President Obama described the January terrorist attack at the kosher supermarket in Paris as a random shooting rather than one borne out of anti-Semitic violence in an interview with Vox that was posted on Monday.
In remarks that created an instant controversy on social media, Obama opined that “It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.” He also stated that the media in general overdramatizes the threat of terrorism and that climate change may be more dangerous.
Rather than random, the gunman in question, however, told a Paris television station that he had coordinated the assault with the Charlie Hebdo attackers and was affiliated in some way capacity with ISIS, AFP reported at the time.
According to the Guardian, he told the same TV station that he “committed these acts to defend ‘oppressed Muslims’ notably in Palestine, and targeted the Kosher grocery store because he was targeting Jews.”
The terrorist gunman murdered four Parisian Jews at the kosher deli, and prior to that a policewoman, before he was killed by SWAT officers.
White House and State Department officials struggled today (see clips below) to explain the president’s viewpoint in what Commentary called “a stunning display of Orwellian doubletalk.”
“The adverb that the president chose was used to indicate that the individuals who were killed in that terrible, tragic incident were killed not because of who they were but because of where they randomly happen to be,” claimed Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
Under media questioning, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki asserted incorrectly that “Well, as you know, I believe if I remember the victims specifically, they were not all victims of one background or one nationality.”
Later this afternoon, as the controversy heated up, both officials issued clarifications on Twitter (see below) that acknowledged the anti-Semitic motivation of the Paris grocery store attack.
As violence against Jews has increased in Europe, the population consisting of those of Jewish heritage has declined significantly, with many immigrating to Israel or the United States. A prominent, Brussels-based rabbi has already proposed that Jews who undergo proper firearms training receive an exemption from Europe’s strict gun control laws to allow them to carry pistols for self defense.
Prior to the tweets that clarified the Obama administration’s position, Commentary declared that “It is now official U.S. policy to claim that when Islamist murderers go into a kosher deli looking for Jews to kill, they are not targeting Jews or acting out of religious bias.”
Reacting to the uproar about the president’s remarks, the Daily Beast observed that “for the record, all four of the people murdered at the Hyper Cacher market were Jews. Their bodies were buried in Israel. Immediately after the attacks, France’s President and Prime Minister both denounced the crime for its specific anti-Semitic nature, with the latter, Manuel Valls, giving a rousing speech decrying ‘the new anti-Semitism’ before the country’s National Assembly. The French government then deployed 4,700 soldiers to guard Jewish institutions…”
We have always been clear that the attack on the kosher grocery store was an anti-semitic attack that took the lives of innocent people.
— Jen Psaki (@statedeptspox) February 10, 2015
Our view has not changed. Terror attack at Paris Kosher market was motivated by anti-Semitism. POTUS didn't intend to suggest otherwise.
— Josh Earnest (@PressSec) February 10, 2015
[Top image via Shutterstock]