Opinion The Terror in Our Cities

Israel is the first democracy to have extensive experience with Islamist terrorism. Before recent attacks on our own soil, Europeans loved nothing better than scorning the Jewish state's efforts to address terror. In the future, we may need to turn to the Israelis for advice.

The scene of the attack in Copenhagen: The enemy is now in our midst.

The scene of the attack in Copenhagen: The enemy is now in our midst.


The new Greek finance minister once called the West Bank security fence, built by Israel to protect its people from terrorist attacks, a "concrete monster." The barrier is always a key issue when critics of the Jewish state launch into their tirades.

But the jump from outrage over the wall to sympathy for terrorism is a small one. In comments made on radio in 2005, left-wing superstar Giannis Varoufakis said we shouldn't be surprised when Palestinians strap on explosives belts. It's the kind of thing people say whose only experience with terror are occasional blowups with the spouse at home.

But perhaps we will soon be viewing things differently in Europe. Thus far, we have told ourselves that jihad is only a problem for countries that are less thoughtful or accommodating in their treatment of their Muslim minorities. Now, though, the war has irrevocably arrived in our cities.

The shots fired in Copenhagen provide sad confirmation that the attacks in Paris were only the beginning. We will soon come to recognize that there is a major difference between reading about a religious attack in the news or having to assume that you are at risk of becoming a victim yourself just because you attend the wrong event or visit the wrong café.

The Enemy Is Now in Our Midst

It has always been an open question how European democracies would defend themselves if the kind of Islamist terror Israeli society faces becomes part of everyday life.

In the two years prior to the erection of the controversial border installations, Israeli authorities counted 89 attacks, with 305 deaths and 4,942 injuries -- a significant number for a country with a population of just over 8 million. The number of casualties only began to fall after the construction of the wall. It's a success story that has never been viewed as such outside of the embattled country itself.

In Germany, we won't be able to build walls through our major cities in order to protect ourselves. The enemy we are dealing with doesn't live on the other side of the desert, it lives in our midst. We are left to rely on the acumen of people who have been trained to detect evil before it is too late.

Unfortunately, we are poorly equipped for the task. Germany's Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the country's domestic intelligence agency, is in an extremely poor state -- as any official there would confirm. It is only with great effort that domestic intelligence agents are able to track jihadists who have returned home from war zones. Cases where they succeed in neutralizing these fighters before they take up arms and engage in holy war in Pforzheim or Dinslaken, tend to be the result of a chain of lucky circumstances rather than of systematic investigation.

Pacifist Thinking a Threat to Our Safety?

"If we treat our police, domestic intelligence and foreign intelligence agents like fools -- if we treat them like people we must fear because they constantly undermine our rights -- then we shouldn't be surprised when they might be unable to protect us the way we need to be protected to ensure that our freedom is truly guaranteed," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said a few weeks ago.

Schäuble used to be interior minister, which makes his quote worth repeating. Few have a better understanding than Schäuble of the damage that lasting demoralization can do to an agency. What kind of work can we expect from an institution whose employees are constantly subjected to hostility and ridicule? The only people who would apply to work at Germany's domestic or foreign intelligence services today are those who have no other career option available. Yet what these agencies actually need are our best and brightest.

The value that a state places on its institutions can be seen in the budget they are given. The funding Germany's domestic intelligence agency currently lacks was negotiated away to expanded social services when Chancellor Angela Merkel was putting together her current coalition government. Pension benefits to women to took time off to raise children, for example, or payments to mothers choosing to stay home rather than put their little ones in daycare. It says something about a country's pacifist streak when the well being of its senior citizens is seen as being more important than protecting society from enemies to democracy. Let's just hope that this isn't a luxury that we will soon live to regret.


