The international community's response to Islamic extremism in France will be critical to the future of French Jewry as well as European society and the world as a whole.
What comes next? That is the burning question in the aftermath of the terror attacks in France last week, attacks that struck not just the heart of France but also a chilling chord in all societies grappling with radical Islamic violence.
One thing is certain: More French Jews, who have already fled in droves in recent years, will be packing their bags for a new land. But regardless of the upsurge in emigration — and the debate over whether Israel should be encouraging them to leave — the reality is that the vast majority of the country’s 500,000 Jews will remain.
What steps France, Europe and the international community take to ensure their security and, equally as important, to fight Islamic extremism, will be critical to the future not only of French Jewry but also European society and the world as a whole.
France’s initial response has been encouraging. In an extraordinary display of unity, more than 3 million people took to the streets in the aftermath of the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher market Hyper Cacher to declare “Je Suis Charlie” and “Je Suis Juif” (“I am Jewish”). France’s top leaders were swift to condemn the attacks, which took the lives of 17, including three police officers, and this week deployed thousands of security personnel to Jewish and other “sensitive” sites. The government also announced measures to isolate jihadists in prisons and tighten surveillance of the Internet and social media.
But how long will the solidarity and resolve last? Will it rapidly fade, as happened in the aftermath of the 2012 slaying of school children in Newtown, Conn., when the massive and urgent calls for gun control legislation died a political death? And what will the rest of the world, particularly the United States, do to join the fight?
As Joseph Lieberman, the former Connecticut senator, wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece this week: “The murders of police officers, cartoonists and Jews were attacks against the West’s most central values and aspirations — the rule of law, freedom of expression and freedom of religion. Radical Islam will continue to threaten what we hold dear unless it is fought and eventually defeated.”
The debates are already roiling, much as they did post-9/11: How to confront radical Islamists without implicating all Muslims? How to ensure security without violating civil rights? These are all important considerations, but they must not become excuses for inaction.
As we mourn the particular loss of our Jewish brothers in Paris, let their deaths lead to a sustained and global resolve to battle both anti-Semitism and religious fanaticism that embraces barbarism. There is no place for either in a civil society.