The attack on the satirical Parisian magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 which claimed the lives of eleven people spawned the famous Twitter hashtag #JeSuisCharlie as thousands showed their solidarity with the victims.
A less well-known hashtag, however, appeared following an attack carried out two days later on 9th January by militants on a Jewish kosher Hyper Cacher grocery store/delicatessen in east Paris which left four people dead. The #JeSuisJuif hashtag was used to highlight the targeting of Jewish people in France and elsewhere who have been the victims of terror.
It would be naive to think that this was a random attack. It was carried out on a Friday, just before the start of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, when the store was probably busier than usual as observant Jews purchased kosher food before the start of Shabbat. Nor was this horrific act of terror a one-off, but one of a series of discriminate attacks against Jews.
A suicide bombing in Istanbul this year killed three Israelis and an Iranian national. It does not seem a coincidence that three Israelis were among the victims. The chances of killing three Israelis in a suicide bombing in a foreign city seem beyond remote. The assailant specifically set out to find, and murder, Jewish Israelis.
In March 2012 Mohammed Merah killed seven people, including four Jews, outside a Jewish school in Toulouse. In January this year, a Jewish teacher was attacked in Marseille, one year on from Charlie Hebdo. These incidents have not been restricted to the French Republic. In March, a Jewish man in Uruguay was stabbed to death. His assailant claimed he was acting out an order from Allah. In the Middle East, Israeli Jews have been the targets of a series of knife attacks carried out by Palestinians. Alarmingly, some of the perpetrators have been children as young as thirteen. Understandably, Jews in Europe and elsewhere are concerned and fearful. In France, which is home to 500,000 Jews, armed guards have been placed outside Jewish schools and synagogues.
The Huffington Post cites Jewish Year Book figures which state that there are 380,000 Jews in Paris and in 2014, 3,270 emigrated to Israel, a 63 percent increase from 2012. According to the Daily Mail, of the 10,000 Jews who left Western Europe for the Holy Land in 2015, 80 percent were French Jews.
In the United States, the country with the second highest concentration of Jewish residents, the FBI report that more hate crimes have been committed against Jewish people than any other ethnic or religious group. In the present climate where Muslims are at greater risk than before from discrimination and verbal or physical abuse, Jewish communities are at risk from anti-Semitism, especially those individuals who are visibly recognised as Jewish.
Victims of terror include people of all races, creeds and nationalities; men, women, and children of various ages and backgrounds. And, while I’m not suggesting that we rank victims’ lives by how important they are, or overlook the security concerns of any one group, it is Jews who have felt particularly threatened, from the likes of Daesh and other extremists.
The social media age has given rise to what has been called “virtue signalling,” a term used to describe incidents when users proclaim their compassion and decency to others. The #JeSuisJuif hashtag might be, in some cases, considered an example of such.
Many Jews have chosen to leave Europe while others are no doubt considering emigration in the near future. It is important to remember that these people fear for their safety, their lives. I, therefore, have no qualms about finishing this post the way I started it, even though I’m not Jewish myself by writing: