President Donald Trump on Feb. 24. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Liberté, égalité, Trumpism


One month into the Trump presidency, I flew to Paris to escape.

I was suffering from an acute case of Trump Fatigue, exhausted by the endless bad news, the moral outrage, the hysteria of the left, the hypocrisy of the right, the mass protests and activist meetings — not to mention the sleepless nights, the fear and uncertainty, the hundreds of articles about the future of American democracy, U.S. foreign policy, an ever-complicated Israel, and how the world as we know it is basically going to hell.

It turns out that although my capacity for outrage is apparently endless, my stamina for expressing it begins to ebb at a certain point, and then it’s time to do something dramatic, like follow through on my threat to leave the country.

So I flew to Paris thinking I’d walk the streets of Le Marais, stare at Monet’s “Water Lilies,” skulk around the gardens of Musée Rodin and eat a lot of cheese. I would revive myself with a renewed commitment to Bohemian ideals of truth, beauty, freedom and love — like in the movie “Moulin Rouge!” — and reclaim a sense of optimism for the future. What better way to restore some joie de vivre to my battered American soul than visit the place that invented joie de vivre?

I made it about as far as the cab ride from the airport when I realized that the stark political realities I had hoped to leave behind were in some ways closer than ever.

To enter Paris, my driver had to pass a small tent city of homeless people, who weren’t typical homeless people at all, but scores of women wearing hijabs, crowding the intersection with cardboard signs that read, “Je suis Syrien.”

To see up close what in the United States is discussed mainly in the abstract was shocking in its realism. In an instant, the only thing separating me from the Syrian civil war that destroyed and displaced millions of lives was the door of a cab.

Within an hour, it was easy to see why politicians such as Marine Le Pen have capitalized on France’s immigration “problem,” which is ripe for politicization. The evidence France has not well integrated many of its immigrants is creeping farther and deeper into Paris.

Homelessness and idleness were visible on street corners and in metro stations. And it isn’t only Syrians you see, but Algerians, Malinese and Senegalese, all trying to make their way in a country that, like the U.S., contains factions that are becoming increasingly nationalistic and hostile to outsiders. If you are inclined to seek reasons for why immigration is a threat to France’s fantasy of itself, you can easily find them.

Perhaps that’s why some Parisians are sympathetic to Trump’s anti-immigrant tactics. At a concert at the Maison de la Radio, I sat next to a sophisticated middle-aged woman who told me she didn’t much mind President Donald Trump. “The Clintons would have been much worse,” she whispered between Prokofiev and Shostakovich. “They wanted war. Trump only wants the money” — which she pronounced “Monet,” like the artist.

Some Parisians couldn’t care less about Trump’s atrocious identity politics, his nepotism or his greed —as long as he doesn’t drag Europe into another Iraq War.

But that comment seemed somewhat ironic, only a few days later, during dinner with Italian expatriates who are much more worried about the damage France may do to itself should Le Pen get elected and have her way. Over homemade tortelli with brown butter and crispy sage, an academic from the prestigious Sciences Po, the Paris Institute of Political Studies, warned that if European nationalist trends continue — resulting in more referendums like the one that led to Brexit — the porous borders and economic cooperation that have cemented European peace since World War II could disappear, producing renewed potential for regional conflict. Recently, this professor said, one of the top deans at his school suggested renaming his course track from “Negotiation” to “War Studies.”

“It’s like we’re going backward,” the professor said. “All the progress we made after the war — the focus on human rights, peace and prosperity for all — it’s as if it doesn’t matter.”

Europe, like America, is divided. And they’re watching us very, very closely. Even the French daily Le Monde is obsessed with the reality show that is the Trump White House and is now publishing a regular column called La journée de Trump — a roundup of the president’s day.

So much for my glamorous escape.

Political anxieties are alive and well in Paris, too, and no amount of aperitifs or digestifs can distract from a world in flux. “Travel robs us of refuge,” wrote French philosopher Albert Camus. He believed that we cannot hide ourselves when we travel — that we are “stripped of all our props, deprived of our masks … completely on the surface of ourselves.”

I used to come to Paris and feel only its wonders; now I also see its stains.


Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.

An armed French police officer patrols at the Boulevard de Barbes in the north of Paris on Jan. 7, 2016. Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images

Report: Attackers saw off Jewish man’s finger, beat his brother near Paris


Two Jewish brothers said they were abducted briefly and beaten by several men in suburban Paris in an incident that ended with one brother having his finger sawed off by an assailant.

The brothers were hospitalized in what was described as a state of shock following the incident Tuesday night in Bondy. A case report published Thursday by the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, based on a police complaint by the alleged victims did not specify their medical condition.

cThe kippah-wearing brothers, whose father is a Jewish leader in Bondy, were forced off the main road by another vehicle on to a side street, according to the BNVCA report. While the vehicle was in motion, the driver and a passenger shouted anti-Semitic slogans at the brothers that included “Dirty Jews, You’re going to die!” the father told BNVCA based on the complaint filed by his sons.

