Saturday, February 13, 2016

13-Feb-16: Three decades after a terror attack on a Paris restaurant, some things remain just as they were

Chez Jo Goldenberg, Paris [Wikipedia]
One of the tragic milestones of modern Jewish life in France is back in the news today. And as we note below, this says something about the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan that most people - and especially the foreign policy experts of the United States - prefer not to know.

Chez Jo Goldenberg, a restaurant that no longer exists, was mentioned in an earlier post of ours ["20-Jun-14: Does Europe face the most serious terror threat ever? At CNN, they say yes and explain (poorly) why"] that looked at the decades-long history of lethal Islamist bigotry and terror directed at European targets. 

That June 2014 blog post was our reaction to some sadly superficial mainstream journalism suggesting that certain acts of terror that year - in particular the shooting murders at the Jewish museum in the Belgian capital - amounted to an "early indicator" that Islamism-in-Europe was becoming a serious problem and that it needed attention because, well, things might get worse.

An early indicator? That's absurd. Our point was that it is highly misleading - at least - to depict very recent European violence done in the name of Islam by Islamist terrorists as something new and freshly threatening. In reality, decades of acts of murderous violence have been directed at European targets by Islamists - Jews and Israelis naturally prominent among them. We quoted a handful of examples there. Then we said:
These instances are literally selected at random. The list of Islamism-driven attacks and attempted attacks of a terrorist nature on European targets is lengthy. It's not possible that the people at CNN are seriously suggesting this is a new process with its origins in the last eight weeks. We think a big part of Europe's problem - apart from a serious case of historical amnesia - is a self-imposed stupidity on this subject. Will Europe recover in time to address the very real existential challenges it faces? 
Events of the past few months show that addressing those challenges has not gone so well. Consider, in France alone, the bloodbath of the Friday 13th attacks in Paris this past November with 130 killed via multiple attacks on bars, a sports stadium and a concert hall. ["Paris attacks: What happened on the night", BBC]; the cold-blooded killings of Jewish hostages in a Paris kosher food store ["Paris killer asked victims if they were Jewish before firing", Times of Israel] in February 2015; the savage January 2015 murders at a French satirical magazine ["As it happened: Charlie Hebdo attack", BBC] also in Paris.

If being ready for "worse" means lower death tolls, then let's agree something is not working.

Goldenberg's was one of those now-mostly-forgotten "acts of murderous violence directed at European targets... from Islamist sources" that we mentioned in that June 2014 post:
The August 9, 1982 Chez Jo Goldenberg restaurant attack in Paris: Islamist terrorists threw a grenade into the dining room and fired machine guns on a Jewish restaurant in Paris's Marais district, on 9 August 1982. They killed six people, including two American tourists, and injured 22 others - "the heaviest toll suffered by Jews in France since World War II".
Until it closed its doors for the last time in 2006, Goldenberg's (inaccurately described in many accounts - including the New York Times, AFP,  and others - as a kosher restaurant; it was not kosher, and did business on Sabbaths, but was proudly Jewish) served as a reminder of a different France, one barely recognizable in the country of the same name today.
Until the late 1990s its homely red banquettes attracted government ministers, film stars and celebrities dining on caviar, herrings, goulash or its famous chopped liver. On the Pletzl - Yiddish for square - Goldenberg's was symbolic of a neighbourhood where thousands of eastern European Jews arrived from the late 19th century, and which was the focus of Nazi round-ups during the occupation of Paris in the second world war. More than half of the local Jewish community would die in concentration camps. The restaurant founded by Jo Goldenberg, who lost his parents and all his sisters in Auschwitz, became a symbol of resistance and revival, a meeting place for Holocaust survivors and former resistance fighters. ["For Paris's Jewish quarter, a fight to save its soul", The Guardian, March 6, 2008]
France had some 700,000 Jews in 1982 (530,000 according to a different 1982 source) when heavily-armed terrorists of the Abu Nidal Group attacked Goldenberg's. Today's French Jewish population is estimated at about 478,000 [a 2013 source] and declining according to all observers.

Terror attacks directed at Jews and Israelis have a long French history. In their Arab/Islamist chapter an El Al passenger jet came under terrorist attack at Paris' Orly Airport more than forty years ago: hostages were taken, amid machine gun, bazooka and grenade fire (with the French government quickly providing the terrorists with safe passage via a plane that flew them safely to Baghdad). Yasser Arafat's PLO terrorists attacked Iraq's Paris embassy in July 1978 and seized hostages - evidently in an effort to persuade the same Abu Nidal Group to stop besmirching the good name of the Palestinians. And the Islamists of Hezbollah had launched multiple terror attacks on the streets of Paris, and especially in its large department stores, by the mid-eighties (Wikipedia listing of terror attacks in France). That's more than three decades ago.

Fast forward to this past week's news, and its background.

