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Israel and Jihadis: Fanning Flames of Terror

Brussels Jewish museum

Israeli flags at Brussels terror scene send precisely message Netanyahu and terrorists wish to convey

Yesterday’s news that French police searching for drug contraband on a bus had captured Mehdi Nemmouche, the alleged Brussels Jewish museum attacker who murdered an Israeli couple and a French volunteer, raised a host of troubling issues.  The one the media gobbled up was the fear that jihadis fighting in Syria would return to their native or host countries and wreak havoc as agents of Al Qaeda.  But there were other disturbing implications which I’ll address later.

Nemmouche is a French-Muslim, born in a northern French slum. The NY Times coverage reports on his personal history:

Mr. Nemmouche was born in Roubaix, an impoverished industrial city in northeastern France near the border with Belgium…

A former lawyer for Mr. Nemmouche, Soulifa Badaoui, said that he had been moved “from foster home to foster home” as a child, and became homeless at age 17.

“He was not a young man anchored in crime,” Ms. Badaoui told the French television station BFMTV. “He was a young man with difficulties of a personal sort,” she said, but also “endearing,” “respectful” and “sharp-minded.”

He had been convicted seven times, on several occasions for driving without a license but also for violent robbery, and began a series of imprisonments in 2001, according to François Molins, the state prosecutor in Paris. Mr. Nemmouche appeared to have become radicalized during his time in prison; during his final stay, a five-year sentence, “he distinguished himself by his extremist proselytism,” Mr. Molins told reporters on Sunday, and fell in with other “radicalized Islamists.”

When he left prison, he almost immediately left France and turned up in Syria in 2013.  There he fought alongside ISIS, an Islamist extremist militia formerly allied with Al Qaeda.

In March, he left Syria and, via a circuitous route designed to hide his tracks, ended up in Frankfurt.  Since he was on a terror watch list, the German police reported to their French colleagues that he had returned to Europe.  Then, last week he turned up in Brussels armed with a handgun, which he used to kill the Rivas, and a Kalashnikov, which he used to kill the museum volunteer and wound another visitor.

Before we knew anything about the attacker, journalists speculated that he might be a professional agent or hit man who attacked the Rivas because of their association with Israeli intelligence.  But now that the alleged killer has a face and history, we know that this is the work not of a state or even a militia like Hezbollah, but of the shadowy network of jihadis fighting against the Assad regime.

These new developments will dovetail nicely with Bibi Netanyahu’s racist, Islamophobic agenda which proclaims the Muslims of the world (specially those in his neck of the woods) to be terrorists bent on destroying Israel first, and western civilization next.  It allows him to paint Israel, like the Christians who confronted the Ottoman Turks in the Battle of Vienna, as the last line of defense against the onrushing Islamist horde.

Equally as useful to Bibi, is the Islamist conflation of Israelis and Jews.  By attacking Diaspora Jewish targets with no direct connection to Israel, the jihadis allow Israel to warn that the former don’t aim solely to attack Israel, but all Jews.  That puts Islam on a collison course with Judaism.  The invocation of religious holy war is an especially profitable nostrum for Israel’s ultra-nationalists.  It does wonders in rallying the world’s sympathy and attention on Israel’s behalf.

Before I go farther, I must say that this is a heinous terror attack which should be prosecuted to fullest extent.  It indicates that Islamist ideology makes a brutal, tragic error in confusing Israelis with Jews.  In this case, anti-Israelism does become anti-Semitism.

That being said, Israel does not get off scot-free.  In fact, Netanyahu contributes to the world’s confusion about Zionism by regularly declaring that he and Israel are the leaders of the Jewish people.  That there is no difference between Israel and Jews.  He repeatedly has claimed (falsely) that Iran aims to destroy “the Jewish people.”

While the jihadi attacks on Diaspora Jews are inexcusable in any context, it’s not surprising that Muslims violently opposed to Israel’s killings of their fellow Palestinian Muslims, would understand the issue precisely as Bibi articulates it.

To lay this crime at the footstep of radical Islam and leave it at that would be misleading.  There is a reason why so many Muslims hate Israel.  At a time when U.S. involvement in the Middle East is declining, as we have left Iraq and plan on exiting Afghanistan, Israel remains.  It is seen as a U.S. proxy in the region.  Of all the Islamist’s perceived enemies, Israel is one of the leading killers of Muslims in the world.  Israel steals Palestinian land.  It prevents the founding of a Palestinian state.  It also fights regular wars with its Muslim neighbors in Lebanon, Gaza and elsewhere.  The tentacles of Israeli intelligence reach as far as Iran, where the Mossad works stealthily against yet another Muslim regime.

