Following his statement marking the first anniversary of a series of deadly Islamist attacks on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Paris kosher supermarket, Secretary of State John Kerry is being criticized for what he left out: any mention of the actual attack on the French Jewish supermarket.
Kerry’s statement came one year after President Barack Obama downplayed the notion that Jews were specifically targeted at the kosher market, telling Vox at the time that the four Jews taken hostage then killed were “a bunch of folks” who were “randomly” shot.
Answering a question about Kerry's statement, State Department Spokesman John Kirby asserted that it did address “the anniversary of both” attacks.
The State Department posted Kerry’s statement Jan. 7, but the omission came to light after a reporter pointed it out during Monday’s State Department briefing.
The reporter noted that while Kerry’s statement did refer to attacks that took place Jan. 7-9 of last year, it mentioned by name only the Charlie Hebdo attack.
“Do you know why there was no specific reference to the kosher — the attack on the kosher supermarket?” the reporter asked.
“[T]he purpose of the statement was to observe the anniversary of a series of terrible attacks that the secretary spoke very powerfully and forcefully to when it happened, and he felt it was important to note the anniversary of both, and that’s what he did in his statement,” Kirby responded.
“That the deli itself wasn’t mentioned specifically or by name doesn’t take away from the fact that the statement itself was referring to both the attacks on the 7th and the 9th of January,” Kirby added.
The organization Human Rights First on Tuesday called it a “troubling omission.”
“You wouldn’t know from the statement that Jews were specifically targeted. This erasure of the specific bias-motivated nature of the attack does a disservice to the memory of the victims and to the civilians and security forces who took heroic measures to prevent further suffering,” Human Rights First observed.
Kerry’s statement read in part, “On the one-year anniversary of the January 7-9, 2015, attacks that took the lives of 17 people, we honor the victims of this tragedy and share the sadness of their loss.”
“Their legacy endures as a challenge and inspiration to all of us. Charlie Hebdo continues to publish, and journalists around the world continue in their essential mission to tell the stories that people everywhere need to hear,” the secretary of state said.
Two days after Islamist gunmen killed 12 at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine offices, a Muslim assailant took hostages at Paris’ Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket. Twelve people were killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack, four at the Jewish market and a policewoman was shot dead Jan. 8 in Montrouge, south of Paris.
“It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris,” Obama told Vox last February, a comment that won him widespread criticism.
“No country knows better than France that freedom has a price, and that no rationale can justify attacks on innocent men, women, and children,” Kerry said in his statement, adding, “Just as we tackle today’s most daunting challenges side by side, the United States and France will always stand together.”
Kerry’s full statement can be read here.