Analysis from Israel

Following last week’s terror attack in Nice, a Belgian Jewish organization issued a highly unusual statement charging that, had European media not spent months “ignoring” Palestinian terror against Israel out of “political correctness,” the idea of a truck being used as a weapon wouldn’t have come as such a shock. But it now turns out that European officials did something much worse than merely ignoring Palestinian attacks: They issued a 39-page report, signed by almost every EU country, blaming these attacks on “the occupation” rather than the terrorists. The obvious corollary was that European countries had no reason to fear similar attacks and, therefore, they didn’t bother taking precautions that could have greatly reduced the casualties.

The most shocking part of the Nice attack was how high those casualties were: The truck driver managed to kill 84 people before he was stopped. By comparison, as the New York Times reported on Monday, Israel has suffered at least 32 car-ramming attacks since last October, yet all these attacks combined have killed exactly two people (shootings and stabbings are much deadlier). Granted, most involved private cars, but even attacks using buses or heavy construction vehicles never approached the scale of Nice’s casualties. The deadliest ramming attack in Israel’s history, in 2001, killed eight.

Firstly, this is because Israel deploys massive security for mass gatherings like Nice’s Bastille Day celebrations, forcing Palestinian assailants to make do with less densely-populated targets, like bus stops or light rail stops, which greatly lowers the death toll. As an Israeli police spokesman told the New York Times, an Israeli event comparable to the one in Nice would entail “a 360-degree enclosure of the area, with layers of security around the perimeter,” including major roads “blocked off with rows of buses, and smaller side streets with patrol cars,” plus a massive police presence reinforced by counterterrorism units “strategically placed to provide a rapid response, if needed.”

Secondly, Israeli security personnel have no qualms about using deadly force against terrorists in mid-rampage if less lethal means would take longer to succeed because they understand that the best way to save innocent lives is to stop the attack as quickly as possible. This lesson was driven home by a 2008 attack in which a Palestinian plowed a heavy construction vehicle into a crowded Jerusalem street. A policewoman tried to stop him without killing him; she wounded him and then climbed into the cab to handcuff him. But while she was trying to cuff him, he managed to restart the vehicle and kill another person before he was shot dead.

Now consider the abovementioned EU document, first reported in the EUobserver last Friday, and its implications for both those counterterrorism techniques. The document is an internal assessment of the wave of Palestinian terror that began last October, written by EU diplomats in the region and endorsed in December 2015 by all EU countries with “embassies in Jerusalem and Ramallah,” the EUobserver said.

And what did it conclude? That the attacks were due to “the Israeli occupation…  and a long-standing policy of political, economic and social marginalisation of Palestinians in Jerusalem,” to “deep frustration amongst Palestinians over the effects of the occupation, and a lack of hope that a negotiated solution can bring it to an end.” This, the report asserted, was “the heart of the matter”; factors like rampant Palestinian incitement and widespread Islamist sentiment, if they were mentioned at all, were evidently dismissed as unimportant.

The report’s first implication is obvious: If Palestinian attacks stem primarily from “the occupation,” there’s no reason to think anything similar could happen in Europe, which isn’t occupying anyone (at least in its own view; Islamists might not agree). Consequently, there’s also no need to learn from Israel’s methods of dealing with such attacks.

In contrast, had EU diplomats understood the major role played by Palestinian incitement—for instance, the endless Internet memes urging Palestinians to stab, run over and otherwise kill Jews, complete with detailed instructions on how to do so—they might have realized that similar propaganda put out by Islamic State, urging people to use similar techniques against Westerners, could have a similar effect. Had they understood the role played by Islamist sentiments—fully 89 percent of Palestinians supported a Sharia-based state in a Pew poll last year, one of the highest rates in the world—they might have realized that similar sentiments among some European Muslims posed a similar threat. And had they realized all this, the crowds in Nice might not have been left virtually unprotected.

No less telling, however, was the report’s explanation for Israel’s relatively low death toll. Rather than crediting the Israeli police for managing to stop most of the attacks quickly, before they had claimed many victims, it accused them of “excessive use of force… possibly amounting in certain cases to unlawful killings.”

If the EU’s consensus position is that shooting terrorists in mid-rampage constitutes “excessive use of force,” European policemen may understandably hesitate to do the same. In Nice, for instance, the rampage continued for two kilometers while policemen reportedly “ran 200 meters behind the truck trying to stop it”; the police caught up only when a civilian jumped into the truck’s cab and wrestled the driver, slowing him down. Yet even then, an eyewitness said, “They kept yelling at him and when he did not step out – they saw him from the window taking his gun out.” Only then did they open fire.

Not everyone shares the EU’s blind spot about Palestinian terror. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Africa earlier this month, the leaders he met with said openly that one of the main things they want from Israel is counterterrorism assistance. They understand quite well that anti-Israel terror isn’t some unique breed that other countries can safely ignore; terror is terror, and any tactic tried by Palestinians is liable to be quickly imitated by Islamist terrorists elsewhere—from airplane hijackings to suicide bombings and, now, car-rammings.

