Geopolitics

French Family Held Hostage By Nigerian Islamist Group Freed After Two Months

LE PARISIEN, LES ECHOS (France), LE JOURNAL DU CAMEROUN (Cameroon)

Worldcrunch

YAOUNDE – Seven members of a French family kidnapped in February while holidaying in northern Cameroon were freed on Friday.

The Cameroonian government and the French government both issued statements on Friday saying the father, mother, uncle and four children aged between five and 12 years old had been released and were in good health, reports Les Echos.

C’est avec un immense soulagement que le président confirme la libération de la famille MOULIN-FOURNIER au Cameroun elysee.fr/communiques-de…

— Élysée (@Elysee) April 19, 2013

The family had been abducted while visiting the Waza National Park in northern Cameroon. They were identified as the Moulin-Fournier family, who were posted in Yaounde, the Cameroon capital for French gas firm GDF Suez, reports Le Journal du Cameroun.

Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, and asked for the liberation of its militants imprisoned in Nigeria and Cameroon.

Boko Haram, which has ties to al-Qaeda, is responsible for thousands of deaths in Nigeria and at least 28 suicide bombings.

In a video put online by the Islamist group, one of the militants had said “If our demands – all of them, without exception – aren’t met, we will kill those who we have captured. The French President has launched a war on Islam and we will fight him everywhere.”

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had answered by saying “We do not negotiate with these groups, in these conditions. We will use all means possible to make sure these hostages, and others, are liberated.”

It is not known how the family was freed, although GDF Suez CEO Gerard Mastrallet said the hostages were freed in a military operation.

French President François Hollande said his country had not paid a ransom for the family’s release, reports Le Parisien. Hollande said he had spoken to the father of the family on the phone and that they were healthy, relieved and very happy. “It’s good news, a huge relief,” said the president.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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