The terrorists’ commando decimated the entire desk of Charlie Hebdo, France’s most famous satirical magazine. Twelve people were murdered, including the main editor (pen name “Charb”) and four cartoonists. Then the terrorists disappeared.
It happened in the middle of Paris in broad daylight, but it was like Algeria in the ’90s, when dozens of intellectuals were murdered by terrorists: the novelist Lâadi Flici, killed in his office with pen in hand; the essayst Abderrahmane Chergou, who bled to death like a slaughtered lamb; the playwright Abdelkader Alloula, three bullets in his head; the writer Mahfoud Boucebci, stabbed to death; and Youcef Sebti, the Francophone writer and poet, who was slain in his house under a reproduction of the “May 3 executions” by goya. On his bedside he had the proofs of his last novel, “Les illusions fertiles”.
It happened in Italy during the’80s, when the communist Red Brigades killed Carlo Casalegno, a shy and brave journalist known for his uncomprising position against terrorism and in favour of the State of Israel, in a period when most of the journalists and intellectuals took a morally and politically equivocal stance on both.
Charlie Hebdo was the symbol of French freedom of expression. “Journal bete et mechant”. “Stupid and nasty newspaper” was the slogan of the satirical magazine in the Seventies. “The honor of France was saved by Charlie Hebdo,” wrote Bernard-Henri Lévy when the weekly republished the Danish cartoons of Muhammad, while many right-thinking media gloated on the “Islamophobia” of those caricatures.
Since then, Hebdo has been the center of all the pressures faced by the West in this war on free speech. Physical pressure, first of all, as shown by the carnage. The headquarters of the newspaper had already been burned with Molotov cocktails. But it is also political and legal pressure.
Charlie Hebdo has survived a process for “racism” brought against the magazine by the French Council of Muslims (a court exonerated the magazine). Now the terrorists accomplished their mission. In a country where Talmuds were burned at the stake, where thousands of heads were cut off by Robespierre’s guillottine and where the Nazi troops marched in Les Champs Elysees.
Today in Europe there are cartoonists, writers and journalists threatened with death and who need a level of personal protection unconceivable even in Israel. I met dozens of them, from Amsterdam to Copenaghen. They are heroes of intellectual freedom. These journalists must watch themselves and take precautions. Because writing articles critical of Islam or openly pro Israel make them a target for assassination attempts and intimidation campaigns.
After Charlie Hebdo’s attack, I sent a message to my friend Robert Redeker, the French professor of philosophy threatened with death for an article in Le Figaro newspaper. Since then, he is hiding. He wrote a preface to one of my books on Israel.
Robert didn’t reply to me. In that silence there is all of Europe’s veil of fright and submission.
Nobody wants to be a martyr. That is why I fear being a pro Israel and a free writer today in Europe. It might be better to change my profession. But would they really stop if one changes one’s self?
The writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book “A New Shoah”, that researched the personal stories of Israel’s terror victims, published by Encounter. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary. He has just prblished a book about the Vatican and Israel titled “J’Accuse: the Vatican Against Israel” published by Mantua Books.