Five minutes from where he had dinner in Paris, dozens were being murdered; when he arrived in Hanover, alerts of a bomb led to the evacuation of a stadium; when he landed in Marseille, the airport was evacuated and a Jewish teacher was stabbed. One week in Europe made it clear to Ben-Dror Yemini just how explosive the situation in Europe is, and how long is the road ahead in the fight against jihad.
This is my fourth visit to Europe this year. And it’s not the same Europe. I’ve been in France when journalists and Jews were murdered, during the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Hypercacher supermarket. And no, it’s not the same. At the time, Europe thought these attacks were a one-off, but now it is starting to realize this is not an isolated incident, it’s a serious disease. The terror attacks in Paris caught me at dinner, five minutes away from the theater where a mass slaughter was being committed.
And while my train from Hamburg was making its way to Hanover, on Tuesday evening, it turned out the city was in a state almost complete curfew as a result of alerts about a bomb in an ambulance, which led to the cancelation of the soccer match between Germany and the Netherlands.
On Wednesday, I managed to land in Marseille before security forces decided to evacuate the airport. Hundreds of people were standing outside. The weather was excellent. Landed planes remained on the runway. It wasn’t clear what was happening, and no one was allowed in or out. Shortly after that, as I write these lines, a Jewish rabbi was stabbed in Marseille by ISIS supporters.
And on it goes. According to the Schengen Agreement, there is no need for passports or border control for flights inside Europe. This week, that changed. The European Union is turning into a Europe of separate states. Border control is back while the Schengen Agreement continues to exist – but only on paper. Security checks are becoming more and more serious, and the lines grow longer. The economies of the free world are going to lose billions. The terrorists already managed to achieve something. There’s an increased presence of police or soldiers in airports and malls and they do surprise ID checks. I haven’t seen police carding any blonde-haired women. The suspects, naturally, are only people with a “Middle Eastern look.” It’s called ethnic profiling. This is discrimination. Is this even allowed? There are endless debates about the matter among human rights activists and legal experts. Israel’s Supreme Court also debated this issue. But now, there is no longer need for debate. Fears, whether real or not, create new rules.
Racism rears its head
Europe is currently going through what Israel went through in the 90s.
When four Arabic-speaking young men boarded the train in Germany, the body language of those sitting in the car changed. 99.99 percent of these young people have nothing to do with terrorism. One of them sat next to me while I was working on my computer. I noticed him curiously glancing at my screen, and we started talking. I told him I was typing in Hebrew. For a moment, I thought I had taken an unnecessary risk. After all, I have no idea what’s going on in his head.
He is one of the refugees who recently arrived in Germany. His English was as bad as my Arabic. They were on their way to another city in Germany, where they have friends. They have no home, no family, no livelihood, and they do not know the language – life doesn’t seem very hopeful. But for him, for them, they have reached the Promised Land. Germany has turned into a country that millions in Muslim and African countries dream about, but very few get to realize that dream.
The conductor comes in to check our tickets. He doesn’t dare approach them. There was no need for words – new situations create new codes of conduct.
How long will this last? What the hell can be done about these masses? How big is the threat they pose? These are the questions Europe is dealing with these days. There is no one answer. In Germany, like Sweden, arson attacks against refugee centers have turned into something of a routine. Hand-in-hand with the Europeans’ commendable hospitality, xenophobia develops. It won’t solve any problem, but racism is rearing its head.
The increasing flow of refugees only serves to further exacerbate the existing fears. After all, a young man who came into Europe with the masses of refugees, going through Turkey, Greece and the Balkans, all the way to Germany – was one of the perpetrators of the massacre at the Bataclan Theater. British intelligence estimates that two out of a hundred refugees could have ties to terror activity or one of the jihad organizations. Even assuming that wasn’t true, even assuming only one out of a hundred has ties to radical groups – we’re still talking about thousands.