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Inglenda2 02/20/2015
1. This article is full of wild assertions!
To end by saying - the well being of its senior citizens is seen as being more important than protecting society from enemies to democracy – might apply to the privileges of retired civil-servants and their like, but certainly not to normal workers. As shown by recent studies, poverty amongst the elderly is growing. To call Israel a democracy, is also at the very least misleading, none of the normally accepted definitions of that word would seem to apply to that country. However, even were one to accept this assertion, no thinking civilised person could really honestly believe, considering the methods that state uses, we should ask for advice from such an administration. True, the terrorist danger in Europe and the troubles in Israel are similar, in the fact that they are home-made, but there ends the resemblance Whereas Israel is a state which has, through the influence of foreign powers, been placed on land belonging to other ethnic groups, the danger of terrorism in Europe is, to a large extent imported. It is the result of fanciful, impractical policies by some political parties and national governments.
Jim in MD 02/20/2015
2. Intelligence & Terrorism
The article fails to mention that one its richest sources of intelligence in Germany came from data collection on German soil of the NSA and MI5. The BND actively worked with its American, British and French counterparts - even if the chancellor acted surprised for the media. SPIEGEL has long reviled the Anglo-Saxon monster for the German public with very little evidence. It now is surprising to read a senior editor cry crocodile tears for Israel and Ukraine. When Islamists were bombing the World Trade and American embassies in the 1990's, did you really think they meant to stop with America?
jbeech 02/20/2015
3. Is it possible to reconcile Islam with western culture?
What's the end game look like? Into an increasingly secular Europe come a people with deeply held religious convictions. Convictions, which are inconceivably strange to most Europeans. Moreover, because these believers hold with violence, e.g as a means of visiting their will upon non-believers, they do not fit in. This, more so than because they are of a different color, or speak a different language. In short, an unwillingness to become German, or become French. Instead, an actual insistence of bringing their intact culture with not so much a spoken aim of remaking Germany or France into their image but in effect exactly this. How will ordinary European citizens react? Sadly, since they don't fit into the secular culture as well as holders of the generally pacific (and equally strange to most Europeans), Jewish faith some people are roused to form political parties. Parties with a stated goal of rejecting these immigrants. Meanwhile, Jews who are quietly despised in much of Europe don't resort to violence against their secular compatriots. Instead, they make plans to leave for Israel if the hate becomes too visceral. In America, we had a practice of separate but equal as the law of the land separating the black race from the white. Ultimately, it was struck down, yet despite many strides forward, there is still resentment against the black man for stealing from the economy of the white (note, I make no commentary regarding the validity of this, just that it's a 'not uncommon' view to hear in white-only gatherings . . . even amongst the better educated). Meanwhile, in the 90s, the phrase 'ethnic cleansing' entered my personal lexicon as the breakup of Yugoslavia proceeded. Is this the future of Europe? Will the Muslim immigrants be cleansed away? Absent the Muslim immigrants themselves putting a stop to radicalization, is this a possible end game. If so, in my view it's a horrible future. How sad. Me? This American hopes the secular governments will do as this article advocates and find the political will to fund the necessary intelligence services properly.
beestyng 02/20/2015
4. Whitewashing and Politics of Fear
Jan Fleischhauer states that "Israel is the first democracy to have extensive experience with Islamist terrorism" and with a sleight of hand, erases the decade-long legitimate grievances of Palestinians with the monster that is ISIS. He forgot that the PLO is a secular organization as is the PLFP which was headed by a Christian. This is nothing less than an attempt at whitewashing the many Israeli transgressions of Internation Law and norms of behaviour, that are expected of what Fleischhauer calls democracy. The monster that is threatening us all in the West is a Western creation, an off-shoot of Al Qaeda, which we funded, armed and trained to fight and et rid of the godless invaders that was the USSR. We followed the mis-guided dictum that "the enemy of our enemy is our friend." And then we left them, ignoring their terrorising Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, etc. until it was too late. These cult-like groups didn't come out of nowhere. They were told to combat the enemy invader - then the USSR - and they did, and in their mind they are continuing that same mission: drive out all foreign godless "invaders" from what they consider Muslim lands. We continue giving them fodder by using bombs, missiles and drones that kill indiscriminately. Their target recruits seem to be young idealist and naive people, with not much to do, looking for a cause. So, if we're serious about countering their message, we need to use our heads, not our emotions or our bombs. Our security apparatus has a tendency to harass young people even if they feel they do not. There must be a better way. If we continue to treat those who live amongst us as suspects and marginalise them, we do in fact the terrorists' work for them. Although most of the deaths are abroad, our governments are pursuing policies that instill fear and prepare us to accept - nay, to demand - more constraints on our freedoms. On January 6, 1941, US president Franklin D. Roosevelt underlined the importance of what he called one of the "Four Freedoms" at his State of the Union: "The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a worldwide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world." I'll end this comment with a quote from Aung San Suu Kyi: "The search for scapegoats is essentially an abnegation of responsibility: it indicates an inability to assess honestly and intelligently the true nature of the problems which lie at the root of social and economic difficulties and a lack of resolve in grappling with them." ― Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear
johanliebenberg2000 02/20/2015
5. Terror in our Cities
At last, an article where sanity prevails. I think one of my favourite columnists put it nicely: "Germany before they became wimps'. And then he wrote about the almost mystical link the Russians have to their homeland. And how the European Union pales into comparison. Now they have totally misread Putin and are looking ridiculous. Which bring me to the Jewish question. What double standards! Give the Jews a desert and they will produce export oranges in a very short time. They are a country trying to defend themselves against annihilation, and when they finally do something to protect themselves, they are made the pariahs of the world, especially Europe. They are punished. How ridiculous!
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