That very phrase seems an apt one with which to chide the journalists who, when literally nothing was yet known of the identity of the perpetrator of this week's outrages in Montauban and Toulouse, had made up their minds that a rightwing extremist was at work.
As the first reports of the shootings at the Jewish school in Toulouse were being broadcast, a female BBC news anchor, seeking from an Al Beeb reporter further updates about the tragedy, observed (in these words or something very similar) "Of course, there have been similar incidents before, haven't there?"
But my assumption that Al Beeb was at long last going to tell the viewer what it prefers not to admit, that there have been a number of alarming incidents of violence and harassment against Jews in France in recent years, was immediately dashed. For to mention such incidents would have meant spotlighting Muslim antisemitism, and Al Beeb was determined to run with the hypothesis that a far-right white racist who hated Muslims and blacks just as much as, or even more than, he hated Jews was the man who gunned down a rabbi and three small Jewish children.
It soon became apparent that a vast swathe of the western media was also taking it for granted that a gallic Anders Breivik was the culprit. Indeed, Al Beeb and its leftist cohorts were obviously salivating at the anticipated opportunity to focus on white far-right racism, especially of the "Islamophobic" kind. Thus the fact that the killer has turned out to be an Islamist with links to al-Qaeda has left many a journalist with egg on their faces.
Such analysts as Melanie Phillips and Barry Rubin have already addressed this topic in their characteristically brilliant fashion, while Robin Shepherd cogently argues that anti-Zionists should feel suitably mortified.
But journalists and politicians are not the only public figures who, before the identity of the murderer was established, ill-advisedly rushed to judgement regarding this week's killings in southern France. If I interpret his remarks correctly, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, is apparently one of those Jewish leaders who likes to make common cause with Muslims against "Islamophobia" whatever the circumstances, for he seemed quick to lay the blame for the tragedy at the door of such persons as Marine Le Pen and "intolerance" for - to quote one example he gave - the burka. (Hat tip: reader Rita)
In last September's Standpoint magazine Christopher Caldwell had an in-depth and wide-ranging analysis of the plight of French Jewry, who are faced with increasing antisemitism and hostlity to Israel.
He observed, inter alia:
"Paris has more Jews than any country in Western Europe. It also has more Arab Muslims. Clashing visions of how the French state ought to respond have led to a divergence of interests between the two groups. But while the Arab population is rising rapidly, the Jewish population is ageing and shrinking due to emigration, intermarriage and small family size. It has fallen to under half a million, according to the authoritative Hebrew University demographer Sergio Della Pergola. It is now hard to teach the Holocaust in schools, due to harassment and disruption from mostly immigrant students. A third of Jewish students have abandoned the state school system for Jewish schools, while another third go to Catholic ones — more for reasons of security than pedagogy. Regularly scheduled, robustly attended demonstrations question the legitimacy of the state of Israel....
In a democracy, the interests of a community of 5-6 million will usually trump those of a community of under half a million. The Socialist foreign-policy thinker Pascal Boniface wrote a notorious memo to his party's political strategists on the eve of the 2002 elections in which he urged them to bear this imbalance in mind when they formulated their policy on Israel. Such realpolitik no longer attracts much notice. Muslims have been able to reshape the French state and society in ways that Jews had neither the demographic might nor the proselytising inclination to seek. Ramadan — in which millions of French workers are slowed down by fasting — has become an important part of the rhythm of the French work year. Muslim families have objected to the way the Holocaust is taught in French schools, claiming to see it as an apology for the state of Israel, and some have objected to its being taught altogether.
In the 1970s, French Jews were a people whose story serves to promote immigration. Today, they are victims of that immigrations's failure constrained to compete with other minorities for the favour of the broader society. Today a third of the youth population of many cities, including Paris, consists of the descendents of immigration. France has replaced a cohort that feels it has a debt towards Jews with a cohort that feels Jews have a debt towards them.
The drama plays out in arguments over the state of Israel. Two things make French arguments over Israel particularly passionate. First, French Jews' attachment to Israel is strong. There are 800,000 French-speakers in the Jewish state, and Jerusalem is just over four hours' flight away. So French Jews simply spend a lot of time there. They even speak of a "Boeing aliya" (borrowing the word for a migration to the Holy Land) that takes place every weekend....
By the way, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has just issued a timely report by Dr Harold Brackman demonstrating a worrying increase in hostility to Jews and to Israel across Europe: http://www.wiesenthal.com/atf/cf/%7B54d385e6-f1b9-4e9f-8e94-890c3e6dd277%7D/EUROPE_AND_THE_JEWS_2012-DRAMATIC_RISE_IN_ANTI-JEWISH_ANTI-ISRAEL_PREJUDICE_V3.PDFThe second is that French opposition to Israel is ferocious among certain groups of people who are closely listened to, especially immigrants and intellectuals. A host of organisations are dedicated to exposing the Jewish state's alleged misdeeds. These range from the Communist-inspired Association France Palestine Solidarité, which has existed for decades and organises marches and campaigns, to the newer Europalestine, which spearheads various boycotts and guerrilla theatre operations. They will, for example, enter a Carrefour supermarket en masse and cart out Israeli products. The Muslim Brotherhood-dominated UOIF, which often holds a majority on France's official Muslim body, the CFCM, backs the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Hamas government of the Gaza strip. The Sheikh Yassin Collective, named after the Hamas leader slain in an Israeli anti-terrorist operation, is more hardline still...."