Among the many questions that arose from the bombings in Mumbai, one remains strangely baffling: why did these terrorists choose, among their high profile attack locations, the small Chabad house run by non-Indian Jews?
As Nicole Greenfield notes in her here & there roundup, Naomi Seidman at Religion Dispatches writes that the American media seems to have sympathized more with the 6 Jews killed at the Chabad House in India—two of whom were rabbis—than with the (over a hundred) others killed. The media, she says, is “mirroring my own selective sympathies, openly preferring some victims, some stories, over other, less ‘Western,’ ones.”
While this accusation of media bias may be true, Jeremy Kahn of the New York Times succinctly explains why these particular deaths are so disturbing, quoting Jonathon Solomon, a Mumbai lawyer and president of the Indian Jewish Federation:
“This is the first time when a Jew has been targeted in India because he is a Jew…The tradition of the last thousand years has been breached.”
According to tradition, there have been Jews in India for thousands of years—Indian Jews are said to be part of the “lost tribes” of Israel. Although there are only around 4,000 Jews in Mumbai, the population of which makes up the vast majority of Jews in India, they are only now, in the aftermath of the attacks, seeking official recognition as a minority group.
Emily Wax writes in the Washington Post about the relationship between Indians and Jews:
Today, India and Israel are emerging allies: India is one of Israel’s biggest trading partners in Asia, with the countries exchanging cars, software and weaponry. India is also a favorite destination for Israeli backpackers seeking a break from disciplined and stressful army life. They wind their way through the northern Himalayan hamlets and the southwestern beachfronts in Goa, among India’s more easygoing venues. When they want a dose of South Asian bustle, they come to Mumbai, India’s largest city.
But to Indians and Israelis, the two countries also have another bond: They have a common enemy. Civilians in both countries have been targeted by Islamist terrorists.
While no Indian Jews were killed in the attacks, Damien McElroy of the Telegraph reports that “Jewish victims made up a disproportionate number of the foreigners killed…” and Terry Mattingly, at Get Religion, considers the murder of Jews in Mumbai:
So the leaders of this death squad, for mysterious reasons, assigned a team to go kill Jews where they knew Jews could be found. It also appears that these victims were tortured. Were victims tortured elsewhere?
…Is it really a mystery why they went out of their way to send a team to kill a handful of people at Chabad House, instead of another public target where more people would be sure to die?
For the Islamists, as for the Nazis, the destruction of the Jews—and since 1948, the Jewish state—is central to their worldview.
If anyone has a better explanation for why Pakistani terrorists, preoccupied with destabilizing India, would expend so much effort at finding the one Jewish center in a country that is essentially devoid of Jews, I would like to hear it.
He goes on to echo the famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller, “First they came…,” saying:
For years I have warned that great evils often begin with the murder of Jews, and therefore non-Jews who dismiss Jew-hatred (aka anti-Semitism, aka anti-Zionism), will learn too late that Jew- and Israel-haters only begin with Jews but never end with them. When Israeli Jews were almost the only targets of Muslim terrorists, the world dismissed it as a Jewish or Israeli problem. Then it became an American and European and Filipino and Thai and Indonesian and Hindu problem.