The separate murders of French soldiers and of three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in France were apparently carried out by the same person, reportedly with the rationale of avenging the deaths of children in the Gaza Strip and in Afghanistan.
The latest JTA news bulletin reports on the suspect’s background and the funeral of the victims:
…. Mohammed Merah, a 24-year-old French national of Algerian descent … claims ties to al-Qaida…. Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, and his two young sons, as well as the 7-year-old daughter of the school’s principal, were killed in the attack. Thousands attended the funeral of the victims on Wednesday morning at Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul cemetery. …
The linking of victims of Israeli attacks, which are meant to target Palestinian rocket teams and terrorist groups but often hit non-combatants, with the deliberate murder of innocents, remains a source of controversy and debate. This is from a news article in today’s NY Times:
Remarks by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, were perceived as equating the murders of three children at a Jewish school in France with the death of children during the fighting in Gaza.
…. In the transcript of her comments released by the European Union, she continues: “… when we think of what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, when we see what is happening in Gaza and in different parts of the world — we remember young people and children who lose their lives.”
A recording of her comments and a transcript later … include a reference to children in Sderot, Israel, a target for rockets fired from Gaza. She finishes by saying, “When we see what is happening in Gaza and Sderot, in different parts of the world — we remember young people and children who lose their lives.”
…. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier that he was “infuriated” by what he called “the comparison between a deliberate massacre of children and the defensive, surgical actions” of the Israeli military that he said were “intended to hit terrorists who use children as a human shield.” ≈ …. In the latest cross-border violence between Israel and militant groups in Gaza, 26 Palestinians were killed over four days, according to the Israeli military. Most were militants, but four were civilians. A 12-year-old boy was among those killed in Israeli airstrikes; another boy, 14, was killed by explosives in disputed circumstances. In the same period, Palestinian militants fired over 150 rockets into southern Israel, none of which claimed a life.
This last line is factual, but should not be taken as an editorial observation excusing the rockets, which are surely meant to kill people. Yet war, unlike surgery, is not a clinical process; in today’s post-World War II reality, war “cures” nothing. Israel has an absolute right to defend itself militarily, but it should be clear by now that there is no military solution to its conflict with the Palestinians. And the inevitable civilian toll of the crossfire leaves a legacy of hatred which is now global in its consequences, as the atrocity in Toulouse reminds us.
Israel owes it not only to itself, but to Jews and others around the world, to pursue peace vigorously, despite the very formidable challenges posed by violent haters on the other side. There’s no moral justification for such crimes as committed in Toulouse, but the Netanyahu government’s ongoing commitment to expanding Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank remains a critical obstacle to forging a peace agreement with the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority, our best hope for putting an end to such violence and ensuring Israel’s future.
In the meantime, The Jerusalem Post reports that P. A. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad condemned the attack in Toulouse and demanded that extremists stop using the Palestinian cause as a justification for terrorism.