Why did Mohammed Merah kill three children and a teacher at the Otzar Torah school in Toulouse, France? Why did he previously kill three French soldiers in two shootings prior to Monday's massacre? Eric Pape writes in "A Tragedy in Toulouse" (via Andrew Sullivan):
Prior to the Jewish school attack, anti-racism groups had been pointing to what they saw as the troubling xenophobic, anti-Muslim, and perhaps even anti-Semitic subtext of the presidential campaigns by the far-right National Front party as well as Sarkozy's "respectable right" ruling party. Both have criticized Muslims — and, to a lesser extent, Jews — during the controversy over halal and kosher meat. And both have called for stark reductions in legal immigration to France. (The far right wants a 90 percent drop, while Sarkozy's UMP has said that 50 percent is the most that is possible.) Prominent figures in both parties have amalgamated immigration and crime, despite the absence of any legitimate statistics on the matter.
The other dominant theory about the killer is that he could be a radical Islamist — whether a lone wolf inspired from afar or someone affiliated with an international power structure — who took aim at the soldiers as a message to France about its military policy abroad, and at the Jewish school to get back at Israel. There is no shortage of aspects of French foreign policy that might create enemies these days, from the ongoing French military presence in Afghanistan to the successful efforts to help overthrow Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya to intensifying political sanctions in Iran to the Élysée's desire for regime change in Syria.