PARIS. The day after the Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to Serge Haroche, a French Jew born in Casablanca, material to make IEDs were found in a garage rented by Jérémie Bailly, alleged ringleader of the jihad cell dismantled on October 6th. The Naouri grocery store in Sarcelles, hit by a grenade attack on September 19th, is at the top of the list of a dozen Jewish targets found in Bailly’s apartment. One suspect, Jérémie Louis-Sydney, was killed in a shootout with the police and twelve suspects were arrested in a coordinated operation in Cannes, Strasbourg, and Torcy, a banlieue of Paris. Five have been released and seven charged with terrorist associations, attempted assassination aggravated by anti-Semitic motivations and/or recruiting jihadis to fight in Syria. The story dominated the French news stream for several days, triggering belated recognition of twelve years of anti-Semitic violence at a level unknown since the Shoah. The lid has finally been lifted on a seething cauldron whose explosive powers are slightly dampened by the breakup of one cell among how many?
The torrent of news report, commentary, and official declarations gave a false impression of ample information. Looking back, it seems that we know next to nothing about the suspects and their projects. Only three have been named—the Antillais Jérémie Louis-Sydney, the failed soccer player of Congolese origin Yann Nkusa, and Jérémie Bailly. Not a word, not a detail, not a leak about the others except that they are all born in France, delinquents and, save one, converts to Islam. Because Louis-Sydney had served a brief prison term, it was assumed the others, too, must have been “radicalized” in jail. Hours of discussion were devoted to the problem of criminals converting to Islam or getting radicalized in jail. Now it turns out only one or two of them had been in prison. So how did they get to be Muslim?
The attack on a kosher grocery store in Sarcelles with a bizarre kind of “low-level” grenade seemed minor on the scale of physical violence perpetrated on Jews over the past twelve years—bashed, stabbed, stomped and, in the worst cases, tortured, murdered, mutilated. The grocery store didn’t burn or explode, the window was smashed with a brick, one person was slightly injured. The story dropped out of sight.
And reappeared with the dawn raid on the 6th of October. The investigation had been transferred from local police to the anti-terrorist unit when the DNA of Louis-Sydney, who had attracted the attention of internal security (DCRI) last spring, was found on the grenade. Officials did not want to repeat the error of passive surveillance that had left Mohamed Merah free to commit heinous murders before he was finally cornered and killed. Investigators, convinced that the jihadis were preparing an imminent major attack, moved in on them swiftly.
Mohamed Merah’s deeds brought the word “jihad” into public discourse. The raid on the homegrown jihadi cell added “anti-Semitism” to the lexicon. For those who have been tracking the phenomenon since the infamous al Dura blood libel broadcast on France 2 TV on September 30, 2000, there is some satisfaction in the belated recognition. Now, how about the link between Islam and this genocidal Jew hatred? Young men of varied origins, born in France, are suddenly consumed by an imperative need to murder Jews. So-called experts on Islam and terrorism—most of whom have been wrong at every turn of events-- were invited by the media to explain this puzzling development. One expresses surprise at the rapidity of the “transformation” from criminal to “terrorist.” (Isn’t that the way Islam started?) Another specialist remarks that these homegrown terrorists have a very superficial understanding of Islam. (And the majority of Muslims are theologians?) A dazzling expert claims that these delinquents grab at Islam to ennoble their criminal projects. (Does that make sense? They didn’t ennoble drug dealing, they went into an already “noble” branch of Islamic activity-- killing Jews). Still another tells us that, for the first time, we have homegrown terrorists, not scary al Qaeda aliens sneaking across our borders. It’s true: the rare friends and neighbors unearthed by journalists say that the suspect was polite, well-behaved, and never gave the slightest hint of radical leanings or criminal intentions. But are they the first home boys?