The vehicle forced the brothers to stop their car, and they were surrounded by several men whom they described as having a Middle Eastern appearance. The men came out of a hookah café on to the side street, according to the case report published by the news website JSSNews.

The alleged attackers surrounded the brothers, then kicked and punched them repeatedly while threatening that they would be murdered if they moved. One of the alleged attackers then sawed off the finger of one of the brothers.

Kim Kardashian reportedly hires Israeli bodyguard after Paris robbery


An Israeli bodyguard will now be keeping reality television star Kim Kardashian safe after a robbery in her Paris hotel room earlier this month.

Aaron Cohen, who served in the elite undercover Duvdevan unit of the Israel Defense Forces, has been hired by Kardashian’s husband, rapper Kanye West, to protect her, Ynet reported.

Cohen, who runs a security company that caters to celebrities, told Ynet that he could neither confirm nor deny any association with Kardashian.

“Because of the nature of my business, I cannot confirm whether someone approached me, but I can say that it’s unthinkable that a star of Kim’s caliber only has one security guard,” he said.

Earlier this month, a group of masked thieves dressed as policemen entered Kardashian’s hotel room during Paris Fashion Week, tied her up in the bathtub and made off with about $10 million in jewelry.

Cohen made aliyah from Los Angeles at 17 and served as a lone soldier. Following his army service, he returned to the United States and started his security company, Cherries, the translation of the name of his special IDF unit. It has worked with stars including Katy Perry, Brad Pitt and Arnold Schwarzenegger, according to Ynet.

Cohen has trained security officers in the U.S. to fight terrorism and has offered technical advice to actors about hand-to-hand combat and using weapons to make their acting look more realistic. He also has served as a national security analyst on major news networks.

British tabloid The Sun reported that Kanye had reached out to Cohen and to cyber security expert Joseph Steinberg.

Cohen discussed the state of Kardashian’s security on “Access Hollywood” last week.

“The Kardashians are very far behind where they need to be in terms of their total security,” Cohen said.

Paris attack victims to sue French state over surveillance lapses


Victims of last November's Islamic State assault on Paris plan to sue the French state for failing to avert a killing spree by militants who had drawn scrutiny from police and intelligence services, a lawyer for the group said on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day a court in a separate case found the French state partly at fault over the killing of a French soldier in 2012 by Mohamed Merah, a militant whose activities had also been tracked for some time by police and security services. Merah was killed in a shootout with police that year.

Samia Maktouf, a lawyer representing 17 victims of the Paris attacks, said she would take legal action against the state on the grounds that some of the assailants were also people the police and judicial authorities had been keeping tabs on.

“We will do all we can to get the French state convicted for failing to prevent terrorists, some of whom were under judicial surveillance, from carrying out their act,” Maktouf told BFM TV.

Nine militants killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more on Nov. 13, 2015. Some assailants blew themselves up near the Stade de France stadium, others opened fire on downtown cafe terraces and a third group armed with guns and suicide vests killed 90 music fans at the Bataclan rock concert hall.

A parliamentary investigation into the attack ended with the publication of a report last week that highlighted, among other possible failings of the state, the fact that one of the Bataclan attackers had gone to Syria a month earlier despite being under surveillance over a 2012 trip to Yemen.

France has since cracked down on people suspected of going to war zones like Syria to train as jihadist combatants.

A French court last week sentenced several people who returned from one such sortie to between eight and 10 years in jail – including the brother of one of the Bataclan attackers.

In a ruling sure to encourage victims of the November attacks and others, a court in the southern city of Nimes on Monday judged the French state to have been partially at fault for the killing of soldier Abel Chennouf in 2012.

He was one of three soldiers killed that year by Merah, a 23-year-old who said he was inspired by al Qaeda and went on to kill four Jews, three of them school children, before being cornered in a flat and dying in a hail of police bullets.

The judge faulted the French state on the grounds that the police and intelligence services had decided at one point to stop tracking Merah.

“The decision to halt all surveillance of Mohamed Merah … constitutes a mistake for which the state is liable, given the profile of Mohamed Merah and his highly suspect behavior, notably after recent trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Monday's verdict stated.

The judge ruled that the state should as a result provide financial compensation to the wife, child and parents-in-law of the murdered soldier.

EgyptAir jet missing after mid-air plunge, Greeks find floating objects


An EgyptAir jet carrying 66 passengers and crew from Paris to Cairo disappeared from radar over the Mediterranean south of Greece on Thursday, with Athens saying the plane swerved in mid-air before plunging from cruising height and vanishing.