How can people deal with the refugees and the fears they create, I asked Dr. Clemens Heni, a Berlin-based intellectual, a Christian, and a researcher of anti-Semitism. An imam came to one of the refugee centers in Berlin to speak to the young refugees, he told me. He wasn’t one of the moderate imams, and some of the young refugees complained that they did not come to Germany in order to listen to radical preaching. After all, some of them escaped this very radicalism. The problem was that the nice imam was sent by the institution. Someone wanted the young refugees to have a sympathetic ear and a spiritual guide. Despite complaints from the refugees, the imam continues visiting the center. It turns out the Germans’ good intentions also include stupidity.
How can people deal with the refugees and the fears they create, I asked a political science professor in Hamburg, who had me over for a lecture about the Middle East. We have no idea what is about to happen, he told me with candor. It was a lot better than the clichés spewed by most intellectuals, who believe it’s only a matter of hospitality and good will that would make hundreds of thousands of refugees – soon to be millions – magically turn into productive, responsible citizens.
It is true that experience from over the last few decades has shown that some groups of immigrants, like Hindus and Chinese, can acclimate, while in some groups, and we can’t mention which, quite a large percentage create their own closed communities and oppose acclimation. But facts can never confuse people who believe. And it doesn’t matter whether they are ultra-Orthodox Jews wearing a shtreimel, or intellectuals wearing a fashionable scarf.
Cities of Germany are changing
At cafés and restaurants in many cities in Europe, life goes on as normal. But it’s an illusion. Something is brewing under the surface, the atmosphere is changing. The Jews are the first wind vane to indicate which way the winds are blowing. “I was born in Riga,” told me a Jewish woman from Cologne. “I lived in Israel for only a few years, but circumstances led me to Germany. This week, for the first time, my son told me he is not allowed to say he is Jewish. He understood the situation before we even explained it to him.”
“We came to Cologne,” she continued, “because we were told it was different.”
It was true. But now, like every other city in Germany, Cologne is changing. Jews came to Cologne along with the Romans. It used to be one of the oldest communities in Europe, if not the oldest. But no one is left now from that old community – they either ran away, or were murdered. Now, the title of the oldest community belongs mostly to the Jews of Eastern Europe.
“We’re considering moving to Israel,” she concluded.
Some claimed this week that the terror attacks were meant to drive a rift between the Muslims and the old-timer Europeans, perhaps even to scare the latter away. White Flight is a known phenomenon. It happens in neighborhoods populated by immigrants and foreigners. Terrorism raises the number of asylum seekers – and it goes both ways. There are those escaping to Europe and those escaping from Europe.
The continent has been suffering from brain drain even before, and regardless of, the terror attacks in Paris. Young Europeans are leaving for the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The Jews, meanwhile, are once again fleeing to the land of Israel mostly out of distress. This is exactly what is happening right now. But there is only one problem. If the Israelis are telling the Europeans: “Now you feel what we feel,” then what is the point of fleeing to Israel? Just so they could feel the same fear? The thing is that Israel, despite all of its woes, is still home.
A parade of delusions and clichés
One thing that hasn’t changed, for now, despite the massacre in Paris, is the old tunes. There was no need to count to ten to hear the same old tunes again: Terror is a result of discrimination; of misery; of despair; of the sins of the West; of colonialism and Christianity, Zionism and, in general, we must not forget that Israel is to blame. It oppresses, it’s a militant state. It drives the oppressed to turn to terrorism. The Swedish foreign minister was not alone with her absurd claims; there are more and more comments of this sort being made in recent days.
These absurdities were joined by the usual parade of clichés: The Muslims? They’re actually moderate. You can always find the interviewee de jour carrying a “Not in my name” sign. He will join the condolences, he will condemn, he will say this was not what Islam is about, and that the murderers are betraying true Islam. And Barack Obama sent out a similar message this week, as he always does. Islamic terrorism? There’s no such thing. There simply isn’t. On this issue, the American administration does as the Communist Party’s mouthpiece Pravda used to do: It rewrites reality. And reality, unfortunately, insists on striking back with full force.