The Gang of Barbarians that kidnapped Ilan Halimi and tortured him to death have similar profiles. The ringleader, Fofana, was a devout Muslim—radicalized, if you will—and most of the gang members were French-born converts of varied origins including Antillais and Portuguese. François Molins, the prosecutor who communicates today on every development of the unearthed plot to kill the Jews, is the one who denied the anti-Semitic motive for the extermination of Ilan Halimi six years ago. Officials and commentators persisted in casting doubt on the gang members’ anti-Semitism. Only two of the twenty-seven defendants were charged with that count. The gang’s Islamism was also denied, even when Fofana came into court shouting allahu akhbar. It is reported that the suspects in the current affair aren’t talking. They chant in Arabic and spew contempt for the jurisdiction of kuffars; the only law they respect is sharia.
By the way, do you remember the Charlie Hebdo caricatures of the “prophet” Mohamed? The man arrested for cyberthreatening to behead director Charb was reportedly in contact with the Torcy-Cannes cell.
The Salafist cell was the subject of every political broadcast on radio and television. No sooner was the word Islam pronounced than the atmosphere would turn chicken coop. Guests would be cackling, clucking, and crowing: It has nothing to do with Islam, that’s not Islam, don’t mention Islam, leave Islam out of this. Government officials and Jewish leaders asked—practically begged-- Muslims to unambiguously condemn this murderous anti-Semitism. The rector of the Great Mosque of Paris (who counts for next to nothing) and imam Chalgoumi (who needs bodyguards to protect him against the Cheikh Yassin brigade) condemned the violence which, of course, has nothing to do with Islam. Mohamed Moussaoui, president of the disjointed Muslim umbrella organization explained that imams don’t mention Jews in their sermons because they would be accused of anti-Semitism. No talk show was complete without one of the participants sanctimoniously declaring that Jews and Muslims lived in harmony for 1400 years. Another would add that anti-Semitism was a European virus inoculated into Islam. And a third would swear that Islam is a religion of peace.
Occasionally an eloquent voice—Aziz Sahiri on Mots Croisés, Alain Jacubowicz on Ce soir ou jamais—would speak the horror of a society where Jews are killed for being Jewish, where Jews cannot walk freely, cannot send their children to public schools… provoking the inevitable humph and shrug: they’re not the only ones.
Nothing to do with Islam? Then Islam has nothing to do with itself. After listening to these commentators weaving a web of fantasy I open the latest message from MEMRI. Imams and elected officials in a full range of Arab-Muslim nations and territories are ranting and raving. They say Israel is a curse and a cancer, the Jews are responsible for every misfortune in history, the state of Israel must be destroyed and the Jews must be exterminated. They maintain an uninterrupted 1400 year-long chain of hatred, an interminable, obsessive, litany monotonously repeated over the ages and implemented whenever and wherever possible. (See A. Bostom, The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism).
If the murderous anti-Semitism poisoning Europe has nothing to do with this Islamic legacy, nothing to do with global jihad on the rampage, nothing to do with Islam the religion, the ideology, the history, then we must assume the existence of a vast, deep, imperceptible, unnamable source somewhere in outer space that feeds an incredibly unified set of behavior and attitudes across space and time.
Despite the bluff and bluster, the extent of the danger is seeping into public consciousness. Whether dressed in their Salafist costumes or disguised as ordinary guys on the block, these genocidal foot soldiers and the probability that their numbers are growing as we write, is terrifying. Not just for Jews.
President Hollande, Prime Minister Ayrault, and Interior Minister Valls have reiterated their determination to wipe out homegrown terrorism. They will investigate, prosecute, imprison or banish the purveyors of this despicable ideology (that has nothing to do with Islam, don’t forget). They will provide squeaky clean Muslim chaplains, uproot proselytizers in the prison, protect synagogues (municipal police are balking… they say they are not trained or equipped to guard synagogues against terrorists) and community centers (as well as grocery stores, bakeries, delicatessens and Jews in the metro and in the streets?)
But we know that a little tug on the string of this first cell will lead to another and then another, organized and ready for action, or embryonic, and very soon the trace will be lost in a tangle of Muslim mentalities more or less steeped in the hatred of Jews and the rejection of French law and society. Is the government really determined to go jusqu’au bout or is this a big show to take our attention away from the vast and looming danger?