Last August, I wrote bluntly on The Huffington Post about the "Jew Tax;" that's what I called the portion of my synagogue dues going for surveillance cameras, alarms and a security guard. Now, in the wake of the recent massacres in France, taxpayers in all Western nations find themselves facing a version of that same fee.
My article was prompted by the surge in anti-Semitic violence coinciding with the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas. But as a report from the Anti-Defamation League made clear -- and as the renewed focus on the horrific 1994 attack on a Jewish community center in Argentina has reminded us -- that outbreak was just the latest manifestation of decades of anti-Jewish prejudice deliberately instigated by Israel's opponents and too often indulged by the West.
The attack on the Hyper Cacher kosher market in Paris on Jan. 9 should make the connection clear to all. This time it was Islamist extremists targeting Jews. Other times it's been secular anti-Israel fanatics. And sometimes, though less frequently in Europe in recent years, garden variety anti-Semites. Whatever the motivation, as I wrote in August, "the poisonous impact is deeply personal for every Diaspora Jew."
That poison, more potent than ever, has now spread. The headline of a story by Haaretz columnist Anshel Pfeffer starkly linked anti-Semitism and the slaughter of staff at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. It read: "First they came for the Jews. Then they came for the journalists."
And perhaps both at once, in the person of Elsa Cayat, the only woman killed at the Charlie Hebdo offices, likely because in "the eyes of the killers [a Jewish woman]... was one of the enemies of Allah," in the words of an article in Tablet, accusing leftists of ignoring this inconvenient truth.
The Israeli newspaper headline, of course, refers to the famous lament of German pastor Martin Neimöller, initially an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazis. The United States Holocaust Museum quotes this version of a poem he wrote:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.
In France, soldiers and police carrying automatic weapons guard entire Jewish neighborhoods. That the last time so many uniformed men swarmed those same streets was to deport Jews, not deter attacks, is an irony more bitter than sweet. That many ordinary French Muslims have rallied to the defense of their Jewish neighbors is extraordinarily hopeful. That foreign leaders who tolerate and even encourage anti-Jewish attacks marched to protest the Charlie Hebdo massacre -- in particular, Turkey -- is maddening.
It's not just French taxpayers paying the price of stepped-up protection of the Jews. Heavily armed SWAT teams stand outside a Jewish museum in New York City. Stepped up security surrounds synagogues and major Jewish community institutions in Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago and cities throughout the world.
I wrote in August how some Jewish organizations have taken down identifying signs and how one Jewish day school protects its parking lot with thick steel gates designed to deter would-be car bombers. I lamented that the anti-Israel anti-Semites who cannot put us in ghettos have slowly forced us to build our own walls. The problem has steadily grown.
When I was in high school, my synagogue was firebombed, as was another about 20 miles away. A couple of years after I finished college, one of our synagogue members was held hostage by Arab militants who took over the building housing the Jewish organization where he worked. I didn't grow up in Paris or Paraguay, but in a quiet suburb of Washington, D.C., and it's been almost 40 years since I last lived there.
Which is the point: they first come for the Jews, but it doesn't stop there. It's already been forgotten that British supermarkets just last summer removed all their kosher foods due to threats of "anti-Israel" attacks. But though no other faith faces anything close to the worldwide threat of violence that shadows Jewish religious and communal activities, we cannot forget that extremists increasingly threaten everyone with whom they disagree. Recall that the co-winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize was a young Pakistani Muslim, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban for the crime of promoting the right of girls to get an education.
We Jews certainly noticed the chutzpah shown by Hezbollah and Hamas, religious extremist groups that have brutally killed Jewish civilians and their own political opponents, in denouncing the attacks against Charlie Hebdo. As I wrote back in August, Hamas tried to persuade U.S. journalist Charlie Rose that Hamas does "not actually fight the Jews because they are Jews, per se." This, despite the fact that the Hamas charter is filled with explicit anti-Semitic language.
Those who murder Jewish men, women and children do not much care whether their victims are critics of the current Israeli government -- or any Israeli government -- or supporters. The horrific events in France should signal everyone who values freedom that the Jew Tax we pay today is actually a flashing warning sign to Jews and non-Jews alike. Extremist violence is a threat everywhere to the life of the mind, the life of the spirit and to life itself.
We are all Charlie. So, too, the war against the Jews is a war against us all.