Since we’re talking about terror, what else can we call an Israeli soldier murdering two Palestinian boys in cold blood with no accountability for the crime? If a young, disaffected French-Muslim watches video of this brutal killing, what is he supposed to think? If Israel and the rest of the world won’t make the murderer pay the price, then from their point of view, let them strike a blow for their murdered brethren.

euro anti semitism

Times of London Euro Anti-Semitism Mongering

No matter how deluded and hateful the ideology of Al Qaeda, there is no question that Israel’s policies make for a heady mix that fuels jihadism.  Similar to the Brussels attack, was the 2010 attack in Toulouse by another lone jihadi gunman, who murdered three French soldiers and three Jews outside the local Jewish day school.  The terrorist in this case was another disaffected youth who spent a miserable childhood in the slums and became radicalized on the way to martyrdom.

The media stampede in the form of blaring headlines trumpeting a resurgence of European anti-Semitism and a flood of Jewish refugees seeking safety in the Jewish homeland is not only misleading, it’s downright wrong.  There is no serious resurgence of anti-Semitism.  There are pockets of European Muslims who’re exploited and driven to hate by their masters who harvest the lessons learned by Israeli outrages in Occupied Palestine.

Oh and please, if you believe in the plague of Euro anti-Semitism on no account inform anyone you know about acts of lovingkindness like this one in which Bradford’s Muslim community saved the local synagogue.  You wouldn’t want to spoil to image of Islam as a religion of unyielding hate. H/t Jeff Siddiqui.

There is no more anti-Semitism in Europe than there is Islamophobia in Israel.  Just as Jews are killed by jihadis in Europe, so Palestinians are murdered by Israeli settlers acting de facto on behalf of the Israeli state; and by IDF soldiers killing officially in the name of the state.  Contrary to the fear-mongering message of the media, Jews are not safer in Israel than in the Diaspora.  Israel, by its own policies, makes life more dangerous for its own citizens and Jews everywhere.

This is an unpleasant and unpopular thought in certain Jewish circles.  But the unpopularity of an idea has nothing to do with its truth.  No less a figure than Gen. David Petraeus, testifying before Congress, said the festering nature of the Israeli-Arab conflict is one of the leading contributors to radical Islamism.  He was right.  The plain truth of the matter is that when this decades-long war ends, such terror attacks against Israel and Diaspora Jews will end.  The notion, propounded by extremists like Pam Geller and Israel’s extremist leaders, that Islam professes eternal hatred for Judaism is false historically and false today.  This is a toxic proposition.  One that must be fought with vigilance.

A broader issue is how the Syrian civil war threatens to destabilize those western nations to whom the jihadis will return.  U.S. intelligence officials believe that scores of them will be returning from Syria to the U.S., where they may plan and execute attacks on U.S. soil.  In this sense, jihadism becomes more than an Israeli phenomenon.  It becomes a concern of all western nations that might be targeted.

But it would be a mistake for us to join in lockstep with Israel (as Bibi would prefer), seeing it as the vanguard in the fight against world Islamism.  Israel is a separate issue fueled by a set of unique circumstances.  To the extent that we embrace it as our ally and brother in combat, the jihadis will see all the west aligned against them.  We must not lose sight of the fact that Israeli policies raise legitimate grievances in the Muslim world; just as they should (but often don’t) in the entire world community.

Further, Israeli policies in Syria itself have fueled the civil war there.  From Israel’s perspective, Assad’s leading allies are Iran and Hezbollah, two of its strongest adversaries in the region.  Therefore, Israel has bombed Assad’s weapons facilities and even sent IDF commandos into Syria to train and liaise with rebel forces in the Golan.  No matter how noxious the Al Qaeda linked forces fighting Assad may be, Israel has played an equally inflammatory role there.  So let’s remember that Israel is teaching all sides in the conflict its own lessons about the use of force in Israel’s interests.

Malcolm X said famously and notoriously after the assassination of John F. Kennedy that “the chickens have come home to roost.”  He meant that the violence of white society, so often taken out on African-Americans, had felled a white man this time.  White Americans were deeply offended by this statement.  But, again, an unpopular statement is often a true one.  Similarly, the notion that Israel is a match that helps ignite an Islamist conflagration in the Middle East and beyond, is a statement with the ring of truth.

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Oui June 2, 2014, 12:07 AM

    I agree with your coverage and balanced analysis of the event.

