Published on November 17th, 2015 | by Padraic Coffey1
‘Next time it will not come to talk’ – The Bataclan Theatre shooting
The historic French venue had been subject to threats in the past.
The mass murder carried out by so-called Islamic extremists in Paris last Friday was tragic for an untold number of people. It was tragic for the 129 civilians who are now dead, for the several hundred more who are grieving their loss, and for the survivors, many without the use of their limbs, or mentally scarred for what could be the foreseeable future. In a single evening, thousands of lives were irreparably changed, in the most-visited city in mainland Europe (and fifth most-visited globally).1
It goes without saying that it was also tragic for the new owners of the Bataclan theatre, site of the largest number of causalities, at 89. The Bataclan had been in their possession for a mere two months when the attack occurred, having been sold on 11th September 2015 – a date which has extra resonance for those commemorating the New York attacks of 2001.2
Its previous owners, brothers Pascal and Joel Laloux, managed the business for 40 years, a considerable length by any standard. Their reasons for selling it are known only to them – it could have been merely an economic decision, or one stemming from a desire for reprieve from the hectic world of professional entertainment. The Bataclan, after all, was described by Rolling Stone magazine as “one of the city’s most beloved and historic concert venues” – host in the past to Prince, the Velvet Underground and Jeff Buckley, among others. 3 There were, however, some sinister forces at play, which make the ownership of any public venue a considerably more stressful experience.
The Bataclan had been targeted by so-called ‘Islamic’ groups more than once before, albeit never so violently. The French General Directorate for Internal Security – formerly known as the DCRI – received a statement in February 2011 from a group styling itself as ‘Jaish al-Islam’ – ‘the Army of Islam’. The statement was as follows
“Nous avions un projet d’attentat contre le Bataclan parce que les propriétaires sont juifs”
(“We had planned an attack against the Bataclan because the owners were Jewish”).4
The extent of that attack – had it been successful – we cannot know. What we do know is that this threat from the so-called ‘Army of Islam’ was not an isolated incident. After retiring, Joel Laloux emigrated to Israel. Both he and Pascal showed solidarity with Israel on many occasions, for which they incurred wrath from anti-Israeli groups.
In 2008, a video was uploaded to YouTube showing men approaching the Bataclan on 20th December of that year. Speaking in French, their faces obscured by keffiyeh scarves, they told security at the venue:
“Si le Bataclan et le Migdal organisent, comme les années précédentes, un gala pour le Magav, la police des frontières de l’armée israélienne, les gens ne vont plus le supporter et vous allez payer les conséquences de vos actes. La prochaine fois on ne viendra pas pour parler.”
(“If the Bataclan and Migdal organise, as in previous years, a gala for Magav, the border police of the Israeli army, people will not take it anymore and you will pay the consequences of your actions. The next time it will not come to talk.”)5
Support of Israel is one of the most combustible political issues of our time. Several musicians have been targeted by the self-styled Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movment for travelling to and performing in Israel. According to the BDS, Israel is “an apartheid state”, echoing South Africa in the 1980s (a view rejected by many Palestinians, and many black South Africans)6. One of the most prominent figures in the BDS movement is Roger Waters, the former principal songwriter of the band Pink Floyd. Waters has written to many artists, imploring them not to perform in Israel, or condemning them when they do, most recently Jon Bon Jovi. 7 He also sent a letter to Eagles of Death Metal, the band who were performing on stage when the Bataclan shooting began.
Eagles of Death Metal, hailing from California, performed in Tel Aviv, Israel, on 12th July this year. Speaking on stage in Israel, their lead singer Jesse Hughes told the crowd of his rejection of Waters’ request, and reminded them to “Remember something, my friends. Never give a fuck what an asshole thinks.”8
Despite the previous attacks on Eagles of Death Metal for their refusal to boycott Israel, and despite previous threats to the Bataclan for their refusal to boycott Israel, Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement in Gaza, released a joint statement with Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, condemning the Paris attacks.
Hamas official Bassem Na’eem also released an email, saying Hamas “strongly condemned the series of attacks and hostile actions that were carried out in Paris… We pay our deep condolences to the families of the victims and we wish France safety and security.”9
It is impossible for such words not to ring hollow and hypocritical from Hamas, given its history of similar suicide attacks on civilian targets in Israel and the West Bank. Between 5th March and 9th September 2003 alone, the same number of people as were killed in the Bataclan on Friday – 89 – were killed by Hamas in suicide bombings (disregarding other atrocities from groups like Palestinian Islamic Jihad). The largest of these was the Shmuel HaNavi bus bombing on 19th August of that year, which killed 23 civilians and 1 unborn child.10
Of course, defenders of the BDS will say that the number of Palestinian Arabs killed by Israelis is much higher than the number of Israelis killed by Palestinian Arabs, particularly during the summer of 2014, when the Israeli Defence Forces launched ‘Operation Protective Edge’ against Hamas in Gaza.
No moral person is pleased when civilians in Gaza are killed, but supporters of the BDS movement attribute blame for the deaths of civilians exclusively to Israel, which shows either a lack of knowledge when it comes to the conflict, or a deliberate attempt to throw facts out of the window.
One fact is that almost 2,400 of the rockets fired by Hamas during the summer 2014 landed inside the Gaza strip, on Palestinian residential areas, not in any part of Israel. 11 That is 2,400 rockets, in an area of 360 square kilometres. At least one of these 2,400 rockets killed 13 Palestinian civilians (11 children, 2 adults) in a single attack, near the Al-Shati refugee camp.
