Debate Magazine

On Randomness

Posted on the 16 February 2015 by Mikelumish @IsraelThrives
Sar Shalom
There has been much written about Obama's use of the word "random" to describe the attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket outside Paris, and his spokespersons' defense of that characterization. While asserting that the Hyper Cacher is not a manifestation of Jew-hatred is clearly a major offense, it would be worth taking a look at what the word "random" means before asserting that that is the meaning of the word in this particular instance.
It would be helpful to illustrate the possible meanings with some hypothetical examples. Suppose Hamas were to launch a salvo of rockets going north-northeast from Gaza in a manner that they could land in Qalqiliya as easily as they could land in Petach Tikva. Now suppose Hamas put controls on the guidance systems to make sure that they land in Petach Tikva and not in Qalqiliya. Now suppose that Hamas instead of launching rockets north-northeast from Gaza were to launch mortars at an IDF convoy preparing to invade Gaza. Which if any of those scenarios are "random?" For two of the three, the answer is unambiguous. If Hamas were to be unconcerned whether the rockets landed in Petach Tikva or Qalqiliya, it would be a completely random act and a mortar attack on an invading convoy is clearly not a random act. However, the rocket attack at Petach Tikva sparing Qalqiliya has a random element and a non-random element. I would maintain that the randomness of the indiscriminate attack on Israeli nationals would be more significant than the efforts to spare Qalqiliya. Furthermore, it is this randomness that would contribute to making such an attack a war crime.
Returning to Hyper Cacher, while the attack was discriminating in its target among Frenchmen, it was not discriminating in its target among Jews. An example of a discriminating target among Jews would be an office of the Hebron Fund, a group that promotes activities that the Very Serious People of the world arrogantly say "legitimately" grieves the Arab world. By selecting the non-discriminating target, the attackers introduced some degree of randomness to their act, and that randomness exacerbates their crime.
The above description only states a possible meaning for Obama's use of the word "random." From just the speech in which he used that term, one could not tell whether the meaning was that the attackers intended to kill Jews and didn't care anything else about the victims or that they attacked a random supermarket that happened to be kosher. Obama does have a record of being blasé about Islamic radicalism, a record that would induce people to leap at the second meaning. However, before the speech in which he described the act as "random," he did describe it as anti-semitic, which would mean either he was retracting his initial statement or he intended the first meaning. If that was his intent, it was not the first time he made this type of gaffe.

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