Greek state television said aircraft debris had been found in the sea during a search for the missing Airbus A320. Earlier, Greek officials said pieces of plastic and two lifevests were found floating some 230 miles south of Crete.

Officials were reluctant to speculate over the disappearance while the search was underway. Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said it was too early to rule out any explanation, including an attack like the one blamed for bringing down a Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai peninsula last year.

But despite the caution, the country's aviation minister said a terrorist attack was more likely to have taken down the aircraft than a technical failure.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama received a briefing on the disappearance from his adviser for homeland security and counter-terrorism, the White House said.

In Athens, Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said the Airbus had first swerved 90 degrees to the left, then spun through 360 degrees to the right. After plunging from 37,000 feet to 15,000, it vanished from Greek radar screens.

Greece deployed aircraft and a frigate to the area to help with the search. Greek defense sources told Reuters earlier that two floating objects, colored white and red, had been spotted in a sea area 230 miles south of the island of Crete.

According to Greece's civil aviation chief, calls from Greek air traffic controllers to the jet went unanswered just before it left the country's airspace, and it disappeared from radar screens soon afterwards.

There was no official suggestion of whether the disappearance was due to technical failure or any other reason such as sabotage by ultra-hardline Islamists, who have targeted airports, airliners and tourist sites in Europe, Egypt, Tunisia and other Middle Eastern countries over the past few years.

The aircraft was carrying 56 passengers – with one child and two infants among them – and 10 crew, EgyptAir said. They included 30 Egyptian and 15 French nationals, along with citizens of 10 other countries.

Asked if he could rule out that terrorists were behind the incident, Prime Minister Ismail told reporters: “We cannot exclude anything at this time or confirm anything. All the search operations must be concluded so we can know the cause.”

French President Francois Hollande also said the cause was unknown. “Unfortunately the information we have … confirms to us that the plane came down and is lost,” he said. “No hypothesis can be ruled out, nor can any be favored over another.”

With its archeological sites and Red Sea resorts, Egypt is traditionally a popular destination for Western tourists. But the industry has been badly hit following the downing of the Russian Metrojet flight last October, killing all 224 people on board, as well as by an Islamist insurgency and a string of bomb attacks.

NO RESPONSE

Greek air traffic controllers spoke to the pilot as the jet flew over the island of Kea, in what was thought to be the last broadcast from the aircraft, and no problems were reported.

But just ahead of the handover to Cairo airspace, calls to the plane went unanswered, before it dropped off radars shortly after exiting Greek airspace, Kostas Litzerakis, the head of Greece's civil aviation department, told Reuters.

“During the transfer procedure to Cairo airspace, about seven miles before the aircraft entered the Cairo airspace, Greek controllers tried to contact the pilot but he was not responding,” he said.

Greek authorities are searching in the area south of the island of Karpathos, Defence Minister Kammenos told a news conference.

“At 3.39am (0039 GMT) the course of the aircraft was south and south-east of Kassos and Karpathos (islands),” he said. “Immediately after, it entered Cairo FIR (flight information region) and made swerves and a descent I describe: 90 degrees left and then 360 degrees to the right.”

The Airbus plunged from 37,000 feet (11,280 meters) to 15,000 feet before vanishing from radar, he added.

Egyptian Civil Aviation minister Sherif Fathi said authorities had tried to resume contact but without success.

“NO ONE KNOWS ANYTHING”

At Cairo airport, authorities ushered families of the passengers and crew into a closed-off waiting area.

Two women and a man, who said they were related to a crew member, were seen leaving the VIP hall where families were being kept. Asked for details, the man said: “We don’t know anything, they don’t know anything. No one knows anything.”

Ayman Nassar, from the family of one of the passengers, also walked out of the passenger hall with his daughter and wife in a distressed state. “They told us the plane had disappeared, and that they’re still searching for it and not to believe any rumors,” he said.

A mother of flight attendant rushed out of the hall in tears. She said the last time her daughter called her was Wednesday night. “They haven’t told us anything,” she said.

EgyptAir said on its Twitter account that Flight MS804 had departed Paris at 23:09 (CEST). It disappeared at 02:30 a.m. at an altitude of 37,000 feet in Egyptian air space, about 280 km (165 miles) from the Egyptian coast before it was due to land at 03:15 a.m.

In Paris, a police source said investigators were now interviewing officers who were on duty at Roissy airport on Wednesday evening to find out whether they heard or saw anything suspicious. “We are in the early stage here,” the source said.

Airbus said the missing A320 was delivered to EgyptAir in November 2003 and had operated about 48,000 flight hours.

The missing flight's pilot had clocked up 6,275 hours of flying experience, including 2,101 hours on the A320, while the first officer had 2,766 hours, EgyptAir said.

At one point EgyptAir said the plane had sent an emergency signal at 04:26 a.m., two hours after it disappeared from radar screens. However, Fathi said later that further checks found that no SOS was received.

