With the United Nations Global Congress of Victims of Terrorism taking place on September 8-9 in New York, WJC spoke with Jonathan Chetrit, who was a student at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse when a terrorist opened fire in 2012. Four people, including three children, were killed. Chetrit has since been advocating for the rights of victims.
WJC: Have governments in western countries done enough to support victims of terrorism?
Jonathan Chetrit (JC): The terrorist attack I went through in 2012 was one of the first of this type in France. The French government was not entirely prepared to deal with this kind of massive event; it affected more than 200 people.
We had psychologists who came to the school but there was a major lack of communication regarding our rights as victims of terrorism on French soil. We were eligible for different kinds of aid and statuses, but unfortunately, we were informed way too late and weren’t eligible for aid anymore by then.
Moreover, some of the victims were not considered as victims (for example they were not present on the morning of the attack, or they were not inside the school but were close to the building). These students were not eligible to ask for any aid or support from the French government.
WJC: Do you feel that proper steps have been taken to better protect communities from terrorism, and to also prevent terrorism acts itself?
JC: After the terrorist attacks that took place in France in 2012, 2015, 2017, and with numerous violent antisemitic crimes, the French authorities understood that our homeland security was in danger. They reinforced their engagement and acknowledgment towards the people who suffered. They took strong action to protect communities - for a certain period of time at least. For example, French soldiers were standing guard at each synagogue.
There is still a problem with antisemitic violence in France, even if the authorities are working on different levels to prevent it. Numerous people have been murdered in recent years only because they were Jews. But in response to the strong reactions from Jewish communities across the world, French law is changing to punish the people responsible for antisemitic attacks.
WJC: How did surviving a terror attack affect your world view?
JC: It changed my perception of the world in every way. I understood that life is too short and that nothing can stop us from achieving things, except the limits we put upon ourselves. It gave me the will, the strength, and the determination to start different projects. I wrote a book about the terrorist attack we experienced in my high school. I wanted to give an opportunity to all the victims to talk about their experience, and to pay tribute to the people who were killed. To Myriam Monsonego, and to Jonathan, Arié, and Gabriel Sandler.