France: National unity is the only response

Rally for the victims of Toulouse, Place de la Bastille, Paris March 19 2012.
Rally for the victims of Toulouse, Place de la Bastille, Paris March 19 2012.
Libération (Paris)

France is in a state of shock after the assassination of three French soldiers of North African descent and of three Jewish children and their teacher by, according to police sources, the same killer. Coming just weeks ahead of the French presidential election, Libération calls on politicians not to exploit these events.

Whether it be at the military funeral in honour of the fallen paratroopers or at a Kaddish for the slain children and their teacher, France is in mourning. Trying to second guess the motivations of a killer, who apparently used the same gun in the three attacks, is a dangerous business. What link can one make between an anti-semitic crime in front of a Jewish school and the assassination of French soldiers, two of whom are Muslim? Nothing supports the racist crime theory nor can the lone psychopath be ruled out.

Given the current state of the investigation, in the heat of the electoral campaign, the candidates, and the incumbent in particular, must avoid all escalation, abusive interpretations or political exploitation of these crimes. The past has already shown how a ballot can be tainted by an act of foul play or by military operations duly programmed for electoral purposes.

There is a fine line between the right amount of solidarity and compassion with the Jewish community, once again a target, and co-opting the occasion. To date, the candidates have toed that line. They have even suspended for a day their public outings and comments.

In the face of these tragedies, national union, an often hackneyed phrase, is the only dignified response. That is the most fitting homage to the slain; to the three soldiers, to the three Jewish children and to their professor. The candidate that deviates from this Republican ideal must be held accountable by the voters.

Translated from the French by Pat Brett

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