— The Erimtan Angle —

France has just gone through a serious episode of domestic terrorism in the southern city of Toulouse, and Sarko could not be any happier now. From the scene of the crime, the Guardian’s Kim Willsher reports that the “24-year-old petty thief who killed three Jewish children and their teacher had accumulated a lethal arsenal and lived a life at odds with his unemployed status. How could this have happened under the nose of the intelligence services?”, adding that the atrocity “might never have happened, it emerged this weekend, if the Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah had murdered his original target last Monday [, 19 March]. Before being killed in a shootout at his apartment, Merah told police he did not set out to slaughter his victims at a school in the southern French city but had ‘improvised’ after missing a chance to kill a French soldier. The school murders, following Merah’s previous execution-style killing of three soldiers who served in Afghanistan, have traumatised France ahead of presidential elections”.[1] 

In The New York Times, Isabel Kershner observes that the “bodies of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, a religious instructor at the school; his two sons, Arye, 6, and Gabriel, 3; and Miriam Monsonego, 8, the daughter of the school’s principal, were flown overnight from France [to Israel, to be buried there]. Rabbi Sandler was a French citizen; the three children had dual French-Israeli nationality. Before the burials, mourners packed into a sun-drenched courtyard, many of them men wearing the black clothes of ultra-Orthodoxy. French and Israeli dignitaries, including the French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, joined relatives of the victims there in eulogizing the innocents, their bodies wrapped in prayer shawls and a velvet cloth and laid out on stretchers before the small podium”.[2]

An apparently lone Muslim terrorist suspect killing ‘Jewish innocents’, is it any wonder that Merah invoked the name of the multi-headed beast so feared in the, that “catch-all ghost entity”, using Escobar’s descriptive phrase. Willsher explains that “Merah . . .claimed to be linked to an al-Qaida fringe group, [and had] had fooled investigators after being summoned to explain visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan in November [2011]. The 23-year-old claimed he had gone on holiday to find a bride and showed them tourist snaps he had loaded on to a pen drive to verify his story. Once released, Merah set about collecting an arsenal of weapons he later used in his killing spree, including three .45 Colt handguns, an Uzi and a pump-action shotgun”.[3]  Merah clearly wanted to appear like a real terrorist, rather than as a deranged killer on a rampage. Much more important from a political point of view, however, as explained by Willsher, is the fact that the “killings have also transformed the lead-up to April’s presidential election first round. Before Toulouse, Socialist candidate François Hollande was leading the majority of polls to become the next president of France. The predicted margin between Hollande and incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy was narrow for the first round on 22 April, but all surveys gave Hollande a clear majority in the second round a fortnight later”.[4]  But not anymore, after “Toulouse, Super Sarkozy, the ‘president protector’ – as one analyst described him – is back. Crime and security are Sarkozy’s speciality. Last week’s stand-off between police and Merah sparked memories of France’s longest ever siege when in 1993 a man took children hostage at a kindergarten in the wealthy Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, where Sarkozy was mayor. He persuaded the assailant, who was later shot dead by police, to release several children, and most of France still remembers the photographs of Sarkozy leading them out of the school”.[5]

So, why did Mohamed Merah decide to go about his business at this precise moment in time???  Was he hoping to boost Sarko’s profile so that France would continue its aggressive policy against Islamic countries and Muslim (and other) immigrants???  Or, was it pure happenstance that the young man lost his marbles at this politically sensitive time in France??? A Tunisian-born man named Ali, also resident in Toulouse, posed the following rhetorical question, as documented by Willsher: “Will this change the election? It changes everything 100%. And it could not have come at a better time for Nicolas Sarkozy. The sad thing is that he was the one dividing the country by turning towards the far right before this happened”.[6]  Islamophobia and anti-semitism are no uneasy bedfellows, whereas Islamic anti-semitism all but strengthens prevailing Islamophobia. It seems that Satko must be laughing all the way to the ballot box now . . . Willsher points out that in “the immediate aftermath of the Toulouse shootings, Nicolas Sarkozy pledged to introduce new legislation making it illegal to look at websites encouraging terrorism and to travel abroad for terrorism training”.[7]  The news agency Reuters’ John Irish and Nicholas Vinocur report on 23 March that ‘France’s presidential election race resumes on Friday [following Thursday’s shooting], irrevocably altered by the killing of an al Qaeda-inspired gunman whose murders have shifted the political debate in favor of incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy’.[8]


[1] Kim Willsher, “Toulouse shooting: failure to find first target led assassin to Jewish school” The Guardian (24 March 2012). http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/24/toulouse-shootings-assassin-jewish-school?newsfeed=true.

[2] Isabel Kershner, “Toulouse Victims Buried in Israel” The New York Times (21 March 2012). http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/world/middleeast/toulouse-shooting-victims-buried-in-israel.html.

[3] Kim Willsher, “Toulouse shooting: failure to find first target led assassin to Jewish school”.

[4] Kim Willsher, “Toulouse shooting: failure to find first target led assassin to Jewish school”.

[5] Kim Willsher, “Toulouse shooting: failure to find first target led assassin to Jewish school”.

[6] Kim Willsher, “Toulouse shooting: failure to find first target led assassin to Jewish school”.

[7] Kim Willsher, “Toulouse shooting: failure to find first target led assassin to Jewish school”.

[8] John Irish and Nicholas Vinocur, “France to resume election race after gunman’s death” Reuters (23 March 2012). http://news.yahoo.com/france-resume-election-race-gunmans-death-103206273.html.

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