Terrorism can successfully be fought

Among the frightening images that the entire world has seen emanating from their TV screens from Nice, which include bloody bodies, stretcher-bearers running, people escaping frantically from a horror that they will now carry with them throughout their lives, there is one that particularly hits home because it embodies a self-portrait of Europe.

There is a mother leaning against a wall, motionless, amazed to be alive, she and her terrified child, he who is also immobile, relying on the only source of his security, his mother’s warmth. That mother represents the Old Continent, a bewildered mother, in the grip of a nightmare from which she does not know how to recover, conscious of having to protect her children, but petrified in the face of this need.

Terrorism, however, is not Europe’s fate. It is a disaster to be dealt with, from which to defend itself, to be clearly defined, andfinally, to ditch once and for allthe silly diatribes about its religious component. It’s a waste of time and I protest strongly against those who say or think that the religious element is both evident and/or Islamophobic. It’s nonsense.

The religious element is quite clear, though certainly not all Muslims are terrorists. Whenever ISIS does anything it glorifies it on its websites. Moreover, it provides very precise explanations from the Quran when deciding to burn alive in a cage a Jordanian pilot or to behead twenty people on the beach. It cites the pertinent sura. It explains, painstakingly, its objectives; well designed, and now its actions outside the Syrian-Iraqi border seek the construction of the entire Muslim umma, of the definitive caliphate. ISIS’s flag is planted where it hits, and it thus adds a stone towardbuilding a world equal to that of the eighth century, when Muhammad marched victoriously at the helm of his troops.

The West did not want to confess itself this truth because obviously it is afraid of appear “Islamophobic”; we should instead definitely be sure of our good intentions, of the liberalism of democratic society to understand that we’re not attacking it when we identify terrorists, but that we are defending it, and with it the Muslims who wish, if they live among us, to renounce sharia, which is not compatible with our democratic standards.

Terrorism therefore is not a sphinx. It is an ideological and religious movement fed only in small part by social reasons, but exhaustively treated and very nourished by the social structure: the environment of excited youths (those that on twitter yesterday praised the attack in Nice, those who exult if a 13-year-old Israeli girl is stabbed to death in her bed while asleep), social networks, families that will finally have an important shahid in the family, the more heated atmosphere of the mosque with its sermons, the mother who when the young murderer dies will say that she is proud of that son, and that will encourage others to do the same.

Yes, there are good reasons to be flabbergasted in the face of that which appears nonsensical, and that is the negation of that security, that respect for each other that the West has built with so much effort after centuries of wars and bloodshed. Yet, we have no time: the West must defend itself and if the water in which they swim is vital for the terrorists, there we must act.

Yesterday on Italian TV from Nice a person who had lived many years in Israel said: “One of my Israeli friends did not want me to attend this event, it was evident that an opportunity like July 14 with a largeand festive crowd could be a very attractive target for a terrorist. I went anyway and I said to myself before: At worst, I’ll jump into the sea.”

Terrorism is not inscrutable. One can understand it, in part predict, analyze and spy on it. In Israel, the use of security and intelligence agencies like the Shin Bet and Mossad to prevent it are intensive, there are counter-terrorism units called “mista’arvim” living and working courageouslyundercover among the Arabs andproviding valuable information.

Car attacks on unarmed citizens were born in Israel during this last intifada, there have already been forty-six, bus stops have been one of the easiest targets, among others, a little girl in a baby carriage was killed and a twenty-six year old died… Now car attacks have decreased, they are less advantageous for the terrorist. People have learned to be careful, and police are on alert with respect to this and other types of attack. The population is aware and knows how to conduct itself.

Furthermore, it knows how to react in order to obstruct the terrorist because itunderstandshow to cooperate with law enforcement and to identify people and objects on which to report to agents… all this is extremely important. It is said that people in Nice did not comprehend for quite some time that it was dealing with a terrorist, and instead thought it was a driver who simplyfell ill.

It takes more quiet awareness, no need to panic. Important are also the continuous updating of laws: for example, in Israel there is now discussion about a proposal to withholdfrom the tax money it collects for the Palestinian Authority, the equivalent of the money that the PA giveseach month to the Palestinians convicted of terrorism (and if they die, to their families): real salaries on terror. The family circle has been identified as the cradle of support for their activities, so a terrorist knows that if he kills his house will be destroyed, and his relatives, if they have a residence permit if they will withdraw. Terrorists may be deprived of their nationality, and so too their accomplices.

The number of law enforcement, always aided by volunteers, has recently been increased especially in the urban centers; the media, buses, and trains are all subject to close surveillance. If an attack comes from a particular village, the place is surrounded and on lockdown until the perpetrator is apprehended. Is it effective? Up to a point, it doesn’t always work, unfortunately sometimes terrorists kill with such cruelty and speed that no move works.

However, other times it can work, must work, for example, Israel is a country that lives and develops, without arming its democracy, rejecting daily dozens of known and unknown attacks. Increasingly, however, the main point is to fight backand to take Isaiah’s Biblical advice: Don’t be afraid.

Translation by Amy K. Rosenthal

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale ( 16 July, 2016)

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.
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