Nearly a year ago, the French police announced that they had
at last identified three suspects and are seeking their arrest. Grenade-throwing Palestinians burst into the Jo Goldenberg deli on August 9, 1982, and sprayed machine-gun fire. Six people, including two Americans, were killed, and 21 injured. The restaurant, which has since closed, was a centerpiece tourist attraction in the famed Marais neighborhood. Paris prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre said Wednesday that international arrest warrants have been issued for the three suspects — now aged in their late 50s and early 60s — who were believed to be members of the Abu Nidal group. She says they are believed to be in the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Norway but declined to identify them by name, citing protocol. ["Suspects identified in deadly 1982 Paris Jewish deli attack", Times of Israel, March 4, 2015]
Then a day or two later it was revealed that
Jordan has rejected an extradition request from France for two suspects accused of carrying out [the] 1982 deadly attack... The alleged mastermind of the attack,,, Zuhair Mohamad al-Abassi, 62, was arrested in Jordan last year. The request was rejected because at the time of his arrest an extradition deal between Jordan and France had not entered into force, the source said... Jordan has also refused to hand over a second suspect, Nizar Tawfiq Hamada, 54, because the statute of limitations concerning the criminal allegations against him expired, the source said. The decision was taken in October, four months after French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged Jordan to "respect international procedure" by extraditing Abbasi and Hamada. David Pere, a lawyer for the AFVT association that represents French victims of terrorism, said he was "astounded" by the Jordanian decision. "We were expecting the Jordanian authorities to send a strong message in the fight against terrorism," Pere said. He said Amman's decision not to extradite the pair was a "political" one aimed at "keeping social peace in Jordan"... ["Jordan rejects 1982 Paris attack suspects extradition", AFP, February 10, 2016]
So some things don't change.

And as for that comment above about the Jordanians needing to keep "social peace", that reflects some serious observations about the Hashemite Kingdom that we have addressed ourselves in the past. [Click here for our previous posts tagged with "Jordan"].

People who watch these things, and we are among them, know Jordan enjoys a special place in the affections of the US State Department. State's most recent "Country Reports on Terrorism" annual survey, published in June 2015, says of the Hashemite Kingdom:
Jordan remained a key ally and a model partner in combating terrorism and extremist ideology... Jordan demonstrated regional leadership in the fight against ISIL... and participated fully on the diplomatic, political, financial, and military fronts... Jordanian prisons have a religiously based de-radicalization program that seeks to re-engage violent extremist inmates into the non-violent mainstream of their faith.
There's much we want to say about that key ally but for now we will be brief.

Jordan legislated its first anti-terrorism law in 2006, a year after a series of terrorist bomb blasts at three Amman hotels that killed dozens of people.
Under the new law, penalties for terrorist acts range from 10 years in prison to the death penalty, and the definition of terrorism has been expanded to include any act meant to create sedition, harm property or jeopardise international relations, or to use the Internet or media outlets to promote "terrorist" thinking. [Aljazeera, April 25, 2014]
That law has since undergone changes (summarized in this April 2014 AFP syndicated report) to take account of current, very real threats facing the Kingdom and its ruler, and made concrete by the hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of Jordanians who have joined the ranks of the various Islamist forces engaging in the ongoing Syrian bloodbath. King Abdullah II signed those changes into law at the end of May 2014 ["Jordan amends, widens its anti-terrorism laws", Associated Press, June 1, 2014].

Massive political demonstration by members of Jordan's Muslim
Brotherhood, July 31, 2015 [Image Source: Getty]
But what the State Department report - and Aljazeera as well - fails to mention is how Jordan has carefully defined terror over the years so that acts of violence directed at Israelis are specifically, by definition, never to be considered terror. For instance:
Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism of 1999 (Ratified 28 Aug. 2003): "Jordan does not consider national armed struggle and fighting foreign occupation in the exercise of people’s right to self-determination as terrorist acts under art. 2(1)(b)" [Source]
Jordan's creativity with the definition of terror is not new and hardly a secret, but largely ignored nonetheless. Jordan's failure to hand over the alleged perpetrators of the 1982 Paris savagery is more of the same, and not so surprising.

At a very personal level, we wish there was much wider awareness of how Jordan has provided a friendly environment since 2011 for the woman who masterminded the murder of our daughter, allowing her to operate freely from within Jordan's borders; to speak as an honored guest at its universities, professional guilds, law courts and other venues; to record her television program "Naseem Al Ahrar" (translation: “Breezes of the Free”) week after week for beaming out to the Arabic-speaking world throughout the past 4 years; and to emerge as a genuine pan-Arab celebrity.

The convicted mastermind of the massacre in Jerusalem in which our
daughter was murdered, along with 14 other innocents. The confessed killer 
hosts a weekly TV show that is recorded every week in Jordan 
Touted as the first female terrorist to join the ranks of Hamas, this Jordanian woman advocates unhindered from Jordan today for more violence, more murder and more jihad - all of it directed at Jewish and Israeli targets. Inciting energetically via television, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and well-publicized personal appearances, she is a widely-recognized, very public face of the violent, Islamist bigotry of Hamas.

Hamas was formally banned in Jordan in 1999, and continues to have the status of an outlawed entity. However the Muslim Brotherhood - to which Hamas owes allegiance, as the Hamas Charter says explicitly - operates freely within Jordan. Reuters described the Brotherhood in August 2014 as "the ideological counterpart to Hamas and Jordan's largest political group". It is today a "major player" in the Jordanian political scene.

Perhaps the French will have some views to share with the US now on this "model partner".

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