The Author


Of course, the tragic terrorist attacks which recently occurred in France were connected; there was clearly an inherent link between the murders at Charlie Hebdo and those at the kosher grocery store. Yet, while no one denied this, a critically significant aspect of this connection seemed to be conveniently ignored by many.

Recognizing this link would actually affect how one sees what is happening in Israel – and it would seem, some people do not want to consider this.

A theoretical argument could actually be made to see the two events as separate and distinct, connected indeed in what happened but unconnected in theory, essence and motivation. One was against a left-leaning magazine which satirized a religion; it was an attack against freedom of speech and similar Western values. The other was against a Jewish store; it was a statement, it would seem, regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, in condemnation of Israel and, by extension, Jewish identity. A person could theoretically and conveniently ask: what does one have to do with the other? Charlie Hebdo, furthermore, had also published some pretty offensive cartoons against Judaism. How easy to maintain that the two incidents must have different roots, that Charlie Hebdo and a kosher store would seem to be strange bedfellows.. Yet, indeed, inherently linked they would seem to be – as they apparently were in the minds of the terrorists themselves. And this is a link that cannot be ignored.

Many people would like to define the Israel-Palestine conflict in a realm by itself without any connection to the other issues within the Moslem world.. This perspective then allows the conflict to be defined within narrow parameters as a social conflict between two peoples, one defined as stronger and the other defined as weaker. This serves a certain agenda. A problem, though, for proponents of this view is that this conflict does not actually exist within its own frame only but is also part of the greater issue associated with radical Islam. The recent events in France clearly demonstrated this. What does Charlie Hebdo have to do with a kosher grocery store? The answer is everything and without recognizing this, one cannot really properly comment on Israel-Palestine.

The challenge to those who wish to maintain a narrow perspective on Israel is that the people who attacked Charlie Hebdo were also in conflict with Israel. The problem with Israel, for these individuals, was thus not simply that it is a Jewish State but, just like Charlie Hebdo, it is also an entity whose values are not in line with radical Islam. The personal rights of individuals, for example, are also thus at stake in Israel’s conflict. This is not to say that every proponent of Palestine is a supporter of radical Islam but, as long as such supporters are intertwined in the Palestinian hierarchy, those same motivations that led these terrorists to attack Charlie Hebdo must be recognized as potentially part of the present Palestinian agenda. Israel’s fight is thus more than a social conflict between peoples. At issue are also basic human rights.

Values of rights and freedom are actually not a result of the promotion by a person of his/her interests but, rather, are really built upon the recognition of the rights of the other in opposition to one’s own views. It is the accepted co-existence of individuals with opposing views which actually delineates a free, civil and peaceful society or interaction of any nature. The value of mutual respect is integral to any form of civility. Radical Islam, though, rejects such a value. It declares itself correct and sees the differing wishes of all others to be irrelevant, even inherently, corruptly flawed. It is in this way that Charlie Hebdo and the kosher grocery become connected. To the terrorists who attacked them, they are both others who need not be respected. Applied to Israel, this means having to also deal with individuals who have no respect for it or its citizens.

The world speaks of necessary negotiations between Israel and Palestine. At the same time, the world no long speaks of necessary negotiations with entities like ISIS. This is the heart of the issue. Honest negotiations demand mutual respect. If the same radical Islam that permeates ISIS is also part of the Palestinian world, a limitation is inherently existent on whatever negotiations may be possible in the Israel-Palestine conflict. That is the question that surfaces from the terrorist attacks in France. Included in whom Israel has to deal are people similar to those who attacked Charlie Hebdo. That must be recognized to understand what Israel is facing. Ignoring that reality only complicates the actual situation. Seeing a narrow perspective regarding Israel – not recognizing that Israel must also battle individuals who negate human rights – only makes things worse.

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Article by Benjamin Hecht

Rabbi Benjamin Hecht is the founding director of Nishma, which fosters the critical investigation of contemporary issues. For further info, see and You can follow Rabbi Hecht on Twitter @NishmaTorah.