When I first joined Leviathan, I did not realize its importance. A Jewish newspaper? That didn’t raise an eyebrow.
But, as is true throughout history, sometimes it is only after the fact that we realize what we were a part of, the movement we helped stir.
This year started with a rupture to the Western world. In January, the office of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo was attacked. Twelve were killed. But it was not solely an attack on a magazine—it was an attack on Western values. The controversial, often crass, and never tame magazine stood for the right to offend. The real target was freedom of press.
More specifically, the gunmen were affiliated with Yemen’s Al-Qaeda branch. They attacked the magazine for its crude depictions of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. In this light, it is not relevant whether Charlie Hebdo’s characterizations were culturally sensitive or racially appalling—the bloodshed was not over a matter of taste. The violence was the direct manifestation of two opposing views: those who believe in freedom of religion and those who do not. While more progressive circles may—oftentimes rightfully so— condemn Charlie Hebdo for grotesquely promoting intolerance, twelve cartoonists lost their lives because one party could not tolerate another. Not everyone believes in the right to offend.
Leviathan, as both a print and religious publication, felt the need to weigh in. How would we react? Although there were many back-and-forth discussions and even dispute over invoking the Charlie Hebdo event on our cover, at the end of the day, the fact that we print represents our stance.
We are a Jewish publication. We are a free publication.
For these reasons alone, in the eyes of the shooters, we are just as culpable. Like the legacy of the forever persecuted Jewish people, our retaliation is our existence.