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David Matas

David Matas: The Toulouse murders

Revised remarks prepared for delivery to a memorial service 29 March 2012, ShaareyZedek Synagogue, Winnipeg

by David Matas, posted April 24, 2012

Mohamed Merah on March 19 murdered three Jewish children at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France. Dead are MyrianMonsonego aged eight year, Arieh Sandler aged six, and Gabriel Sandler aged three as well as Rabbi Jonathan Sandler who was trying to protect them. Merah, before he was killed, told police negotiators that he was motivated by a desire to avenge Palestinian children.
The killing of young innocent children is a mad, cruel, evil act. No rationalization can possibly justify such a depravity. The very attempt at justification is a facet of the insanity which led to the act.
There is a temptation to ignore the rationalization and just to mourn the loss. Yet, we do so at our peril.
The killing of Jewish children for crazy reasons is as old as history itself. In the lifetimes of many of us, almost two million Jewish children were killed in the Holocaust for reasons which bear a startling resemblance to the reasoning of Mohamed Merah, that Jews are collectively guilty of imaginary crimes. Collective guilt leads to collective punishment. 
As much as we would like to think that these killings are an aberration, we should realize, after millennia of antisemitism, that they are not. To give some meaning to the meaningless death of these innocents, we must try to draw the lessons from this experience.
Although the verbalisation varies over time, we are faced with this constant. Jews are killed out of antisemitic hatred. To stop the killing we must combat the hatred. To do that, we must consider the form the hate propaganda takes.
What generates this particular form of incitement, the notion that Jews are killing Palestinian children? It comes from anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism, by definition, opposes the existence of the State of Israel.
Anti-Zionists oppose the existence of the State of Israel by war and incitement to war, by terrorism and incitement to terrorism and by delegitimization through demonization. Anti-Zionists fabricate the charge that Jews kill Palestinian children to buttress their claim that the State of Israel should not exist. 
The logic anti-Zionists attempt to convey by this mad charge that Jews kill Palestinian children is that the killing of these children is inherent in the existence of the State of Israel, that to protect Palestinian children the State of Israel should not exist. Jews world wide are blamed for the killings as actual or presumed supporters of the State of Israel.
The reality, in fact, is the exact opposite. It is neither Jews nor the State of Israel who kill Palestinian children; it is anti-Zionists.
It is anti-Zionists who incite, train and arm child suicide bombers. It is anti-Zionists who use civilians as shields, who conscript children and allow children to take part in armed attacks against Israel, who fail to distinguish between their own attackers and the civilian population, who launch military attacks, including missile launching, from or near civilian structures, including schools, who hold civilians hostage, who prevent refugee children from escaping. 
The Israeli Defence Forces makes a superhuman effort to avoid civilian casualties. Yet, they can not reasonably be expected to stop every effort at self defense because anti-Zionists do little or nothing to avoid civilian casualties and, on the contrary, appear to take every step imaginable to maximize them. 
This accusation that Jews kill Palestinian children may seem far away. Yet, it is right here in Winnipeg.
The University of Manitoba the end of November and beginning of December 2011 presented an art exhibit "A Child's View from Gaza" which is a straight propaganda effort, conveying that Israel is to blame for the victimization of Palestinian children. The University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba both now serve as hosts to anti-apartheid week March 5 to 9, 2012, organized by a society named Students against Israeli Apartheid. 
The University of Winnipeg at least has an informed response, a university sponsored Arab-Jewish dialogue and a series of university sponsored balanced events. From the University of Manitoba, in response to Israeli Anti-Apartheid week, there is nothing.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad said in reaction to the Toulouse kilings that extremists must stop using the Palestinian cause as justification for terror. Yet, the Palestinian Authority publishes the most vicious anti-Zionist propaganda. The September 1995 agreement (Oslo 2) committed the Palestinian Liberation Organization to refrain from and take legal measures to prevent incitement against Israel. The Palestinian Authority has not respected this commitment.
Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in response to the Toulouse killings, said of the killer Merah: "I totally reject this fellow's stand. He has nothing to do with Islam. It's an inhuman act." Yet, the Sheik said about Jews, during the 2009 war in Gaza: "Oh Allah, count their numbers and kill them, down to the very last one." The Sheik condones Palestinian suicide attacks on Israeli civilians.
Julius Streicher was convicted by the International Military Nuremberg after World War II sentenced to death and hanged for incitement to hatred against Jews while the Holocaust was happening, though he knew it was happening. Pumping out anti-Zionist propaganda, but then condemning the acts incited by the propaganda is hollow. Despite after the fact distancing, the propagandists are complicit in the violence.
What happened in Toulouse could happen in Winnipeg. We must prevent now incitement against the existence of the State of Israel. The Toulouse murders show, if nothing else already has, the consequences of claiming that the Jewish state is killing Palestinian children.
Once we see the murders in Toulouse, we no longer have any excuse. The death of these innocent children in Toulouse should lead us to mourn. It should also lead us to act.

David Matas is a Winnipeg lawyer, senior honorary counsel to B'nai Brith Canada, and co-author of the book "Justice Delayed: Nazi war criminals in Canada" with Susan Charendoff published by Summerhill Press in 1987.    


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