No Islamists Here: Media Buries Motive on Toulouse

The New York Times has not featured an editorial on the Toulouse massacre, but the Washington Post published “French attacks highlight the country’s immigrant challenge”:

Far-right leaders are seeking to exploit the tragedy, with presidential candidate Marine Le Pen claiming that “politico-religious fundamentalist groups” are “developing in a lax climate” in France. In fact, Mr. Sarkozy’s government has not done enough to improve conditions for young French Muslims who often live in immigrant ghettos. Mr. Merah reportedly told the police besieging him that his killings were meant as revenge for the ban on the public use of the Islamic veil, which was supported by Mr. Sarkozy. Though such policies don’t explain or excuse the attacks, more discrimination against Muslim communities is hardly the right response.

Mr. Merah also claimed he attacked the Jewish school to avenge Palestinian children killed by Israel. This brought the best response of a terrible week, from Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. “It is time for these criminals to stop marketing their terrorist acts in the name of Palestine and to stop pretending to stand up for the rights of Palestinian children who only ask for a decent life,” Mr. Fayyad said. We don’t expect al-Qaeda and its converts to respect his words -- but they are a welcome step forward for a Palestinian leader.

Even after Merah was identified as the culprit, the Washington Post blamed French politics. And while Fayyad's statement was welcome, it hardly makes up for the regular glorification of terrorists his government engages in.

It also marks an odd change. For Erlanger, the nationalist tone of the campaign apparently inspired a racist. For the Washington Post, the failure of France to treat its immigrants adequately served to aggravate Merah and people like him.

While some sought to explain the alienation felt by Merah, others perversely seemed to justify his actions. Most notoriously, EU Foreign Minister Lady Ashton, in a statement, equated the killings of the Jewish children in Toulouse with the suffering of children in Gaza. (Later, she apparently added a reference to the children of Sderot.)

Isabel Kershner of the New York Times wrote that Lady Ashton's remarks were "perceived" by Israeli leaders as equating the two situations. Kershner compounded this at the end of the article:

In the latest cross-border violence between Israel and militant groups in Gaza, 26 Palestinians were killed over four days, according to the Israeli military. Most were militants, but four were civilians. A 12-year-old boy was among those killed in Israeli airstrikes; another boy, 14, was killed by explosives in disputed circumstances. In the same period, Palestinian militants fired over 150 rockets into southern Israel, none of which claimed a life.

Here Kershner's confirming Ashton's equivalence. (Later, Merah was quoted as saying that he targeted Jewish children to avenge the killing of Palestinian children by Israel, so Kershner unintentionally was justifying Merah's grievance.)

Melanie Phillips points out:

But no Palestinian children have ever been targeted by Israel for murder. Quite the reverse: Israel regularly puts its own soldiers in harm’s way in order to minimize civilian casualties in military operations against Palestinian terrorists and their infrastructure which it undertakes solely to protect its own people from further murderous Palestinian attacks. Any Palestinian child casualties in such operations occur solely as a tragic and inadvertent by-product of war -- and as often as not because the Palestinians have put their own children in harm’s way.