But European officials, entrenched in their smug belief that anti-Israel terror has nothing to do with the terror they face, are incapable of acknowledging that Israel’s experience might be relevant. And therefore, people died who might still be alive had the lessons of Palestinian terror against Israel been learned.

Originally published in Commentary on July 20, 2016

6 Responses to A Deadly EU Blind Spot on Israel

  • Dean says:

    Face it, Europe wants to sacrifice Israel and Israelis to favor an Islamic State in place of Israel. I think that many elites in Europe and the UN also favor an Islamic State in place of Europe using as a catalyst the uncontrollable numbers of Muslims currently flowing into Europe unchecked.

    Europeans do not treat the immigrants well once they arrive in Europe. Yes, they are getting social assistance, schooling, food, shelter, healthcare at an exorbitant drain on the EU economy, but they are allowed to congregate in no-go zones and not allowed or encouraged to integrate. The 7th century is imposing its will on the 21st century and that is not good for freedom, democracy and progress (although so-called “progressives” and leftists seem to like the idea of living as 7th century dhimmis under sharia law).

    The double standard on Israel and condescension expressed in most EU statements and policy regarding Israel is pure Jew hate. Since Europeans had failed at gassing and burning Jews in the Holocaust, they have worked to replace the murdered Jews with Muslims – spillover from the colonialism and occupation that Europe conducted for 400 years. Their eagerness to re-direct our gaze from their own European occupation to Israel’s need to keep the Islamists from establishing a Caliphate in place of Israel with intelligent controls and clear-eyed methods is an attempt to cover up the real xenophobia and anti-Semitisms of Europeans.

    Israel is a shining light for all to learn from. It is clear that Europe looks down on Israel and refuses to learn from what Israel has learned about survival in the past 70 years and Europe ignores this at their peril – now evident since the same Islamists who want Israel gone now want Europe gone (again) and replaced. The Muslims see Europe as part of their Caliphate and as occupied land too! Europe’s illogical, non-factual and hateful harangue over Israel will eventually hang Europe as they ignore reality and invite trouble into their own cities (as if they were immune from terrorism because of their hubris surrounding some kind of advertised utopian but actually non-existent progressive nature.

    • Dean says:

      Ganging up on Israel, in the eyes of Europeans, expiates their own European guilt over colonialism and the Holocaust by falsely accusing Israel of sins that Europe is really guilty of and by drawing a moral equivalence between their own real conquest of foreign lands over the course of hundreds of years with the Jewish right to live in their one and only historical and biblical land where they have been indigenous people for over 3500 years.

  • Charlie in NY says:

    I wonder what the Black Lives Matter and “intersectionality” crowd make of the several African countries’ request for anti-terror instruction from Israel.
    On a separate note, the reference to EU countries with embassies in Jerusalem is either a mistake (there are no such embassies there, they are all in Tel Aviv) or, if that was meant to be a correct statement, then it’s a clear signal to ignore the report.

    • Evelyn Gordon says:

      Many countries without missions in Ramallah use their Jerusalem consulates as de facto embassies to the Palestinian Authority. My guess is that those are the “embassies” the author was referring to, simply because they’re the ones that would usually sign off on reports relating to the Palestinians. But I agree it was a poor word choice.

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Reform Movement Backs Palestinians against Israel on Jerusalem

That Arab and European leaders are protesting President Trump’s intent to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is no surprise. Nor is it any surprise that groups like J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace joined them. I was, however, genuinely shocked that the leader of America’s largest Jewish denomination also joined the denunciations. Until recently, any mainstream American Jewish leader would have been embarrassed to oppose U.S. recognition of Jerusalem publicly.

And yet, it’s of a piece with recent decisions by non-Orthodox Hillel directors to bar mainstream Israelis from speaking on campus, and with the fact that Birthright Israel recently dropped the Union for Reform Judaism as a trip organizer because it was recruiting too few students. Taken together, all these facts paint a worrying picture.

I’ve always objected when I hear people on the right term the Reform Movement anti-Israel because of its stance on the peace process. After all, its views aren’t far from those of Israel’s mainstream center-left, and any mainstream view ought to be legitimate within the pro-Israel camp.

But in its opposition to recognizing Jerusalem, the URJ has zero support from Israel’s Zionist center-left. The chairman of the Labor Party, currently Israel’s largest opposition party, praised Trump’s expected decision. Yair Lapid, head of the other main opposition party (which is currently outpolling Labor), demanded that the rest of the world follow suit.

Indeed, only two Israeli parties shared the Reform Movement’s reservations: the Arab community’s Joint List and the far-left Meretz, which used to be a Zionist party but no longer is. Its platform doesn’t define it as Zionist, its official spokeswoman defines it as “a non-Zionist Israeli party,” and key backers of its current chairwoman are busy floating the idea of an official merger with the anti-Zionist Joint List. Thus, in opposing U.S. recognition of Jerusalem, the Reform Movement has aligned itself with the country’s anti-Zionists against the entire spectrum of Israeli Zionist opinion.

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