Around the world, people are now declaring, “Je suis… ____ I am…” (fill in the blank). After Sunday’s firebomb attack on the German newspaper Hamburger Morgenpost (German Morning Post, aka “MoPo”), no doubt concerned citizens of Hamburg and of Germany will be saying, “Ich bin Mopo — I am MoPo.”
In response to last week’s series of terror attacks in France, three different nouns came to fill the blank after “Je suis.” These are “Charlie,” “policier” and “Juif.” Intentionally or not, the Islamic terrorists responsible for this wave of terror, by savagely and successfully attacking this collection of victims, battered the three symbolic pillars of France: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité — the French national credo meaning “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.” These attacks taken together are no less than an assault on France as a Western democracy.
In memory of the dozen staff members killed at the French satirical weekly magazine “Charlie Hebdo,” came the eponymous blank-filler “Charlie.” The terrorists’ stated reason for this violence was retaliation for satirical cartoons the magazine published of the founder of Islam, thus attacking France’s first tenet, “Liberty.” Freedom of the press, speech and thought, the components of liberty, form the backbone of a democracy, and are all anathema to radical Islam. According to the annual report on Freedom of the Press by Freedom House, the leading NGO on the subject, the group of countries around the world with the worst rating is the Arab/Muslim bloc. This is no coincidence. Islamists have curtailed freedom of speech by threatening publications with physical or legal consequences, affecting what enters the public sphere of discourse.
The attacks on Charlie Hebdo and Morgenpost are not the first. On September 30, 2005, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of Islam’s founder. Radical Islam’s response? Violence resulting in more than 200 reported deaths, attacks on Danish and European diplomatic missions, attacks on churches and on Christians, and a major international boycott. Journalism’s response to Islamic attacks? Mixed. While numerous papers around the world reprinted the cartoons in solidarity with Jyllands-Posten and Charlie Hebdo, others, most notably The New York Times, engaged in fearful self-censorship, refusing to publish newsworthy images critical of Islam and its founder. When the press is censored, liberty and freedom suffer. Last week, the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine was an assault on the first pillar of France.
The second principle, Égalité (equality), enshrines the ideal that in a democracy all must be equal before the law and the rule of law must be upheld and applied, equally protecting all. For society’s equilibrium to be maintained, justice must be enforced. Executing the two police officers — one of whom was Muslim — the terrorists attacked law and order and declared their disdain for any law other than Sharia (Koranic law). “Je suis policier,” while honoring the officers murdered in cold blood by the terrorists, testifies to the assault on the second principle of France.
Fraternité, the final pillar of the French Republic, promotes the premise that “all men are brothers,” equal in their status as citizens of France. The terrorization and slaughter of Jews in a kosher supermarket shortly before Shabbos was the terrorists’ assault on the last of the trinity of French ideals. French citizens, Jew and gentile alike, today are carrying signs exclaiming “Je suis Juif! — I am Jewish!” commemorating the four Jews slaughtered al kiddush Hashem last Friday, Hy”d.
In response to the savage assault on France which left its foundation of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité assailed and 17 of its citizens — cartoonist and cop; Jew and gentile — killed, France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke to the nation on Saturday, remembering the dead, and, by doing so, the foundations of France: “Journalists were killed because they defended freedom; policemen were killed because they were protecting you; Jews were killed because they were Jewish.” His conclusion:“We are at war — not a war against a religion, not a war against a civilization, but to defend our values, which are universal. It’s a war against terrorism and radical Islamism, against everything that would break our solidarity, our liberty, our fraternity.”
In an interview prior to last week’s wave of terror, PM Valls said, “If 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.” Standing outside the market after the hostage crisis ended and four Jews lay murdered, he reiterated the point, saying, “France without Jews is not France.”
The PM is correct. If France becomes bereft of its Jews, a minority which has given so much to that country, then France will be irredeemably changed for the worse. If its government founded on Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité cannot protect the freedoms of its Jews as fellow citizens equally invested and protected by its laws, then the Republic is doomed, and the words, “Je suis… — I am…” will be changed to “J’étais… — I was…” and will be atop its epitaph.
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.