If World War II Jews did in Berlin exactly what the Charlie Hebdo killers did in Paris, they would be considered heroes, not terrorists. That realization alone should help us re-vision what took place in Paris last week. It should make us more careful about using the term “terrorism” in the context of our country’s so-called “War on Terror.”
To get what I mean, perform the following thought experiment.
Imagine Germany in 1943. The country is at war with Russia, Great Britain, France, and the United States. The Jewish holocaust is in full operation. German newspapers and magazines are full of anti-Semitic propaganda including grotesque cartoons (like the one above) depicting Jews in general and their Jewish faith in particular. The ones attacking Judaism and Moses are especially offensive to devout Jews throughout the diaspora.
One dark morning in Berlin, two Jewish gunmen burst into the offices of Lustige Blatter , the German humor magazine which as part of Germany’s war effort specializes in the publication of anti-Semitic cartoons. The gunmen know the particular cartoonists they’re looking for. They’re delighted to find them protected by a couple of Ordnungspolizei.
The gunmen open fire.
With their bloody work finished, the killers leave twelve bodies of Lustige Blatter cartoonists, copy writers, and Orpo bodyguards dead on the office floor. The assassins flee the premises.
Later on, they’re cornered and killed in a fire fight with the Gestapo.
How would the world outside the Reich’s orbit react to that sequence of events?
- Would it consider the Jewish perpetrators “terrorists”?
- Would it sympathize with massive protests defending the press freedom of the Lustige Blatter cartoonists to make fun of Jews and their religion?
- Would it admire those waving banners declaring “Ich bin Lustige Blatter” while demonstrating in Berlin’s central Paris Square on behalf of the right to insult Jews and their faith?
- Would it expect their leaders to join Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Tojo at those demonstrations?
The answer to each of those questions is probably a resounding NO! Most likely, the only ones considering the shooting an act of terrorism would be supporters of the Third Reich.
If that’s true, the thought experiment puts into perspective the events of last week surrounding the horrific events in Paris connected with the Charlie Hebdo shootings. It enables us to see this latest event in the “war on terror” from the viewpoint of the other side.
It reminds us that.
- The Charlie Hebdo killers are combatants in a war and have grievances as real as any that Jews had in 1943.
- For example, over the last fourteen years, western governments have daily killed untold (literally) numbers of Muslim civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and elsewhere throughout the world.
- More specifically, their recent attacks on Palestinians killed more than 2000 in Gaza (mostly civilians) including 500 children.
- By some counts, more than one and a half million Muslims (mostly civilians) have been slaughtered in the allied invasion of Iraq since 2003.
- In war, both sides kill one another; retaliations are routine and to be expected; they are part of war, not to be considered acts of terrorism.
- In war (as the above thought experiment shows) most would consider propagandists and psy-ops agents as vital cogs in the combat machine, and hence legitimate targets.
And now a final thought. . . .
What if, during WWII, again during the holocaust, a group of 19 Jews from the Warsaw ghetto somehow hijacked three Lufthansa airliners? And suppose they flew two of them into Berlin’s tallest building housing the offices of companies like AIG Insurance, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Krupp Aviation, and Volkswagen — all vital to the German war effort?
How would we remember those Jews? Would we consider them “terrorists” or heroes?
The bottom line is this: if western governments insist on fighting a “War on Terrorism,” they have to expect counter-attacks even on what the “enemy” considers war propagandists and psy-ops personnel.
Simply put, that’s war.