Like so many others in the world in the last twelve hours, we’ve gone back and forth to the screen to find out the latest news from Paris. But really, it doesn’t make sense to be glued to the media right now. No one knows that much; there’s been a lot of misinformation, and the most important facts we know so far seemed pretty clear at the start, a small group of self-styled Islamist radicals had carried out terror attacks in Paris, with massive loss of innocent lives. Right now the French people and the families of the victims have our deep condolences. We’re pulling for all the injured to come through. We want to put an arm around the frightened young urbanites near the Bataclan.
And yes, some of the victims are sure to be Muslim citizens of Paris — as the perpetrators were Muslims. But this is not the time to try to score political points off the horrors. Yes, important political decisions will be made in the coming days, but right now it’s grotesque to try and use the Paris suffering to advance any cause — even our cause, a just solution in Israel and Palestine and a regime of human rights around the world. We know that if we could wave a wand and the Israel/Palestine conflict ended tomorrow and all the dictators were marched off to the Hague, some disaffected French youth would still be radicalized. There are other causes, too, for that besides Palestine, from Syria being broken to the souring of the Arab spring, to unemployment and marginalization in France itself.
That being said, Paris’s Friday the 13th is surely a momentous day in the history of issues we care about: the relations of Muslim former colonial territories to the imperial west, the relations of Islam and Judaism and Christianity, and the efforts by some to turn political differences into religious war and raise the walls between cultures. We have long resisted those efforts, and we will going forward. We have too many Muslim and Jewish and Christian friends to do otherwise, and if you believe in the progress and benefits of civilization, then that’s nothing less than a duty. In the next 24 hours we’re going to seek out informed voices we trust, including Juan Cole, Josh Landis, Adam Shatz, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Jews Against Islamophobia, among others, for analysis. We’re going to stay away from the television, grieve for others’ losses, and honor those in France who are responding with aid, kindness and reserve.