French Jewish leaders have vowed to “fight terror with determination” after an attack at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris left a dozen dead and threw France into a state of shock and mourning.
As Jewish groups across the continent expressed their sympathies, tributes flowed in for some of the country’s leading cartoonists, including the editor and 80-year old Jewish veteran Georges Wolinski, who died in a hail of bullets after gunmen shouting “Allahu Akhbar” burst in.
The shooting put European Jewish groups on high alert and prompted the community leaders to call on French authorities to take extensive measures against extremists.
“There is the beginning of a wave of terror on the streets of Europe,” said European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor. “This is a war against freedom of speech and the European way of life.”
He added that the response “must begin with a significant clampdown on extremists and those that promulgate hate” and urged authorities to increase law enforcement powers and intelligence cooperation.
Joël Mergui, president of Consistoire, the French equivalent of the United Synagogue, said: “All French people [must] unite in order to defend with determination against extreme Islamism, this nuisance of the free world which instrumentalises religion and installs terror and unique thought.”
Roger Cukierman, the leader of the French Jewish umbrella group CRIF, called for care, saying: “Jews were the target of Islamists in Toulouse and Brussels and are often the target of Islamist extremism so I ask them to be extremely careful.”
On the terrorists, he added: “They want to impose Sharia on the rest of the world. We have to fight with determination this attack against our values.”
In Britain, a spokesman for the Community Security Trust (CST) said: “It is blatantly obvious that these threats will not diminish anytime soon and we must all work together in confronting that reality.”
And in Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman added: “Israel shares the pain of France, we cannot let terrorism and terrorists impose terror in the free world.”
The magazine – firebombed in 2011 for posting a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammed – took aim at all faiths, with Jews and the Catholic Church among the targets. However its last tweet only hours before the attack, mocking ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is thought to have triggered the latest attack.
Yet despite a history of mocking all religions, the magazine can point to a history of responsibility. It fired its chief cartoonist several years ago for inciting anti-Semitism, after the latter refused to apologise for suggesting that the son of a former French president had married a Jewish heiress and converted to Judaism for financial reasons.