Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs Matteo Salvini was blasted by members of his government and the media on Tuesday for calling Hezbollah “Islamic terrorists.” Salvini used this apt description after touring Israel’s northern border, where the Lebanon-based Shi’ite organization has been digging attack tunnels for more than a decade.
While Salvini was being raked over the coals for daring to be so indelicate as to insult radical Islamists, a man shouting “Allahu Akbar” opened fire on innocent people at a Christmas market in Strasbourg, killing at least three and seriously wounding several others.
The assailant, who has yet to be apprehended, was identified as Chérif Chekatt. A suspect in a current homicide investigation, Chekatt served a number of stints in prison for robberies in France and Germany. Since his release from jail in 2015, where he engaged in “fundamentalist religious practices,” he has been under surveillance by French security services. Nevertheless, the French government was hesitant to label the deadly attack as an act of terrorism until the following day—without specifying its origin, of course, and pretending to examine “possible motives.”
Israeli authorities are quicker on the draw when it comes to recognizing, naming and acknowledging the Islamist nature of terrorist acts committed against innocent civilians.
On Sunday, for instance—the last night of Hanukkah—seven Israelis waiting at a bus stop outside the community of Ofra were riddled with bullets in a Palestinian drive-by shooting. One of the victims was 21-year-old Shira Ish-Ran, in her seventh month of pregnancy. Shot in her abdomen and pelvis, she was rushed to the hospital, where doctors performed an emergency C-section, and immediately began working to save both lives. Thankfully, she and her husband, Amichai, who was also wounded in the attack, are in stable condition. Tragically, in spite of herculean efforts on the part of hospital staff, the baby died on Wednesday and was buried that night.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to bring the infant’s “heinous murderers” to justice.
Washington, too, was unequivocal. Calling the attack “absolutely disgusting,” U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, challenged Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to behave properly for a change and issue a public condemnation of the shootings. But Abbas has been snubbing the Trump administration over its insistence that he negotiate a peace deal with Israel, and cease paying hefty stipends to terrorists and their families as an incentive to kill Jews.
This is not to say that he failed to decry the events surrounding the Ofra attack. On the contrary, according to a statement released by his office, Abbas contacted Arab and international officials to request that they hold Israel accountable for the “dangerous escalation embodied in its continued raids on Palestinian cities.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman went after Hamas—the terrorist organization that rules Gaza, and is competing for power in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank)—for celebrating the attack.
“Another vile act of Palestinian terrorism last night included the shooting of a pregnant woman,” he tweeted. “Hamas calls the shooters ‘heroic’—yes, the same Hamas that the U.N. could not resolve to condemn last week. The U.S. stands with Israel against terrorists even if others won’t.”
A four-day hunt for the perpetrators of the attack in Israel resulted in the killing on Wednesday of a key suspect, who turned out to be the son of notorious senior Hamas member Omar Barghouti, himself a convicted terrorist—and now the father of a martyr for Allah. Hopefully, Chekatt will meet a similar same fate at the hands of French police.
Which brings us back to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Unabashedly seeking the destruction of Israel and the subjugation of the United States to the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hezbollah is responsible for deadly attacks against Jews and Americans across the world. These include the 1983 truck bombings at the U.S. Marines barracks in Lebanon, which left 305 people dead; the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina, in which 29 people were killed and hundreds were wounded; the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people and wounded hundreds of others; and the 2005 suicide bombing in Beirut, which left 23 people dead, including former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.
Last week’s uncovering of Hezbollah’s network of tunnels extending from Lebanon into Israel is simply the latest revelation of the organization’s mandate from its patrons in Tehran. It is no wonder, then, that Italy’s Salvini was bewildered by the backlash he received for calling Hezbollah “Islamic terrorists.”
At a press conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, he quipped: “If they dig underground tunnels that breach Israeli territory, I don’t think they do so to do the shopping.”
But Salvini—who is referred to by most of the Western press as a “far-right leader” for his stance against unfettered illegal migration—should know better than to expect his European compatriots to accept any comment that could be construed as offensive to Muslims. Indeed, the European Union is far busier combating “Islamophobia” than it is to fighting Islamic terrorism—even when a killer on a rampage praises Allah loudly and proudly.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”