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Ivan Novikov

18.01.2016
14:45

I am not Tel-Aviv




The acts of terrorism in Paris that took place last year not only caused a furor in the media. Social networks also served the function of discussions clubs and open memorial spaces – people debated the legitimacy of the slogan “Je suis Charlie” and French flags on avatars.

The selectivity in sympathy, which was discussed by opponents of photographs in the colors of the French flag, greatly irritated a section of the blogosphere. Critics of these actions wondered why social networks did not adopt the national colors of Nigeria after the attacks of “Boko Haram” on peaceful citizens, and why Israeli flags had not been seen over the past few years. Others, on the other hand, declared the personal right of each person express emotions in public, whether this was support of the French people, or something else. Accusations of selectivity were rejected, but not all that convincingly – France is closer and more comprehensible, and has more to do with us, the argument went.

The Jewish element in this topic arose unexpectedly. On the 1st of January an armed Israeli Arab attacked a café in Tel-Aviv, killing two and injuring seven. A section of the Israeli Russian-speaking segment of Facebook reacted immediately – they reprimanded Jews who live in Galut, and supported the Parisians, but did not do the same thing after the terrorist attack in Tel-Aviv or before it. The accusers stated that the slogan of support should have been the phrase “I am Tel-Aviv”, copying the Parisian memorial slogan.

The critics’ approach contains a dangerous error born of good intentions. It is obvious that the accusations arise as a consequence of the different degree of attention to seemingly identical events. The problem is that the terrorist attacks in Paris and Tel-Aviv, while they are similar in form, are very different in their essence. It is the fundamental differences in these two events that make the phrase “I am Tel-Aviv” a banal manipulation of concepts.

The first terrorist attack that drew a heated reaction on social networks was the shooting at the office of “Charlie Hebdo”. The terrorists’ choice of victims was not random – the cartoonists had often been accused of insulting the religious feelings of Muslims. The reason for the murder of these people was their involvement with the magazine, and almost immediately the slogan “I am Charlie” arose. On the same day, terrorists captured a kosher supermarket, where there were also victims. The reason for this attack was the nationality of the customers and owners. To the first slogan, the phrase “I am a Jew” was added, as a sign of solidarity with the victims and casualties of this attack.

Neither the first or second terrorist attack was directed at the people of France – the goal was chosen for other motives. In the case of the magazine, it was an act of revenge for insults, and in the case of the supermarket, it was the connection of Jews with the state of Israel, which the terrorists hate. Essentially, this attack could have taken place in any non-Muslim city, if the office of Charlie Hebdo had been located there. To preserve the memory of the victims, it was decided to use the general phrase “I am Paris”, uniting the victims by the place of their residence. The city really did go into mourning, and at the march where leaders of practically all European countries took part, all three slogans were heard.

The second series of Parisian terrorist attacks were not directed directly against the French either, which is confirmed by other attacks planned in European cities which were fortunately averted. The terrorists’ goal was to intimidate the non-Muslim world, and not the physical elimination of the average French person, which became a means to an end. The victims were not asked their nationality, and people were shot indiscriminately – Arabs, French and Jews were killed. Peaceful citizens were frightened by the chance of dying regardless of their belonging to any social group, as this did not have the slightest importance. The phrase “I am Paris” once more became relevant, uniting the memory of all victims regardless of their identity, and it worked because it was depersonalized.

In the case of Tel-Aviv things are fundamentally different – the murder of Alon Bakal and Shimon Ruimi was not an instrument of a terrorist attack, but rather its goal. Naturally, the terrorist did not plan to kill these people in particular, but it was the physical elimination of Israelis that was the main aim of Nashat Milhem. Unlike the cases in Paris, this terrorist attack could not have taken place in any other country, and the victims of the act of aggression were chosen consciously and according to a clear principle. For this reason, there is no need for a depersonalized slogan, which could erase the fundamental differences between the victims. The fates of the victims should not be hidden behind the name of the city, and the factors that unite them can be eliminated. The phrase “I am Tel-Aviv” does not help to immortalize the memory of the victims of the terrorist attack of the 1st of January, but rather hinders it.

In this situation, the words “I am a Jew” look legitimate. This slogan was used as a memorial one after the terrorist attack at the Parisian Hyper-Koshere supermarket. This phrase is considerably less attractive phrase in the non-Jewish community than the Parisian slogan, and people who are prepared to say these words, like Yevgeny Yevtushenko in the poem “Babi Yar”, are not so great in number. But at least this not a phrase that is devoid of meaning.

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