    On Syria blow-back, this has been predicted and has been part of Israeli and U.S. military interventions since WWII. No surprise there whatsoever. I hope that with President Obama’s West Point Commencement speech he makes a clean break with past U.S. policy.

    Four West Point Graduates Class of 2009

  • Deïr Yassin June 2, 2014, 3:15 AM

    “Equally as useful to Bibi is the Islamist conflation of Israel and Jews”
    The conflation of Israel and Jews is not only made by the Islamists. In this announcement published on the website of the Israeli embassy in Paris on May 1st, you can read:
    “Arrival of a representative of Tsahal
    The Embassy wants to inform the Jewish community that a representative of Tsahal arrives in Paris.
    May 26th between 18.30-20.00
    The meeting will be held at the Grande Synagogue [which is not a private-owned building, my comment]
    The representative will give a conference on the policy of recruitment for Tsahal followed by questions from the audience”
    link to twitter.com
    In this article by the journalist who first published this on his private website on May 23rd (the information has been relayed by no MSM) a further google cache states: “Concerning private questions, it’s possible to organize rendez-vous on May 26th and 27th between 10.00-13.00. The announcement was removed from the Embassy’s website some hours after this publication but it’s been there for more than three weeks. So in France, a foreign Embassy can organize recruitment for its army in a public Synagogue.
    (I omit the 3xwww in order not to block the comment) panamza.com/230514-tsahal-paris

    ” (…) and wound another visitor”
    The fourth person, a young Belgian employee at the Museum, and not a visitor, has since died’

    PS. I posted this above informations on the most read French website yesterday on the comment section to an article on the killings in Bruxelles. Though Islamophobic and ott-topic comments are still there, my comment was removed. We’re talking about a ‘progressive’ website.

    • Richard Silverstein June 2, 2014, 11:57 AM

      @ Deir Yassin: Fascinating. Thanks for offering this info and the correction.

    • David June 2, 2014, 11:39 PM

      Dier Yassin — What does removal suggest? Please clarify for me.

      • Deïr Yassin June 3, 2014, 12:27 PM

        @ David
        Are you talking about the removal from the embassy’s website or the removal of my comment on a public website ?

    • Oui June 3, 2014, 3:53 AM

      Deir Yassin provided the link to find the story …

      L’arrivée d’un représentant de TSAHAL à Paris – Embassies.gov.il

      L’Ambassade d’Israël souhaite informer la Communauté juive de l’arrivée d’un représentant de TSAHAL (l’armée israélienne) à Paris le 26 mai entre 18h30 et 20h.

      La rencontre aura lieu à la Grande Synagogue de la Victoire, 44 rue de la Victoire, 75009 Paris.

      Le représentant donnera une conférence sur la politique de recrutement de TSAHAL, suivi par une session de questions générales du public.

      Entrée libre, sous réserve de places disponibles.

      L’ambassade israélienne supprime un appel à recruter des djihadistes français… juifs

  • Father DeWalt June 2, 2014, 4:26 AM

    “If a young, disaffected French-Muslim watches video of this brutal killing, what is he supposed to think? If Israel and the rest of the world won’t make the murderer pay the price, then from their point of view, let them strike a blow for their murdered brethren.”

    Where’s your proof that this was a revenge murder for what happened in Beitunia?
    Why didn’t you publish the video I linked that showed staged, ‘Pallywood’ injuries right before the Beitunia shooting?

    • Richard Silverstein June 2, 2014, 11:55 AM

      @ Father DeWalt: THere have been literally hundreds of videos and news stories of such killings. I never said that the alleged terrorist watched the video. But he could’ve watched or read about any number of similar incidents and become radicalized.

      I don’t publish propaganda videos nor do I allow references to terms like “Pallywood.” If you don’t read my comment rules & follow them you won’t publish here in future. Consider this a warning.

  • Daniel de França June 2, 2014, 6:49 AM

    Hi Richard,

    Didn’t you say the other they the murdered people were from Mossad? How this fact fits with the muder being a guy from Jihad?
    Because the first hints not a anti-semitic act, but some kind of plot. The second hints at anti-semitism, if you disconsider the first. If you consider both, it looks like a anti Israel plot by al Qaeda, even though in the mind of the murderer it could me something else.

    And the targets were in a place that could not allow someone to easily identify the victims are jews (I don’t remember the couple wearing anything that could hint them as Jews). And it was in a museum and not some people walking out a synagogue or a Jewish school. So, he had to know the targets.

