Ilan Halimi's barbarous murder in France should awaken all Jews to the most significant truth of our times: Today, every Jew in the world is on the front lines of war.
As was the case 70 years ago, every Jew today is a target for our enemies, who shout from every soapbox and prove at every opportunity that their goal is the annihilation of the Jewish people. From 1933-1945, the enemy was Nazi Germany. Today, the enemy is political Islam. Its call for jihad aimed at annihilating the Jews and dominating the world is answered by millions of people throughout the world.
Among the lessons of the Holocaust, there is one that is almost never mentioned. That lesson is that it is possible, and indeed fairly easy to exterminate the Jews. The fact that the Holocaust happened proves that it is absolutely possible for the Jewish people to be wiped off the map – just as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hamas leader Khaled Mashal promise.
The story of Ilan Halimi's murder at the hands of a terrorist gang of French Muslims brings to the surface the various pathologies now converging to make the prospect of annihilating all Jews seem possible to our enemies. First, there are the murderers who took such apparent pleasure and felt such pride in the fact that for 20 days they tortured their Jewish hostage to death.
This makes sense. Anti-Semitism in the Muslim dominated suburbs of Paris and other French cities is all-encompassing. As Nidra Poller related in Thursday's Wall Street Journal, "One of the most troubling aspects of this affair is the probable involvement of relatives and neighbors, beyond the immediate circle of the gang [of kidnappers], who were told about the Jewish hostage and dropped in to participate in the torture."
It appears that Ilan Halimi's murderers had some connection to Hamas. Tuesday, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said that police found propaganda published by the Palestinian Charity Committee or the CBSP at the home of one of the suspects. The European Jewish Press reported this week that Israel has alleged that the organization is a front group for Palestinian terrorists and that in August 2003 the US government froze the organization's US bank accounts, accusing it of links with Hamas.
Halimi's family alleges that throughout the 20 days of Ilan's captivity, the French police refused to take the anti-Semitic motivations of the kidnappers into account. The investigators insisted on viewing his kidnap as a garden variety kidnap-for-ransom criminal case, which they said generally involves no threat to the life of the captive. The police maintained their refusal to investigate the anti-Semitic motivations of the kidnappers in spite of the fact that in their e-mail and telephone communications with Ilan's family, his captors repeatedly referred to his Judaism, and on at least one occasion recited verses from the Koran while Ilan was heard screaming in agony in the background. The family alleges that if the police had been willing to acknowledge that Ilan was abducted because he was Jewish, they would have recognized that his life was in clear and immediate danger and acted with greater urgency.
Like the police, the French government waited an entire week after Ilan was found naked, with cuts and burns over 80 percent of his body by a train station in suburban Paris, before acknowledging the anti-Semitic nature of the crime. According to the press reports, the French government was at least partially motivated to suppress the issue of anti-Semitism by its fear of inflaming the passions of the French Muslims who make up between 10 to 13 percent of the French population and comprise a quarter of the population under 25 years old. And yet, now that the French government has acknowledged that the crime was motivated by hatred of Jews, it is behaving responsibly in pursuing the murderers and decrying the attack on French Jewry.
In addition to the exterminationist anti-Semitism of Ilan's murderers and the unwillingness of the French authorities to acknowledge the anti-Semitic nature of the crime until it was too late, there is one more aspect of the case that bears note. That is Israel's reaction to the atrocity. In short, there has been absolutely no official Israeli reaction to the abduction, torture and murder of a Jew in France by a predominantly Muslim terrorist gang that kidnapped, tortured and murdered him because he was a Jew.
No Israeli government minister, official or spokesman has condemned his murder. No Israeli official has demanded that the French authorities investigate why the police refused to take anti-Semitism into account during Ilan's captivity. No Israeli official flew to Paris to participate in Ilan's funeral or any other memorial or demonstration in his memory. The Foreign Ministry's Web site makes no mention of his murder.
The Israeli Embassy in Paris – which has been without an ambassador for the past several months – only publicly expressed its condolences to the Halimi family on February 23, 10 days after Ilan was found. This, when the French Jewish community considers Halimi's murder to have been the greatest calamity to have befallen it in recent years; when aliya rates from France rose 25% last year; and when Ilan's mother has told reporters that her son had planned to make aliya soon and was just staying in France to save money to finance his move to Israel.