For the sake of our collective sanity, we must abandon this parade of delusions and clichés, for some facts. Well, there isn’t just one Muslim that opposes terrorism – there are thousands. No, not thousands – millions. Perhaps even hundreds of millions. Except the issue is slightly different: Who controls the Muslim communities in Europe? Moderates or radicals?
Let’s take the story of Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, a moderate and brave imam who is against radicalization and sermons of hatred. He was accidentally presented as the head of France’s imams. Inshallah. The day that happens, we could take about change. But it’s not happening. Far from it.
Chalghoumi issued repeated warnings about Qatar funding radical imams, who are radicalizing the younger generation and making it more dangerous. He also dared, in the past, to meet with an Israeli ambassador. Left-wing websites, like l’Expression dz, Agora Vox and Egalite et Reconciliation, have turned him into a pariah.
Chalghoumi supported a law banning women from wearing headscarves in public, while the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) took the opposite stance. Chalghoumi was once again made into a pariah. He needed bodyguards around the clock.
The UOIF is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. Their superstar is Tariq Ramadan, who turned into the ideological star of young Muslims in Europe. He’s leading them by the nose to become more and radical. He’s an intellectual and a smooth talker, he is the sweetheart of the European left-wing that is nurturing him. But he was and remains an Islamist, who supports the “resistance” of global jihad groups all over the world. As always, he is immediately invited to every possible panel, so he could condemn terrorism. And straight after this condemnation comes the “but,” which is comprised entirely of accusations against the free world, colonialism, discrimination, Zionism, and so on. Countries like Canada and the United States weren’t buying his sweet talk and would not let him into their borders to incite. But then came Obama, and canceled the ban against him. After all, there is no such thing as Islamist terrorism, so Ramadan can’t be supporting something that doesn’t exist. Stupidity won, once again.
Alarming support of terrorism
Chalghoumi on the one hand, and Ramadan on the other hand, are only two of the prominent figures in Muslim circles in Europe. It is true that Chalghoumi is a pariah while Ramadan has turned into a symbol, but the more important question is what do the Muslims in France think. Well, there are many polls that point to alarming support of terrorism.
The most serious poll appears to be the one from Pew, conducted in 2007. According to the poll, 35 percent of French Muslims support suicide bombers. Among people aged 18-29, 42 percent support suicide bombers while 19 percent think it is “sometimes justified.” In Britain, 35 percent of young people justify terrorism.
If we take into consideration the shock in the education system in light of the refusal of many Muslims to condemn the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo murders, then there is concern – but only concern – that a more current poll would point to far graver results.
It’s all fine and dandy when many Muslims, most definitely many of them, condemn the Paris attacks and carry signs proclaiming that “We Stand Together,” but there are many others, millions, in France and in other European countries, that are becoming more and more radical.
Fight against ideology
Those who demand boots-on-the-ground are also delusional. Is it really that easy or that simple? Was it easy for Russia when it found itself sinking into the Afghan quagmire? Was it easy for Israel to deal with Hezbollah? Is it easy for Israel to eradicate Hamas? The Islamic State, much like al-Qaeda, Hamas, and all of the other jihadist organizations, cannot be eradicated. This is also about perception.
If France wanted to really make a difference, it should have clamped down on the radicals a long time ago, just like Israel should have banned Raed Salah, and the other supporters of destruction and bloodshed, a long time ago. But it didn’t happen because the belief that “we need to let them blow off steam” is as common in Europe as it is in Israel.
We have to admit: In communities where Chalghoumi and his like are outcasts, and Tariq Ramadan and Raed Salah are heroes – the fight against jihad is far from over. Where intellectuals from the forces of progress show understanding towards and justify terrorism – and that happens a bit too often in the free world, including in Israel – the fight against jihad becomes much harder.
Europe is entering a new era. It’s a bit more anxious than Israel, which is already accustomed to such situations. It reminds me of a quote from American intellectual Sam Harris: “The truth is, we are all living in Israel. It’s just that some of us haven’t realized it yet.” It’s not just that the Europeans have yet to realize it. In Israel, as well, we have to admit, there are those who insist on not realizing it.
Reprinted with author’s permission from YNet News.com