Immediately after the horrific murders of twelve cartoonists at the office of the Charlie Hebdo publication, a large and loud chorus of international condemnation arose, and rightly so. Not only from the west — Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria, and even Hamas-sponsors Iran and Qatar all spoke out against the attack, as did Saudi Arabia (which only days later proceeded to give a blogger 50 lashes out of a total sentence of 1000 lashes plus jail time).
On Sunday, leaders from around the world, including King Abdullah II of Jordan, attended a rally in Paris. Parallel rallies in support of the French were held in Jerusalem, New York, Berlin, London, Brussels, Madrid, Moscow, Vienna, Stockholm, Dublin, Rome, Milan, Lisbon, Istanbul, Beirut, Sydney, and Tokyo. I admit I scratched my head when I saw that there were even shows of solidarity in Gaza and Ramallah, although in each case only some dozens of people showed up.
This is all as it should be. It is right and good that — with notable exceptions such as the Al Jazeera editorial staff — the vast majority of the world is united against terrorism.
But where were all of these people after the massacre at Har Nof? Or, for that matter, after the running down in Jerusalem of Chaya Zissel Braun in October, after three people were killed outside of the Brussels Jewish Museum last June, or when three Jewish schoolchildren were gunned down in Toulouse in March of 2012, or . . . .
The list could go on. But I think you see my point. Terrorism against Jews merits some press releases, some of the time. But nothing in the scope and scale of what we saw this weekend. Sure, Abbas, under pressure, issued a statement condemning the Har Nof attack. I would love to see him attend an anti-terror rally in Jerusalem.
Nor did the attack in Kenya that left 67 dead in a shopping mall elicit such an outpouring. Africans, apparently, do not merit the world’s sympathy any more than Jews. The attack in Nigeria that may have killed as many as 2000 this weekend also seems to have been downplayed by comparison to what is happening in Paris. As I’m writing this, the World section homepage of the New York Times has six different articles and a slideshow about Paris right at the the top, with no mention of Nigeria.
The world’s outrage is selective. This needs to change. As Ross Douthat wrote in, of all places, the NY Times on Wednesday, “If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization . . . when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.” This is true not only of freedom of speech, but also of freedom of religion and mobility and any other freedom that terrorists attempt to usurp. The violent cannot have veto power over any aspect of society. Terrorism needs to be condemned every time, not just some of the time.