|The black flags of ISIS and other expressions of explicit backing |
for jihadism, last month in the streets of The Hague,
Netherlands [Image Source]
Last week, the authorities in France announced they had cracked a plot to use immature human bombs to blow up a synagogue in Lyon:
The Central Directorate of Homeland Intelligence revealed that two Muslim girls, aged 15 and 17, were arrested in the Tarbes and Venissieux neighbourhoods a week ago, after authorities uncovered a plan to carry out a suicide bombing inside the Great Synagogue of Lyon. They were indicted on August 22nd for conspiracy to commit terrorism... “These girls were part of a network of young Islamists who were being monitored by security services,” said the unnamed security source. [Newsweek]Those girls are said to be aged 15 and 17, putting beyond doubt the notion that others - probably many others - are involved in the plot. The girls have been detained and interrogated, and charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism.
Now for some perspective:
- "They’re neither the first adolescents nor the first females arrested in France" on charges of this kind. They "are among some 60 people being investigated in France for criminal association in relation with a terrorist enterprise" against a background in which "citizens suspected of seeking careers as foreign fighters, even if they have yet to leave French soil" are being pursued by the law. How large a set is that?: "Thousands of European citizens have made the trip to Syrian battlegrounds... French authorities say there are some 900 people from France who have been implicated in jihad — meaning they have taken part in one, plan to join one, or are returning from one. Several dozen have been killed." ["French teenagers planned suicide bombing at Lyon synagogue", Times of Israel, August 29, 2014]
- In France, the Jewish leadership has eyes and a mouth. They experienced violent mob attacks on two Paris synagogues in July [Telegraph UK]...
- And an especially cold-blooded series of murders in March 2012 in Toulouse in which a loathsome, self-styled Islamist gunman killed seven people, including a visibly Jewish teacher and three French-Jewish children aged 3, 6 and 8, at the gates of a Jewish school, Otzar Hatorah [The Guardian]
- The National Bureau of Vigilance Against Antisemitism (BNVCA), one of France’s leading anti-semitism watchdogs, says synagogues have become increasingly popular targets for Islamists and terrorists... “Jewish citizens are increasingly pessimistic about their future in France,” the statement added." “Jews in France or Belgium are being killed because they are Jews,” Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF), told Newsweek. “Jihadism has become the new Nazism... [Newsweek]
- AP says unspecified "fighters" who have traveled from Britain and Europe to take part in fighting in the Middle East are central to the freshly elevated concern of a terror attack on UK soil. The horrific murder - by beheading - of the American journalist James Foley is believed to have been executed by a British jihadist. The Guardian calls him "intelligent, educated and a devout believer in radical Islamic teachings", and part of a small cluster of British terrorists, evidently all believers in Islamic teachings, who are called "The Beatles" by their hostages.[See "29-Aug-14: The British now call risk of a terror attack on the UK 'severe'"]
- Mick Davis of the UK's Jewish Leadership Council has just circulated an open letter that starts with this: "For the first time in the 350 years, Jews are beginning to question whether they are valued as citizens and can securely think of Britain as their natural home... It is not acceptable to constantly single out Israel for unrestrained and uncritical condemnation without any acknowledgement of the disproportionate role that Israel has played amongst the Community of Nations in building a more prosperous and fairer world... It is not acceptable that incidents of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom have increased fivefold since the start of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, according to the Community Security Trust (CST). From abuse on the streets and gratuitous threats of violence, to defilement of graves and places of prayer, it is a shameful exhibition of intolerance and hatred. For too long, Jews have had to have special measures to protect their places of worship, learning, and celebration. It is tragic commentary on our society that we see no end in sight of this state of affairs."
Most media channels, up to and including those reporting on this week's Spanish/Moroccan jihadist, persist in referring to the lone-wolf profile of Mohamed Merah for purposes of comparison. But Merah made 1,800 phone calls to his 180 contacts. And his brother was arrested almost immediately. And now two additional men. So in what way was he a lone wolf? Could it be that it's less threatening, less discomforting, to their audiences if they are left to believe the man planned to do the killings on his own, devoid of an ideological/religious background? How unsettling is it for alert news consumers to try to make sense of the seemingly-endless ranks of young European men professing various expressions of the one religion as the justification for their acts of extreme prejudice, hateful murder and self-destruction?It's now more or less acknowledged, even in places as ideologically resistant to such notions as the BBC ["Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah 'no lone wolf'", August 23, 2012], that he was part of something larger and more malevolent, as police intelligence assessments eventually showed. (But note how long after the initial contrary reports this re-assessment appeared.) But it's still hard for the mainstream media, even in Europe, to face up to the idea of Islam-minded terrorists as part of something corporate and social. We put it this way:
How unsettling is it for alert news consumers to try to make sense of the seemingly-endless ranks of young European men professing various expressions of the one religion as the justification for their acts of extreme prejudice, hateful murder and self-destruction? ["10-Feb-13: Suicides, haters and lone wolves"]Or more bluntly:
There's little doubt that thinking about home-grown made-in-Europe Islamist terrorists is easier to do when you categorize them as one-man bands. You can't blame the French for wanting this to be true. The problem is with how reality keeps messing with comfortable theories. ["19-May-13: In France, they prefer their terrorists to be of the 'lone wolf' kind, irrespective of the facts"]The horrifying - and ever escalating - bloodbaths of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of today's post-Arab-Spring Arab world have forced some changes to those previous attitudes. The problem for Europe is that it is clearer now than before that a considerable part of the savagery being executed in those places is European savagery.
But not for all Europeans:
The arrest and detention of the two teenage girls drew criticism from human rights groups, with France’s Human Rights League (LDH) condemning the authorities’ response as “disproportionate”. These “two arrests of minors and their detention for 48 hours” has “completely violated and reduced to nothing” the International Convention of the Rights of the Child, said the group’s Rhone chapter. [France24, August 23, 2014]For the sake of innocent French people, let's hope they quickly arrive at a view of human rights that adjusts to today's very uncomfortable realities. It's not, after all, a minor problem, and to the extent anyone can tell, it appears to be gaining momentum:
Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, neighboring Turkey has been a shelter for, but also an important transit country for, young Islamists on their way to fight “Holy War”. It is estimated that between 2,000 and 5,500 European jihadists are fighting in Syria... Turkey has been criticized for not doing enough to prevent them from traveling to Syria. ["European jihadists use Turkey as transit country", Deutsche Welle, May 14, 2014].And that's just in Syria.