When news of the slaying of 12 people in and around the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo reached the United States, not a single journalist or editorial office in this country was left unaffected. Such was the case here in Baltimore among the staff of the JT, many of whom pointed out that those targeted for execution by two Jihadists bearing Kalashnikov rifles on Jan. 7 were cut down in the midst of an editorial meeting.
That they were targeted merely for practicing the time-honored profession of provoking the powers that be — in their case, religious fanatics — through the equally powerful medium of satire was sobering, causing much introspection by anyone who believes in the power of the pen. The pen is of course mightier than the sword, but what the case of Charlie Hebdo teaches is that sometimes those wielding the pen are forced to give their lives because of it.
And then last Friday came and with it an assault by an associate of the magazine’s attackers on a kosher supermarket in Paris’ 12th arrondisement. As you’ll read in this week’s issue, that gunman killed four people, all Jews, who were buried Tuesday in Jerusalem. Here at the JT, we identified with the satirists at Charlie Hebdo as members of the press, but we identified with the victims at the Hyper Cacher market as Jews. I would argue that the latter identification is the
While we don’t satirize in these pages and, unlike the cartoonists at the Paris magazine, do not seek to offend, from time to time there are those who are offended by something they’ve read or think they’ve read. Typically, as in proper Western fashion, they will respond with speech of their own, such as with a letter to the editor. But there’s no 100 percent guarantee of safety, even in the United States, as the attack last year on the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City demonstrated with frightening clarity.
But we are also targets by virtue of being Jews. That puts us — and I include you, dear readers, in this estimation — at risk of an attack by a bloodthirsty Jihadist or a neo-Nazi white supremacist. Beyond violence, it also makes us subject to the latent kind of anti-Semitism all too common in polite society and as revealed by a BBC reporter interviewing an elderly Parisian woman over the weekend. Responding to a statement of hers that equated the recent attacks on Jews with the growth of Nazism in the 1930s, Tim Willcox decided to throw Israel into the mix — the existence of the Jewish state or its policies hadn’t even been discussed — and told her that “many critics … of Israel’s policy would suggest that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.”
To assume that Jews bear a communal responsibility for Israeli actions is manifestly false and dangerous and Jews throughout the world are right to object in the strongest of terms. But while we take offense, we can also derive inspiration. If we are going to be targeted simply for being Jews, then let’s acknowledge the shared responsibility we have for each other, our communities and our institutions.
We saw it last week, just as with last summer’s kidnap and murder of three teenage Israelis: Jewish suffering is not a localized problem. And whether in Paris or Baltimore, the Jewish response to those who wish our destruction is to respond with unity and conviction.
Nous sommes Charlie.