It’s the news that many Jews were fearing since they heard that a gunmen had murdered four people at a Jewish school in France: The gunman targeted them because they were Jewish.
The deaths were tragic and immediately shook Jews across the Diaspora, not just those in France, when they seemed random. For LA Jews, the scene evoked painful memories of the North Valley JCC shooting in 1999. But the fact that the gunman wasn’t just some sadist who got off on murdering humans but was in it for the Jewish targets, that touched a deep nerve for a historically persecuted people.
Mohammed Merah, the self-proclaimed killer, jumped to his death today after a long standoff with police. JTA reports on the motives of the al Qaeda wannabe:
According to Gueant, Merah told French police he killed the Jewish students at the Ozar Hatorah school in revenge for Palestinian children killed in Gaza, and had killed three French soldiers for serving in Afghanistan. Police found videos he took of the killings with a camera hung around his neck, according to reports.
A top Homeland Security official briefed American Jewish school leaders Wednesday on ways to improve school security and assured them:
“There is no imminent or specific threat regarding the American Jewish community,” he said. “We will remain concerned about the lone wolf and those that are acting independent of organized groups.”
But many Jews are still unsettled, as is understandably often the case after a prominent anti-Semitic attack. And with Merah being categorized as part of a new cadre of terrorists—the “al Qaeda-inspired lone wolves”—I’m not sure that everyone is comforted by the knowledge that Homeland Security knows of no “imminent or specific threat.” I think that the chief concern is the unpredictability of the attacks.
The inability to be on guard that follows from such indefiniteness is probably particularly difficult for Jews, who, after all, are no strangers to feelings of an ever-present threat to their existence.