Moreover, when the deaths of these 13 Palestinian civilians were blamed on Israel, Amnesty International, using an independent munitions expert, determined that “the projectile used in the attack was a Palestinian rocket.” This information, and more, was published in an Amnesty International document entitled Unlawful and Deadly: Rocket and Mortar Attacks by Palestinian Armed Groups during the 2014 Gaza/Israel Conflict, which is freely available to the public. 12
Hamas are not the only political movement in the Palestinian territories, of course. There is also Fatah, led by Mahmoud Abbas. These Palestinians are considered far less extreme than Hamas, and they are, but they were not above propagating absurd conspiracy theories about Israel after the mass murders in Paris on Friday.
The political party’s Facebook page showed a caricatured cartoon of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu crouching down alongside an ISIS sniper, overlooking the Eiffel Tower. Another cartoon showed a caricature of a Jewish man (complete with beard and Star of David visible on his hat) alongside a member of ISIS, with both connected to a box of matches inscribed with the word ‘Terrorism’. 13 However one may feel about Netanyahu as a politician, such innuendo, insinuating that he was in cahoots with the people who killed 129 Parisian civilians in an unprovoked attack, is loathsome to anyone with any sense of fairness or intelligence.
It is true that Palestinian Arabs do not enjoy the same standard of living as their Israeli neighbours, and the BDS argues that boycotting Israel – as well as businesses like the Bataclan and musicians like the Eagles of Death Metal – is necessary to draw attention to the Palestinians’ plight.
This argument would hold more weight if there weren’t several Palestinian openly hostile toward the BDS movement, who want nothing more than peace and co-operation with Israel.
This includes Bassem Eid, born in East Jerusalem, and founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. Speaking in March 2015, Eid said the following
“Israel is not an apartheid state… I’ve been to the Apartheid Museum here in Johannesburg. What I saw there does not exist in any way in Israel… As for these ridiculous boycott calls, people have to realise that boycotts harm only Palestinians. Our economy is based on the Israeli economy. More than 70,000 Palestinians go to work in Israel every day.”14
It also includes the Palestinian Arab writer Mudar Zahran, who wrote, in June 2015,
“BDS is dangerous for all of us and could severely harm the West, the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians in particular. As a Jordanian-Palestinian, I have witnessed first hand that most BDS movements do not care for the Palestinians. I can authoritatively confirm this; I have personally approached several known BDS movements asking them to boycott many Arab countries for the way they treat my people, and not one time did I find even an iota of interest.”15
These anti-BDS Palestinian Arabs are less rare than so-called ‘Palestine Solidarity’ groups would have the public believe – in addition to Eid and Zahran, they include Walid Shoebat, Mosab Hassan Yousef, John Calvin, George Deek and Christy Anastas.
There is also considerable resistance to BDS from the 1.7 million Arabs living inside Israel’s borders, many of whom hold prominent positions in politics, education, law, medicine, science and defence.
These include Colonel Ghassan Alian of the Israel Defence Forces; Ali Salam, the Mayor of Nazereth; Commander Jamal Hcrosh, the Deputy Commander of the Traffic Division; Salim Joubran, a Judge on the Supreme Court of Israel; Dr. Masad Barhoum, CEO of Galilee Medical Center; Dr. Ahmad Tibi, a Chairman of the Knesset (Israeli parliament); Dr Jacob Hanna, a Biologist at the Wizmann Institute and Taiseer Elisa, a Professor at Bar Ilan.
They also include proud Arab-Israelis like Mohammad Zoabi, Lucy Aharish, Khaled Abu Toameh, Jonathan Elkhoury, Gabriel Naddaf, and Anet Haskia.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement currently has over 114,000 followers on Facebook, many of whom were probably shocked and appalled at the carnage in Paris on Friday.
Nonetheless, the targeting of a venue which has been subject to threats because of its pro-Israel stance, during the performance of a band which has been verbally lambasted because of its pro-Israel stance, cannot be viewed in isolation.
As with the white supremacist ‘political movement’ Britain First – which has over 900,000 followers on Facebook, more than any other political party in the UK – many ill-informed people are suckered into supporting the likes of the BDS, despite not knowing how badly it affects the people it purports to defend.
Some things are irrefutable.
The Bataclan had the right to hold galas for whomever it wanted, without the threat of violence from masked men.
The Eagles of Death Metal had the right to perform where they wanted, without intimidation from the BDS movement.
If people care passionately about the plight of Palestinians, a good step towards helping them would be to stop paying lip service to privileged, multi-millionaire Britons like Roger Waters, start paying attention to pro-peace Palestinians like Bassem Eid, Mudar Zahran and many others, and educate yourself on a situation which cannot be condensed into a few lazy ‘like and share’ factoids.
- Top 100 City Destinations Ranking – Euromonitor International
- Jewish owners recently sold Paris’s Bataclan theater, where IS killed dozens – The Times of Israel
- Le Bataclan: Attack Occurred at One of Paris’ Most Legendary Clubs – Rolling Stone
- Pourquoi le Bataclan est-il régulièrement visé ? – Le Point
- Palestine Clash Bataclan – YouTube video
- Why Does the Myth of Apartheid Persist in Israel?
- Roger Waters to Jon Bon Jovi – Salon
- Eagles Of Death Metal at Tel Aviv – I Only Want You – YouTube video
- Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad denounce Paris attacks – Deutsche Welle
- Bus bomb carnage in Jerusalem – BBC News
- The Tunnels in Gaza – Testimony before the UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict -Dr. Eado Hecht
- Unlawful and Deadly: Rocket and Mortar Attacks by Palestinian Armed Groups during the 2014 Gaza/Israel Conflict – Amnesty International
- Fatah cartoons blame Israel for Paris attacks – The Jewish Chronicle
- Israeli Apartheid Week: For and against – Mail & Guardian online
- The dangers of boycotting Israel – Mudar Zahran