    • Richard Silverstein June 2, 2014, 11:51 AM

      @ Daniel de Franca: They were both accountants, one working for Mossad and the other for Nativ. They were also retired. The idea of it being a professional hit designed in retaliation for assassinations of Hezbollah leaders was intriguing. But there was a lot in this scenario that didn’t add up. So I presented it as a possibility.

      It now appears it was an anti-Israel plot by someone holding Al Qaeda type views & possibly believing that attacking a Jewish target was the same as attacking Israel. But again, till we know more about the guy’s real motivation, all this is hard to definitively pin down.

  • Oui June 2, 2014, 1:43 PM

    Recent Pew Research survey across Europe – Views of Roma, Muslims, Jews.

    In particular, negative attitudes toward Roma (sometimes also known as Gypsies) are common, while many also give Muslims unfavorable ratings. Negative attitudes toward Jews are less pervasive, although substantial minorities express an unfavorable opinion about Jews as well, especially in Greece …

    • Eric Fux June 3, 2014, 3:52 AM

      Research carried out in 2011 and 2013 by Brussels University Sociology Dept amongst Muslim youth living in Belgium found half of them holding antisemitic views (compared to 10% of non-Muslims): 75% agreed with the thesis that Jews forment war and blame others for it (remember: it was the Nazi’s who justified their persecution of Jews because they had caused WWII),
      75% agree with the statement that Jews want to dominate everything, and 80% think they have to be careful when doing business with Jews (a mere 20% think Jews can be trusted just as much as other people).

      • Oui June 3, 2014, 4:27 AM

        Belgium: Half of All Muslim Immigrant Children Are Antisemitic – May 2011

        The Flemish-language newspaper De Morgen (link only in Flemish) has a major article about a survey of Muslim students in Brussels high schools. The professor who conducted the survey concludes that half “can be described as antisemitic which is a very high rate.’’ Five times higher, in fact, then among Flemish-speaking Belgians, who historically have been relatively anti-Jewish.

        Incidentally, what was being measured here was not antagonism toward Israel but traditional anti-Jewish stereotypes. No doubt, the former attitude is even stronger.

        BTW The author of this article was Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

        This survey was small for a typical age category, was more about ethnicity and multiculturalism contrary to becoming a cosmopolitan in a diverse society. The attitude towards Bulgarians and Roma was even worse. The researcher discounts the Israeli-Palestinian struggle: “De kans is waarschijnlijk dat het antisemitisme in de hand wordt gewerkt door de internationale context, met name het conflict tussen Palestina en Israël. Maar Elchardus neemt met die uitleg geen genoegen.”

  • Daniel de França June 2, 2014, 1:53 PM

    The case of Greece is easy to understand. Their economic situation is making the nazists rise in there.

  • Daniel de França June 2, 2014, 2:10 PM

    But the Roma are a more worrisome target. They are generally poorer and less organized, so any aggression towards them will generate much less commotion than killing a Muslim or Jew.

  • Jafar Siddiqui June 3, 2014, 12:38 AM

    Not to nit-pick but it is painful to see references to “Islamist Ideology” because it misdirects and is erroneous.
    “Extremist Muslims” is fine, so is “Violent Muslim fanatics”, but “Islamist Ideology” suggests that anyone who is an “Islamist” is a violent fanatic out to kill to so-called and much-touted “Unbeliever”. This works fine among non-Muslims who cannot make the distinctions and who are fed generalized language about Muslims and Islam, but it is very wrong in the eyes of a Muslim. To Muslims, “Islamist” is simply someone who supports Islam and wishes to promote it, not someone who is looking to kill anyone who disagrees with him or, who is “The Unbeliever”.
    “Islamist Ideology” is also misleading because there is no single ideology that all or, even most “Islamists” (Muslim extremists) follow; each group has their own ideology and good luck to anyone (non-Muslim or Muslim) who does not follow this ideology. This is why there is so much killing going on in Af-Pak and M-E.

  • Markus June 3, 2014, 4:55 PM

    Kind of ironic that he was fighting alongside imperialist Israeli and/or neocon interests, while in Syria.
    link to sjlendman.blogspot.com

  • Roberto October 6, 2014, 6:39 AM

    “the notion that Israel is a match that helps ignite an Islamist conflagration in the Middle East and beyond, is a statement with the ring of truth” Right. That’s why I was so dissapointed when Moises Naim, former Director of Foreign Policy, wrote an article mentioning Islamic fundamentalism as one of the main dangers for world peace without mentioning Israel. Naim works now for Carnegie Endowment for International Peace…

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