Terror in Europe

Act II: Charlie Takes His Solemn Place Next To 9/11

'Je suis Charlie' is a defense of neither blasphemy nor free speech. It is a stark and collective reminder that we know our enemy, and the stakes.

Paris' Place de la République on Jan. 11
Paris' Place de la République on Jan. 11
Jeff Israely*

-Analysis-

PARIS â€" Je suis flic, Je suis Ahmed, Je suis Juif ... Je suis Charlie. After the latest vile acts of jihadist terrorism, the homemade placards at Sunday's massive rally in Paris featured what could grimly be characterized as a perfect cast of martyrs: the cop, the Muslim (cop), the Jew, the public face of free speech.

It now seems inevitable, too, that France was bound to provide the stage, with its colonial past and Voltairian spirit, fractured politics and entrenched unemployment, home to Europe's largest population of Muslims, Jews … and rude cartoonists. It's a place of clashing cultures and social disaffection stirred by wine-swilling artists pushing the bounds of good conduct.

But as George Packer promptly reminded us, the worst mistake in the wake of such an attack is to look for contributing causes or alibis. It would be grotesque to attach such heinous crimes to the living situation of France's Muslim community, or to the Palestinian cause. Not in their name! Meanwhile, the criticism â€" including from inside the publishing business â€" about the tastefulness of Charlie Hebdo"s cartoons is not only in notably bad taste (it's certainly bad timing), it's also wrong.

That the cartoonists were hunted down and killed is the tragic proof of the relevancy, though not necessarily the decency, of their work.

France and much of the world reacted Sunday with the kind of unity, clarity and dignity such barbaric acts warrant. When I joined the spontaneous chants of Char-lie, Char-lie, Char-lie, I had no interest then, nor have I ever, in mocking anyone's religion. Indeed, Je suis Charlie is ultimately not about free speech per se, as those lines and laws can be drawn in different places. That name instead represents nothing more and nothing less than the man of good intentions (whether right or wrong, ally or antagonist) murdered by the man of bad faith.

That's what Le Monde's editor Jean-Marie Colombani meant 13 years ago when he wrote "Nous sommes tous Américains" (We are all Americans) the day after the 9/11 attack. And so, too, Je suis Charlie revives the collective condemnation of the nihilistic violence of our time, festering as it is in a dark corner of Islam, as incomprehensible as it is seemingly unstoppable, first and foremost for Muslims of good faith.

What now?

Of course, religious-driven violence has never really gone away, and we see how vast it can be, especially these past few days in Nigeria. We also now have nearly two decades' worth of mistakes the West has made in failing to combat it, and sometimes feeding it, even as it grows ever clearer that it ultimately will be a struggle inside Islam.

In Paris, this violence reared its head again in a way that has captured the world's attention â€" hunting down cartoonists as they shared jokes around their morning croissants, finishing off Ahmed Merabet as he lay helpless on the sidewalk, executing Jews who'd gone shopping for Sabbath groceries.

The proximity of being here can prompt comparison to other attacks in recent years, on trains or in markets. Is a terrorist hunting down a specific target more chilling than an indiscriminate attack? Well, says the Jewish satirist in me, that all depends on whether you're the target. The more serious answer, of course, is that they are two sides of the same coin â€" 2,800 faceless people in a famous New York skyscraper or a handful of people called out by name in a faceless office in Paris. We are all Charlie.

Back in 2001, the target was the United States, and the perpetrators were 19 natives of the Middle East sent over by evil masterminds huddled away in Afghanistan hatching a plot that not even Hollywood could have dreamed up. This time the killers were French born and raised who, most likely with the help of other evil masterminds far away and the frothing of the Internet, carried out an assault that sounds disturbingly like a bad video game.

More relevant now is how we react. It is a chance for France to lead, which it has done quite admirably in the past five days. But the hard work is ahead. That domestic mix of factors cited above, and the geographic proximity to war zones in the Middle East, remind us in a different way than 9/11 that the world is a small place.

Thirteen years ago, I was a correspondent in Rome, and was spending much of my time in Milan, where investigators were tracking Italy's most active Islamic terror cell. When news broke one Friday in April that a plane had crashed into Milan's tallest building, I hopped on the first flight to cover it. Information was scarce at first, and only seven months after 9/11, I would describe that feeling as wondering if the other shoe had dropped.

The pilot turned out to be a depressed 67-year-old named Luigi-Gino Fasulo, and I returned to Rome with a sigh of relief. In the years that followed, there would be Madrid and London, Bali and Boston, Daniel Pearl and James Foley, Theo van Gogh and Danish cartoonists. Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza and Syria, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram. It is a sad continuum in a world that can't seem to heal itself.

Last Wednesday's attack took place just around the corner from our office, no doubt adding to its urgency for our little global news outfit. But it was finally the presence of world leaders Sunday at Place de la Republique that confirmed our shared sense that, for the nature and timing of the Paris attacks, the other shoe has now dropped.

So as Act II begins, the good people of the city and world may now bow our heads to pray for the future. You can be rest assured that Charlie will watch us all and laugh.

*Jeff Israely is the editor of Worldcrunch.

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

4.9%

China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.

📈💥  IN OTHER NEWS

​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.


Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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