OPINION: Uncovering the true face of Europe’s home-grown terror
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

OPINION: Uncovering the true face of Europe’s home-grown terror

Photo by Roni Shutzer/Israel Sun 14-11-2015
FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER SPECIAL %%% APPLY

Approximately 2,500 Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday evening to express solidarity with the people of France following a massive terror attack in Paris that left 129 people dead and 352 wounded.
Representing Israel’s governing coalition at the rally, Interior Minister Silvan Shalom told the  French Ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave and other assembled dignitaries that “Israel stands by you and we will help you. We will defeat those who want to destroy our values.”
“We send our condolences to the French president, government and the entire French people. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with you as a nation that understands better than others what it is to be under a terror assault.”

Israel’s frail former president Shimon Peres also addressed the crowd, as did Israel’s opposition leader Isaac Herzog and French ambassador Patrick Maisonnave. All the speakers emphasized Israel and France’s common dedication to freedom and democratic values, and the phrase “vive la liberté” rang out repeatedly. The gathering concluded with the singing of the French and Israeli national anthems, with many in the crowd singing along.



עצרת הזדהות עם קורבנות פיגועי הטרור בצרפת התקיימה הערב (שבת) בכיכר רבין. בניין עיריית תל אביב-יפו הואר בצבעי דגל הרפובליקה הצרפתית כאות הזדהות עם קורבנות הפיגוע וכסולידריות עם צרפת. נשיא המדינה לשעבר שמעון פרס אמר בעצרת: "אחינו הצרפתים, ביום קשה זה אנו אחים לאבלכם הכבד. מלחמתכם - מלחמתנו".
Photo by Roni Shutzer/Israel Sun 14-11-2015 FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER SPECIAL %%% APPLY Approximately 2,500 Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday evening to express solidarity with the people of France following a massive terror attack in Paris that left 129 people dead and 352 wounded. Representing Israel’s governing coalition at the rally, Interior Minister Silvan Shalom told the French Ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave and other assembled dignitaries that “Israel stands by you and we will help you. We will defeat those who want to destroy our values.” “We send our condolences to the French president, government and the entire French people. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with you as a nation that understands better than others what it is to be under a terror assault.” Israel’s frail former president Shimon Peres also addressed the crowd, as did Israel’s opposition leader Isaac Herzog and French ambassador Patrick Maisonnave. All the speakers emphasized Israel and France’s common dedication to freedom and democratic values, and the phrase “vive la liberté” rang out repeatedly. The gathering concluded with the singing of the French and Israeli national anthems, with many in the crowd singing along. עצרת הזדהות עם קורבנות פיגועי הטרור בצרפת התקיימה הערב (שבת) בכיכר רבין. בניין עיריית תל אביב-יפו הואר בצבעי דגל הרפובליקה הצרפתית כאות הזדהות עם קורבנות הפיגוע וכסולידריות עם צרפת. נשיא המדינה לשעבר שמעון פרס אמר בעצרת: "אחינו הצרפתים, ביום קשה זה אנו אחים לאבלכם הכבד. מלחמתכם - מלחמתנו".

by Ronnie Landau, Author and journalist

Ronnie Landau
Ronnie Landau

Europe’s home-grown terrorists – who exactly are they? And what exactly are they? What exercises, motivates and animates them?

Mile upon mile of column inches and endless hours of television and radio broadcasts are devoted every day to analysing the ideological, sociological and pathological roots of this ‘radicalisation’ and to identifying the source from which this growing menace derives its energy and its authority. What accounts for the proliferation, opinion-formers continually ask, of this nightmarish threat? And will measures intended to alleviate only exacerbate the dangers?

Answers to this conundrum would, variously, include a corrupt West-loathing version of Islam preached in certain madrasas; a pseudo-theological hatred of modernity spewed out on hundreds of websites; the violent reaction of Europe’s political underclass(es) to the bombing of one Arab country after another; the disinterment of the memory of Western crusades against Islam and the consequent rejection of the present in favour of the rebirth of a medieval past.

