National tragedy, political drama (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Sefy Hendler 03/20/12)
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The shocking slaughter in the courtyard of a Jewish school in
Toulouse yesterday has rattled France. Many thought that after the
Holocaust and the Nazi occupation, French children would never again
be murdered in cold blood because of their religion, but that´s just
what appears to have happened this morning in the southwest of the
The grisly descriptions refer to a gunman chasing Jewish children
into a courtyard in order to gun them down. French President Nicolas
Sarkozy declared the fatal shooting of three children and a teacher
to be a "national tragedy."
Sarkozy started his term by delivering a speech next to a monument
commemorating victims of the resistance who were executed by the
Germans in 1944. Now, toward the end of his term, he is dealing with
an act of terror against Jewish children, the likes of which France
hasn´t witnessed for more than half a century.
Police and investigators who deal with the war on terror are trying
to track down the assailant as quickly as possible. The gunman comes
across as a terrorist who planned the attack after collecting
intelligence information before he reached the school. One suspicion
under consideration is that this could be the same gunman responsible
for last week´s lethal shooting of French soldiers of North African
or Caribbean descent in a city near Toulouse. Perhaps these are
crimes committed by a right-wing extremist.
Another theory being investigated is that the school shooting was
carried out by an Islamic operative who was protesting the French
role in Afghanistan, said well-placed sources in the French Jewish
community. But that´s just one of several theories. French Interior
Minister Claude Gueant is expected to coordinate the investigation
from Toulouse for "as long as it takes," Sarkozy said, as a sense of
fear and insecurity gripped the region yesterday.
In addition to searching for the gunman, French security forces also
implemented emergency measures intended to beef up security at Jewish
institutions across the country in an effort to prevent another
There is, of course, an inevitable political dimension to this
terrible tragedy. The shooting took place a little more than a month
before the citizens of France will elect a new president.
Sarkozy and Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande canceled campaign
events, as did far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, and headed for
Toulouse. Sarkozy appeared with the president of CRIF, the umbrella
organization of French Jewish organizations. Sarkozy, of course, is
busy with affairs of state, and is also trailing in the polls.
Yet there is little doubt his proven ability to handle crises will
strengthen his candidacy. It´s too early to predict precisely how
this tragedy will affect the race, but it is likely to have some
influence. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 03/20/12)
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