The brutal and merciless slaughter of a Jewish man and three Jewish children in southern France last week shone a spotlight back onto a problem many had been doing their best to downplay - the escalating anti-Semitism in Europe.
The the Toulouse shooting itself was an anti-Semitic act driven by the killer Mohammed Merah's irrational hatred of Jews is without question. And yet, there are many coming to his posthumous defense.
Merah's older brothers, Abdelkader Merah, is now suspected of assisting in the attack on the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school, and told French investigators that he was "very proud" of what Mohammed had done. "I regret nothing for him and approve of what he did," said Abdelkader.
Merah's father, Mohammed Benalel Merah, told French media that he intends to sue the French government for killing his murderous son. Mohammed Merah was eventually killed after a 32-hour standoff during which he shot and wounded several French police officers.
"France is a big country that had the means to take my son alive,” the elder Merah told the AFP. “They could have knocked him out with gas and taken him in. They preferred to kill him. ...I will sue France for killing my son."
The remarks made by Abdelkader Merah and his father will be quickly dismissed by many as being the rantings of distraught family members. Unfortunately, their sentiments are shared by many.
Most schools in France last week marked one minute of silence for the victims of the Toulouse shooting. But at the Gustave Flaubert High School in Rouen, Normandy an English teacher had her class mark a minute of silence for the deceased murderer. Many of teacher Lorraine Collin's students reportedly walked out in protest, but some remained and were quoted as saying the Jewish victims "deserved" what happened to them.
Back in Toulouse, a large group of women held a public gathering to honor the memory of Merah. The leader of the group told participants, "What we ask today is that we stop demonizing Mohamed... We share the pain and suffering of the families because it is the same pain for us here." It is the same argument used by the families of Palestinian terrorists, who insist that their own hardships put them on equal footing with the families of Israeli Jews killed in terrorist attacks.
Also around Toulouse, French authorities found and cleaned up graffiti reading "Viva Merah" and "F**k the kippa." [via Elder of Ziyon]
On the Internet, a French Facebook page was set up to in "Homage to Mohamed Merah," and received many favorable comments before being shut down at the request of the French government. Meanwhile, the Palestinian-run propaganda website Electronic Intifada accused Israel of trying to cover up alleged abuses of Palestinians by focusing so much attention on the Toulouse murders.
Some print media employed the tactic of turning the aggressor into the victim, suggesting that Merah's actions were a natural result of social and economic hardships. Le Figaro wrote that it had "no doubt" that Merah's killing of four innocent Jews was incited by the "Islamophobia" of so many in France. The New York Times similarly noted that in France "Muslims complain widely of feeling vilified by some political elements, on the right in particular."
Neither newspaper explained how Merah's emotional state, even if the result of real discrimination, could possibly justify the heartless slaughter of innocent children.
The French government has responded to all this with a firm hand, demanding that media outlets not broadcast footage Merah took of his murders, banning the entry of radical Islamists, and suspending the teacher who tried to get her class to honor the killer of innocent Jews. But it is clear that a new wave of anti-Semitism is rising, this time fueled by Europe's exploding Muslim populations. And once those Muslim anti-Semites reinvigorate the Jew-hating European ultra-nationalists, the situation could quickly spiral out of control.
It may already be happening.
In a conference call hosted by the French Jewish publication Le P'tit Hebdo, a recent French Jewish immigrant to Israel painted a picture of modern-day Europe that Israel National News described as looking a lot like pre-Holocaust Europe, at least as far as Jews are concerned.
"Jews are being attacked all the time," said Liora Zachary. "Children, in the buses, in the Metro, going to school, coming from school, couples in the street – this is just an unbearable situation."