Then there is the oppression, real or imagined, of Muslims, on both a national and international level – in other words the subjugation of Muslim minorities within our secular ‘Christian’ societies and that of Muslim countries within the global family of nations; a crude, time-honoured but widely accepted belief in a Jewish and/or Zionist conspiracy (à la Protocols); or a complex amalgam of all these ‘reasons’.

But I suggest a rather different explanation, though one that does not exclude elements of these other factors. Putting aside moral considerations, dare I suggest it must be unutterably thrilling, exciting, the ultimate buzz, once you have decided an enemy, easily identified, is unimprovably and irredeemably your foe, to plot, plan and carry out headline-grabbing attacks against this foe within societies that are, at one and the same time, incredibly powerful – that’s why you hate them, after all, – but also made up of the softest of targets, easily vulnerable to attack?

In the minds of these alienated young people for whom the alternative is a crushingly tedious life without work, prospects or hope, I imagine it must be absolutely exhilarating, electrifying almost beyond words, to take on the hated ‘system. By flexing their terrorist muscles, they succeed in dominating television news in virtually every nation, spawning endless discussions and generating debates in the House of Commons, among Republican presidential hopefuls and the alarmingly-influential blogosphere. These individuals, to put it crudely, are having the time of their young lives and it has little to do with ideology. If we fail to grasp that, we’re missing an important point.

Never underestimate the destructive craziness to which impressionable, peer-led, testosterone-fuelled young men can succumb. In the 1950s, we had scrapping Teddy boys, in the ‘60s mods and rockers and, later, football hooligans. Now there are rebels armed with both a ‘cause’ and high explosives and funded from shadowy sources in Middle Eastern countries.

The fact is some (many?) human beings are hard-wired to seek stress, danger, conflict and a fondness for living on the edge – especially when they are young and striving to find their place in the world. Through history, conventional wars, organised conveniently by tribal elders, tyrants, princes, and leaders of nations committed to imperial expansion, used to meet this deeply ingrained psychological need.

But the spate of urban terrorism would seem to be a parable for the darker side of modernity. It is, in part, the outcome of existential problems of identity, the alienation and isolation of individuals and groups within our vast, modern societies which have become depersonalised and conformist. Islamic fundamentalism appeals to people’s need for a sense of belonging, loyalty and, yes, community; a need left dangerously unfulfilled by modern centralised society. It encourages a psychological state where people can be sucked into the bureaucratic process.

‘Bureaucracy’ – classically defined as the placing of a moral distance between oneself and the consequences of one’s actions and decisions – is a human invention which can subjugate its human inventor, undermine human conscience and allow individuals to abdicate personal moral responsibility.

As with those Germans and others who could be persuaded to carry out the most unimaginable atrocities during the Nazi Holocaust and yet consider what they were doing as morally no worse than brushing dandruff off their jackets, the perverse logic of modern terrorism raises profound questions about the ease with which people can fall into a pattern of conformity and obedience to orders, particularly when those orders emanate from ‘authority’.

In the words of C P Snow: “When you look at the long and gloomy history of man, you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion.”

So, granted licence by the ideologists of hate to abandon normal moral constraints, terrorism can be seen from the perspective of its perpetrators as an appalling kind of ‘entertainment’, as a source of the most powerful adrenalin rush. After the war, members of the SS talked of the terror they spread throughout Nazi-occupied Europe as a drug of unusual potency.

And there is something else. In Euripides’ timeless tragedy Medea, the anti-heroine, reviled and humiliated both as a barbarian (ie non-Greek) and as a woman, commits arguably the worst premeditated crime of all – double infanticide. Yet the playwright seems to be saying, as does Shakespeare 2,000 years later via the character of Shylock, that if you crush and trample a person or a people for long enough, the thirst for vengeance when the downtrodden finally decide to fight back will be excessive and break all known rules.

• The third edition of Ronnie Landau’s ‘The Nazi Holocaust: its history and meaning’ will be published by IB Tauris in January . Price: £14.95

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments