Monday, November 16, 2015

16-Nov-15: The terror in Paris: An odd and disturbing view from Stockholm

The most hunted terrorist in Europe, in a 2014 video clip from
the midst of the Syrian bloodbath [Image Source: MEMRI]
A year ago, Sweden's foreign minister Margot Wallström went to Cairo. It was her first official visit to anywhere outside the EU.

Sweden was one of about fifty countries represented in a conference that sought to figure out how to rebuild Gaza in the wake of the destructive 2014 war between the Hamas Islamist regime and Israel and to collect money for that purpose. (Israel has a vital interest in seeing things get better in Gaza but understands that for deplorable reasons this is not going to happen under Hamas.)

We know now the Cairo conference was not the biggest of successes: the Iranian mouthpiece PressTV reported half a year later ["No home rebuilt in Gaza after 2014 Israel war: UNRWA", April 23, 2015] that things were barely moving. According to Chris Gunness of UNRWA, his agency had gotten funding that barely enabled it "to reconstruct 200 of the 9,161 houses totally destroyed." What a mess.

But not for Ms Wallström. She got back to Stockholm quite pumped up, reporting in an interview to Radio Sweden [here] that Sweden was hailed by the Palestinian Arabs as
"heroes... [because] we plan to recognise the Palestinian state. That is why we are placed in a category of heroes here... They are very pleased and hope this will inspire others. One also believes it is courageous of us to lead the way and so have been very well received."
It's easy to imagine Ms Wallström getting a kick from the sort of attention she received in Cairo. On the whole, 2015 has not been a fun year for her and her ministry. Fawning attention, as well as admiration and respect, have been in short supply. This is particularly true of its (and her) broader Middle East strategy. Even we ripped into it - see "20-Mar-15: A peek into how Middle East politics work in reality". Fair warning: don't read it if you're looking for flattering observations about Sweden's foreign minister.

Friday night's Swedish TV interview with the country's
hapless foreign minister [Image Source: Screen Capture]
Now, in the wake of Friday night's horrific terrorism inflicted on Paris, we get a sense of where that uplifting feeling of being someone's hero has brought Margot Wallström and the government in whose name she speaks. 

This past Friday night, she was interviewed on SVT2T, a Swedish television station, mere hours after the ISIS attacks on multiple Paris venues that left more than 130 dead, hundreds more injured and a great city in deep shock and bewilderment. Asked if she was concerned about the radicalization of Swedish youth including those who fight with Islamic State, she said there was cause for concern, not only in Sweden but everywhere. And an underlying cause:
"To counteract the radicalization [in Europe]," Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström said in a televised interview only hours after the Paris attacks, "we must go back to the situation such as the one in the Middle East in which... the Palestinians see that there is no future. We must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence." [Wall St Journal]
(A special shout-out to David Metzler, a Swedish-speaking Jerusalemite whose blog post on the Times of Israel site [Justifying Paris] first drew attention yesterday to the stunning Wallström rationalization for Islamist mass-casualty terror.)

Israel's foreign ministry responded with a scathing announcement earlier today. It manages not to mention Ms Wallström by name, heightening (we think) the impression that in Jerusalem it's seen as personal:
The Swedish foreign minister has consistently demonstrated bias against Israel and exhibits genuine hostility when she indicates a connection of any kind between the terrorist attacks in Paris and the complex situation between Israel and the Palestinians... Whoever fatuously attempts to create a link between radical Islamist attacks and the current problems between Israel and the Palestinians is fooling himself, his people and international public opinion. [Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem - November 16, 2015]
Fatah's sickening view: No need for Arabic-to-English translation
It would be unkind, too simple and, in a serious way, misleading to treat the Wallström formulation (Middle East situation = desperation or violence = Paris restaurant patrons are machine-gunned) as constituting a moment of Swedish madness

In fact, it meshes with the line currently taken by the Palestinian Authority. The Facebook page of Fatah, whose head is the PA president Mahmoud Abbas, advances the case that it was Israel that played the key enabling role in the shootings and bombings in Paris, when it published a cartoon (that's it over on the right) depicting
a conniving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu overlooking Paris with a telescope beside a smiling ISIS terrorist wielding an assault rifle. [The Investigative Project, today]
It gets even more explicit. It's reported today that a featured op-ed in the Palestinian Authority's official daily newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, says the Mossad, Israel's national intelligence agency, orchestrated Friday night's Paris massacres.

Sweden's foreign minister may have been having a very bad Friday. Or she may actually believe the counter-factual and deeply offensive "explanations" she offers for the ISIS savagery in France. We're not sure. But there's little doubt her views do pretty accurately reflect those of large numbers of people.

Something about which we have no doubt is that she will have failed to persuade - and does not represent - Abdelhamid Abaaoud. He's the jihadist suspected by French authorities of masterminding Friday's attacks in Paris:
Abaaoud, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Umar al-Baljiki, has been on the run since police stormed a jihadist cell in the eastern Belgian town of Verviers in January... Abaaoud is from Molenbeek, a poor district in Brussels, in which at least one of the Paris attackers and a number of people arrested in subsequent raids had spent time... In an interview with IS's online magazine, Dabiq, in February, Abaaoud said he had recently arrived in the group's self-declared caliphate after fleeing Europe following the raids in Verviers. [ABC Online, today]
In a MEMRI video clip from March 2014 [online here], Abaaoud delivers a monologue from a trench in Syria, stating that it is "nice to see... the blood of the infidels". He makes no mention of Israel, Palestine or desperation. He does however ask rhetorically "What can be sweeter than martyrdom in the path of Allah?"

It would be a mistake to dismiss this lust for death and blood as among the reasons young European Moslems are making their way to the killing fields of Syria. And from there to the boulevards and cafes of Paris.

Most of us have our own ways of feeling good about ourselves and life. We now know something about what brightens the Swedish foreign minister's mood, and the same for Europe's most hunted Islamist. Each, in his and her own way, is delusional and simplistic. Each undermines the logic of the other, but the views of both are, in the end, marginal. When it comes to the lethal dangers of terror, the rest of us - and our political leaders - cannot afford to be sucked in by self-serving ideological cant.

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