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ADL Letter to New York Review of Books
This online comment appeared on March 29, 2012 on The New York Review of Books' website.

Anti-Defamation League

Letters to the Editor
New York Review of Books
     March 29, 2012

To the Editor:


William Pfaff's outrageous article, "The Middle East Conflict Comes to France" (March 29) is a classic instance of "blaming the victim."


What is so remarkable about Pfaff's version of this syndrome is that at one point he acknowledges what is at the root of the Toulouse massacre "Jews historically have been a focus of collective hatred."  He then, however, simply goes on to erase this basic reality and replace it with the false conclusion that Israeli policies are the cause of these murders.


Of course, we've heard this before.  When Jews and Jewish institutions were being physically attacked on the streets of Paris in 2003 and 2004, French officials simply trivialized this behavior as the Middle East conflict coming to France.  It took a few years before then-President Jacques Chirac acknowledged that France had an anti-Semitism problem.


Fortunately, the current president of France, Nicholas Sarkozy, labeled Toulouse for what it was, terrorism and anti-Semitism.


Not only is Pfaff's analysis that Israeli policies are responsible for this behavior, but if his logic were applied across the board it would rationalize every major terrorist act, including 9/11.  Terrorists of all kinds have grievances, real or imagined.  What the civilized world has come to realize is that any defense or rationalization of terrorism makes it impossible to root out this scourge.


Pfaff's analysis, however unwittingly, gives comfort to terrorists while at the same time missing the fundamental perspective that drives Islamic terrorism against Israel and Jews.  It is not Israeli policies on settlements or anything else that obsesses these folks.  It is Israel's very existence that drives them and that makes Jews worldwide a target of these extremists.


There is, indeed, a link between terrorism and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict but it is exactly the opposite of the one Pfaff identifies.  It is not the conflict that causes terrorism, it is the underlying motive of the terrorists and their fellow travelers, that Israel should be eliminated, which prevents a solution to the conflict.


Pfaff's article is shameful and inadvertently justifies the very actions he decries.


Abraham H. Foxman
National Director

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2012 Anti-Defamation League