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Blog by Dr. Shimon Samuels published in The Times of Israel
9 September 2021

For the 20th World Summit on Counter Terrorism

Arab terrorism on French soil had predominantly focused on Jewish targets, especially since the October 1980 Copernic synagogue bombing.

This launched 73 shootings and bombings against Jews across Western Europe, of which 29 in France. The terror spree stopped in August 1982 with the attack on the Goldenberg restaurant in the Paris Jewish quarter, that coincided also with the sudden return of European terrorists from PLO training camps in Southern Lebanon, fleeing from an Israeli incursion to end cross-border terror.

The Copernic bombing was described by then French Prime Minister Raymond Barre as “a bomb set for Jews, killed four innocent Frenchmen”. Of the four victims, however, 3 were foreigners, and only one an “innocent Frenchman”.

The Belgian Justice Minister followed up with: “we cannot place police outside every Jewish door”.

The terrorist returnees, now needy of cash, broadened their aims, assaulting banks and embassies, as the Government, through Vigipirate in France, cracked down.

Jewish citizens were, briefly, no longer the privileged targets. The late Simon Wiesenthal viewed the Jews as a warning, dubbed “the canary in the coalmine”. Then added, “What starts with the Jews, never ends with them”.

One may argue that, without Charlie Hebdo – which brought 50 international leaders to Paris, and millions marching –, the attack on the Kosher supermarket by the same gang would have become history in the litany of antisemitic terror. From the Toulouse Jewish school to the nadir of French jurisprudence – the murderous neighbour of Sarah Halimi, screaming Allahu Akbar as he tossed her from a balcony to her death was judged criminally irresponsible, “under the influence of narcotics”.

In brief, on Friday evening, 13 November 2015, coordinated attacks on Paris were claimed by ISIS.

The assassins outside the football stadium in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis and of the Bataclan theatre and neighbouring restaurants acted indiscriminately, leaving 130 dead and over 400 wounded. They came to kill, no matter whom, although there are recordings of them killing at point blank range, shouting, “die dirty Jew.”

Comments in the spirit of Raymond Barre included “the terrorists came for the Jews, not innocent Frenchmen”. Likewise, 9/11 was blamed by conspiracy theorists as “work of the Jews”.

The perpetrators, mostly French or Belgian born of Middle East or North African descent, had been recruited by ISIS and trained in Syria.

The trial of 20 suspects and accomplices will run from 8 September 2021 to 25 May 2022. Nine months will see 145 scheduled hearings, to be filmed but declassified after 50 years. The courtroom will hold 3,000 people. Judgment will be given by 5 judges rather than a jury.

The Wiesenthal Centre will provide highlights as they occur.

Shimon Samuels is Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He has served as Deputy Director of the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, European Director of ADL, and Israel Director of AJC. He was born in UK and studied in UK, Israel, U.S. and Japan.