palestinian militants.
“We felt the need to come here because we share a common fate," the woman said. "The terror that hits Paris is the same terror that hits Tel Aviv.”
The terror threat in France has long been worrisome to Jews in Israel, where a growing number of French Jews have emigrated to Israel in recent years fearing that the development of radical Islam in their country. A May, 2014 survey carried out by the Paris-based Siona organization, suggested that nearly three-quarters of the more than 3,800 French Jews questioned were considering leaving France, a country where the Jewish community currently numbers approximately 500,000 people.
“This attack on France is an attack on us all,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote to French President Francois Hollande within hours of the murders. “Free peoples everywhere must unite to confront radical Islamist terrorism and to protect ourselves against this threat to our common civilization. The people of Israel stand with the people of France at this difficult time.”
“Liberté, égalité, fraternité” (Liberty, equality, fraternity) has for over 200 years been the motto of the French Republic, but those freedoms, not just in France, but in many other European countries, have, according to terrorism experts, been hijacked by Islamist elements taking advantage of the open societies that in many cases gave them sanctuary, to insidiously establish networks of Jihadists committed to bringing down democracy.
Asked by the Jerusalem Post if the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office would be a “game changer,” Islamist terror expert Jean-Pierre Filiu, a professor of Middle East studies and a former French diplomat to a number of Arab countries, said that Israel shouldn’t expect any change in France’s foreign policy with regard to its stance on the Israel-Palestinian issue because France still sees the issue as political, not in terms of terrorism.
Israelis feel that Europeans, despite horrific terror attacks over the last decade in Madrid, London, Bulgaria, Belgium, Toulouse, and now Paris, are afraid to face up to the threat staring them in the face. Many Europeans continue to sympathize with violent Palestinian groups, including the designated terror organization Hamas, which is committed to the destruction of Israel.
“I think Europe has not woken up to the terror alert," Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, a famous Israeli lawyer who pursues terrorist organizations and state sponsors of terrorism through the courts and seeks to have their financial assets frozen and compensation paid to their victims, told FoxNews.com. "Look at the U.S. It was only after 9/11 that the U.S. was [prepared to launch] the fight on terrorism. Unfortunately, I fear it will take something of the magnitude of 9/11 in Europe before real action is taken.”
Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist. Follow him on Twitter @paul_alster and visit his website: www.paulalster.com