France Mourns Again

Once again, a vicious terror attack has killed dozens of people, sent shockwaves throughout the world and plunged a country into mourning.

For the third time in 18 months, France, a land that has opened its doors wide to immigrants, has been targeted by the enemies of civilized mankind.

Once more, it is our painful duty to express our deepest condolences to the families of the victims of Thursday’s horrific attack in Nice — which include at least one member of the local Jewish community, Mrs. Raymonde Mamane, Hy”d — and our heartfelt wishes for a speedy recovery to all the injured. For those who lost a close relative or friend, this is far more than a media story that, after leading the news for a few days, will quietly enter the dusty annals of history. Their lives have been altered forever — and, in some cases, been all but destroyed.

In the first hours after the attack, those who had the ill fortune to be personally acquainted with or related to Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the Tunisian-born truck driver behind the devastating carnage, described him as difficult, hostile and violent, but claimed that he was a secular Muslim and there were no signs that he had an ideological motive.

A day later, after the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the terror attack, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls acknowledged authorities “now know that the killer radicalized very quickly.”

While thus far there does not seem to be tangible evidence of a link between the group and Bouhlel, Valls told a French newspaper that the heinous terrorist organization “is encouraging individuals unknown to our services to stage attacks.”

“That is without a doubt the case in the Nice attack,” said Valls, warning that “terrorism will be part of our daily lives for a long time.”

An uncle of the terrorist later revealed that his nephew was indoctrinated about two weeks ago by an Algerian member of the Islamic State group in Nice.

It is noteworthy that the imam of Nice’s main mosque says many victims of last week’s truck attack were themselves Muslim.

“We are touched, profoundly touched, by this horrible act that affects many Muslim families,” Mahmoud Benzamia, imam of the En Nour Mosque, told the Associated Press. “He is a madman, a fanatic who committed an act that has been put on Islam,” he added.

However, the area around Nice is home to more than a dozen informal mosques known to spread radical ideas, and it is one of the main recruiting grounds for jihadis who have left France to fight in Syria. While Benzamia’s denunciation of the attack is appropriate and important, it is vital that all Muslims who seek to be dissociated from such heinous acts — especially those in a position of influence — take an active role, both publicly and behind the scenes, in battling those who encourage jihad. It is their obligation to do all they can to close down these informal mosques and help wage ideological warfare against those who massacre innocent men, women and children. The more steps they take to join anti-terror efforts, the easier it will be to convince a skeptical and fearful general populace that the violent, radical Islamists are a small minority of an otherwise peaceful group.

Unlike past attacks, which prompted an outpouring of unity, this latest assault on France has its citizens angry, wondering where the nation’s security forces were.

Yet, ironically, if the current reports prove to be accurate, and Bouhlel radicalized over a very brief time, then in this specific case the French security agencies can hardly be blamed for not having him on their radar.

The weapon used in the massacre further underscores the fact that there was little, if anything, that officials could have done to prevent such a calamity from occurring. The notion that something as innocuous as a truck can be turned within a matter of moments into a weapon of mass destruction is a very frightening thought, and yet another reminder of the helplessness of man.

While every effort must be made by free governments and their citizens to try to battle the forces of evil, it is imperative that we recognize that the success of even the most advanced and comprehensive attempt to fight terror is solely dependent on Heavenly protection. While this is equally true regardless of the tactics used by those who seek to kill the innocent, when trucks and knives are the tools of terror, this fact is particularly telling.

Im Hashem lo yishmor ir, shav shakad shomer — If Hashem does not guard the city, the watchman awakes in vain.” May we all merit His protection.