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Paris Attacks Inspire Backhanded Messages of 'Sympathy' Abroad

Various politicians, religious leaders, and even a rapper have used the terror assault in Paris to advance their own policy agendas. Here are a few noteworthy examples.

by Harriet Salem
Nov 16 2015, 9:40pm

Photo by Andreu Dalmau/EPA

While much of the world has condemned the terror attacks in Paris on Friday that killed 129 people and critically injured another 99 while wounding scores of others — responsibility for which was quickly claimed by the Islamic State insurgency (IS) — reactions from politicians in some countries were more skeptical than sympathetic.

Russia
A four-foot-high pile of flowers and condolences mounted outside of the French Embassy in Moscow, but politicians and pro-Kremlin analysts mainly saw the attacks as an opportunity to criticize the West and geopolitical maneuvering on Syria, and even Ukraine.

"Russia is fighting in Syria against those who blew up Paris and declared war on Europe," declared Alexey Pushkov, a senior lawmaker and the chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Russia's parliament, on his official Twitter account the day after the Paris attacks. "It is time for the West to stop criticizing Moscow and to form a joint coalition."

That line was also taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who told reporters at the G20 summit in Turkey that the terror assault proved that Moscow was "right" to call for a broad international anti-terrorist coalition to fight IS.

Russia began a campaign of airstrikes in Syria to help bolster forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on September 30 — a decision it said was motivated in part by the desire to protect itself from future terror attacks by some 7,000 citizens from Russia and former Soviet republics who are fighting with IS. But to Moscow's irritation, the United States government has accused Russia of mostly sparing the group's targets while instead bombing rebels backed by the West or Gulf states.

Related: Francois Hollande Tells Parliament 'We're at War' as Manhunt Continues for Paris Suspects

It's not just Syria that Russia and the West can't see eye-to-eye on, however. 

"We need to urgently end the conflict between the West and Russia over Ukraine," Sergey Markov, a political analyst and Putin loyalist, said in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. But his suggestion that the current government in Kiev be replaced with a "technocratic administration" in order for Moscow and the West to form a unified coalition against IS is unlikely to be taken up by the US, which is still imposing economic sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its role in the ensuing conflict in the country's east.

Others took the opportunity to reprimand Europe for it's "liberal" policies towards migrants and refugees.

"Liberal European doctrine based on open borders and unrestricted immigration principle will be dropped or cause Europe to self-destruct," wrote Pushkov in another tweet, while notoriously clownish Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky declared it was time to say "goodbye" to "dying" France, which he said "will soon turn into Arabistan."

Iran
Iranian President Hassan Rouhini called the attacks in Paris a "crime against humanity," but conservative newspaper headlines in the country showed a deep divide between reformists and hardliners in a fiercely anti-US country that is allied with Assad in Syria.

While reformist newspapers ran coverage of a small Paris solidarity vigil of some 30-odd people in Tehran, conservative papers either blamed France for its foreign policy in Syria or parroted conspiracy theories suggesting that IS is a creation of the US and Europe.

Among the most disturbing front pages was that of the ultra-conservative paper Vatan-e Emrooz, which ran the headline "Dinner Is Ready" atop a picture of a sheet-covered body in one of the restaurants that were targeted in the Friday night attacks. "The West eventually tasted its own cooking in Syria," the paper crowed.

Related: Iranian President Criticizes Iran's Free Speech Crackdown

Javan, another hardline publication, ran a cartoon of a masked jihadist wielding a grenade while planting a combined flag of the United States and IS on the top of Paris's iconic Eiffel Tower.

The coverage reflects a split in Iranian politics between reformists who favor a more open political climate and closer ties with the West that will provide desperately needed sanctions relief and economic growth, and hardliners who fear that any such change is a step toward the downfall of the country's clerical regime.

Israel
Israeli politicians were quick to liken the Paris attacks to the country's longstanding conflict with the Palestinians, while a controversial rabbi claimed that the assault was payback for Europe's role in the Holocaust and a right-wing rapper waxed lyrical on Facebook about the European Union's labeling of products to identify them as made in settlements.

"In Israel, as in France, terrorism is terrorism, and the force standing behind it is radical Islam and its wish to destroy its victims," Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet during a Monday morning meeting. "It is time for states to condemn terrorism against us like they condemn terrorism anywhere else in the world."

Those words were echoed by Israeli culture minister and Likud MP Miri Regev, in a monochrome meme posted on her Facebook wall reading: "Paris 13/11, New York 9/11, Israel 24/7."

"Almost a year ago, the European Union removed Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations. The murderous attacks on Israel and the slaughter of innocent human beings was seen by Europeans as legitimate struggle," she wrote in the post. "France did not know then that, within less than a year, she would bleed and hurt as we have hurt since the day of our founding."

Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of right-wing opposition party Yisrael Beiteinu, expressed his sympathy to France but said that Europe should have spent less time "busying itself with labeling products from settlements at a time when the Middle East is burning in Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Yemen".

Related: Israeli Wine From the Occupied Territories is Now Settlement Wine in the EU

Yoav Eliasi, a right-wing Israeli rapper who is known by his stage name The Shadow also linked the Paris attacks with the European Union's recent decision to label goods that are made in settlements within Israel-occupied territory. 

"Hmmm I wonder who is behind these attacks?! Maybe it's [those who] warned your people not to buy products with these stickers... you cooked it up? Bon appetite! Friday 13th continues!" he wrote as the attacks were still unfolding in the French capital. 

Eliasi, who rallied right-wingers to violently break up left-wing protest rallies during the 2014 Gaza war, then followed up with a meme showing a French tricolor flag dripping blood with the words, "We are sorry to say but we told you so!" 

"Today more than ever, the French people feel what we feel every day," he wrote beneath it. The two posts gathered in excess of 4,000 and 10,000 Facebook likes, respectively.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Dov Lior, a religious hardliner, bizarrely claimed that the Paris attacks were a punishment for Europe's role in the Holocaust. 

"The wicked ones in blood-soaked Europe deserve it for what they did to our people 70 years ago," Lior, who resides in East Jerusalem, said at a Saturday funeral for a father and son who were killed in a recent terror attack in the West Bank. It's not the first time the rabbi has courted controversy; in 2011, he was arrested by Israeli security services for endorsing a religious book, The King's Torah, which gives Jews the permission to murder non-Jews, including babies.

Reuters contributed to this report