For its part, as Michelle Mazel pointed out in The Jerusalem Post Thursday, the French press has noted that the Israeli media has not given the story prominent coverage. Halimi's murder has not appeared on the front pages of the papers or at the top of the television or radio broadcasts.
Although appalling, the absence of an official Israeli outcry against Halimi's murder is not the least surprising. Today, the unelected Kadima interim government, like the Israeli media, is doing everything in its power to lull the Israeli people into complacency towards the storm of war raging around us. Against the daily barrages of Kassam rockets on southern Israel; nervous reports of al-Qaida setting up shop in Judea, Samaria and Gaza; the ascension of Hamas to power in the Palestinian Authority; and Iran's threats of nuclear annihilation, Israel's citizenry, under the spell of Kadima and the media, appears intent on ignoring the dangers and pretending that what happens to Jews in France has nothing to do with us.
Israel's societal meekness accords well with Kadima's ideology. Its creed was best expressed by Foreign Minister, Justice Minister and Immigration Minister Tzipi Livni last month at the Herzliya Conference and is best characterized as "conditional Zionism." In her speech, Livni explained that Israel's international legitimacy is conditional. Unless a Palestinian state is established in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, she warned, Israel will lose its legitimacy as a Jewish state.
So for Livni, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Shimon Peres and the rest of the Kadima gang, unlike every other people in the world, the Jewish people does not have an inherent, natural right to exist as a free, sovereign and independent people in its homeland. For Kadima, the Jewish people's right to self-determination in our land is conditional on our enemies' acceptance of our right to be here.
Kadima's conditional Zionism finds expression in its policies in Judea and Samaria. There, the gist of the government's actions is that the only people with inherent human rights in Judea and Samaria are the Arabs.
Throughout the areas, the government, backed by the post-Zionist courts, prohibits Jews from building on land that Jews own. Today, as Moshe Rosenbaum, the mayor of Beit El explains, even receiving a permit to build an extension on a standing house or additional classrooms in a school is all but impossible.
While Olmert and Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra have repeatedly condemned Jews for allegedly cutting down trees owned by Arabs in Judea and Samaria, the government has said nothing and done nothing to stop the wholesale destruction of Jewish orchards and national forests in the areas by Palestinians. Over the past several months, in the vicinity of Gush Etzion alone, thousands of Jewish-owned trees have been chopped down by Arab vandals. Two national forests have been laid to waste. Busy directing their energies and attentions at delegitimizing the Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria, the government has ignored Israel's enemies.
And so, as Kassam attacks against Israel multiply by the day and Hamas leaders hold Jew-hating love-fests with Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenaei in Teheran, Olmert assured us Wednesday that Hamas is not a strategic threat to Israel.
When the Israeli government itself is claiming Jewish rights are not inherent but rather defined and granted by others, it can surprise no one the government has ignored Halimi's murder.
Luckily for both Israel and the Jews around the world, the current leadership is not our only option. We have other leaders, the most prominent among them being Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya'alon. Both of these men understand well that the two most important lessons for the Jews from the Holocaust are that we must never grant anyone else the authority, legitimacy or power to define who we are or what our rights are, and we are all responsible for one another.
On Tuesday, Ya'alon, who is currently based at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, came to Jerusalem for the day to speak at a conference on the strategic implications of Hamas's takeover of the Palestinian Authority. There Ya'alon explained what he considers to be the key to Israel's security. Israel, he said, has the military capability to defeat its enemies. But for Israel to be able to take the steps it needs to take to win the war being waged for our destruction, first we need to accept the fact that we have an intrinsic, unconditional right to our land and our sovereignty. Once we understand that our rights our unconditional, we will understand that we have an obligation to wage war against those who work for our destruction. That is, Ya'alon explained that for Israel to survive, we need to return to our unconditional Zionism.
Sir Martin Gilbert, perhaps the preeminent British historian of World War II, has said, "The interesting thing about history is that it always repeats itself."
As was the case in World War II, today the Jewish people in Israel and throughout the world is being targeted for annihilation by an enemy bent on world domination. Ilan Halimi's monstrous murder is just the latest sign of this disturbing reality. Today, as 70 years ago, the Jews are disserved by poor and weak leaders who refuse to see the dangers.
But if we learn from history and we assess our options, we will see that history needn't repeat itself. It is within our power to reverse the course of our all too repetitious past.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.