Not just ‘a bunch of folks in a deli’


Was last Saturday’s deadly attack outside a Copenhagen synagogue during a bat mitzvah celebration resulting in the murder of a Jewish guard an anti-Semitic act? The question must be raised in light of the similarity to last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, where gunmen killed four at a kosher market and another 12 at the satirical Charlie Hebdo newspaper. In Copenhagen, the killer also fired on a café where a debate on free speech was being held, killing one.

Anyone with common sense would answer the question of anti-Semitism’s role in these attacks with an unhesitant “yes.” But in a lapse of such sense, President Barack Obama didn’t come out and call the attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris an act of anti-Semitism. Instead, he referred to the victims as just “a bunch of folks in a deli.”

Pressed for an explanation, White House spokesman Josh Earnest, instead of walking back the president’s careless choice of words, doubled down on the offense, noting that “there were people other than Jews who were in that deli.” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki later dug the hole even deeper. When asked if the attack at the market was against Jews, she said, “I don’t think we’re going to speak on behalf of French authorities and what they believe was the situation at play here.”

Really? What are they all afraid of? And is it the president himself who is dictating this ridiculous refusal to acknowledge the intentional killing of Jews as acts of anti-Semitism?

You read it here: The attacks at the market and the synagogue were deliberate attacks against Jews, just like the attacks against Charlie Hebdo and the free-speech discussion were attacks against prominent purveyors of Western values. All were victims of home-grown criminals espousing a worryingly popular strand of extreme Islam. The killers were radical Islamic terrorists. Let’s acknowledge that, as well.

It is important for the West to respond to both the criminal and ideological elements of these crimes, even as they might search for some understanding of the motivating factors for them. When Jews are targeted because they are Jews, let’s be honest about it. Ignoring clearly anti-Semitic actions and trying to talk around them insults the victims as well as the public. Western values are under attack. Jews are under attack. We have a duty to recognize and acknowledge that painful reality. That duty extends right up to the president of the United States.

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