FRANCE, EGYPT TO COOPERATE

The weather was clear at the time the plane disappeared, according to Eurocontrol, the European air traffic network.

“Our daily weather assessment does not indicate any issues in that area at that time,” it said.

Under U.N. aviation rules, if the aircraft is found to have crashed in international or Egyptian waters, Egypt will automatically lead an investigation into the accident assisted by countries including France, where the jet was assembled, and the United States, where engine maker Pratt & Whitney is based.

Russia and Western governments have said the Metrojet plane that crashed on Oct. 31 was probably brought down by a bomb, and the Islamic State militant group said it had smuggled an explosive device on board.

That crash called into question Egypt's campaign to eradicate Islamist violence. Militants have stepped up attacks on Egyptian soldiers and police since Sisi, then serving as army chief, toppled elected President Mohamed Mursi, an Islamist, in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

In March, an EgyptAir plane flying from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked and forced to land in Cyprus by a man with what authorities said was a fake suicide belt. He was arrested after giving himself up.

EgyptAir has a fleet of 57 Airbus and Boeing jets, including 15 of the Airbus A320 family of aircraft, according to airfleets.com.

French put off peace summit, citing John Kerry’s schedule


A summit of foreign ministers in Paris to discuss the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has been postponed.

French President Francois Hollande announced Tuesday that the meeting of representatives of 20 countries that had been scheduled for May 30 would be postponed since U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry cannot attend. May 30 is Memorial Day in the United States.

Neither Israel nor the Palestinians were invited to the summit.

The summit is set to be the run-up to an international peace conference to be held in the French capital this summer that would include Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault met Sunday in Jerusalem with Netanyahu to push the plan, and told reporters after the meeting that the summit would go on despite Israeli objections.

“I know that there is strong opposition. This is not new and it won’t discourage us. The conference will take place,” he said.

Ayrault angered Israel in January for threatening to recognize a Palestinian state if a Paris-hosted conference failed to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Ayrault backtracked on his statements last month, saying the conference would not “automatically” spur any action.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Monday that the department is working with France to set a new date.

“We’ve made it clear that the May 30 date originally proposed by the French would not work for the secretary and for his schedule,” Kirby told reporters at his daily briefing. “We’re in discussions right now with the French about any possible alternative date that might better work for the secretary.”

Belgium to extradite Paris suspect Abdeslam to France


A Belgian court decided on Thursday that Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam could be extradited to France, Belgium's federal prosecutors said.

A lawyer for Abdeslam said earlier on Thursday that Abdeslam had dropped his initial objection to being extradited and had also renewed an offer to cooperate with the French authorities.

“Salah Abdeslam wishes to be transferred to the French authorities,” Cedric Moisse told reporters. “He wishes to cooperate with the French authorities.”

Prosecutors said France and Belgium would now discuss on how to proceed with the transfer.

After his arrest on March 18, four months after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 people, Abdeslam answered some investigators' questions but then exercised his right to silence following the suicide bombings in Brussels on March 22.

Investigators believe the attacks in Paris and Brussels were carried out by militants from the same Islamic State network.

Belgium names Brussels bomber brothers, key suspect on run


Belgium's chief prosecutor named two brothers on Wednesday as Islamic State suicide bombers who killed at least 31 people in the most deadly attacks in Brussels' history but said another key suspect was on the run.

Tuesday's attacks on a city that is home to the European Union and NATO sent shockwaves across Europe and around the world, with authorities racing to review security at airports and on public transport. It also rekindled debate about lagging European security cooperation and flaws in police surveillance.

The federal prosecutor told a news conference that Ibrahim El Bakraoui, 29, one of two men who blew themselves up at Brussels airport on Tuesday, had left a will on a computer dumped in a rubbish bin near the militants' hideout.

In it, he described himself as “always on the run, not knowing what to do anymore, being hunted everywhere, not being safe any longer and that if he hangs around, he risks ending up next to the person in a cell” – a reference to suspected Paris bomber Salah Abdeslam, who was arrested last week.

His brother Khalid El Bakraoui, 27, detonated a bomb an hour later on a crowded rush-hour metro train near the European Commission headquarters, prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said.

Both men, born in Belgium, had criminal records for armed robbery but were not previously linked by investigators to Islamist militants.

At least 31 people were killed and about 271 wounded in the attacks, the prosecutor said. That toll could increase further because some of the bomb victims at Maelbeek metro station were blown to pieces and victims are hard to identify. Several survivors were still in critical condition.

The Bakraoui brothers were identified by their fingerprints and on security cameras, the prosecutor said. The second suicide bomber at the airport had yet to be identified and a third man, whom he did not name, had left the biggest bomb and run out of the terminal before the explosions.

Belgian media named that man as Najim Laachraoui, 25, a suspected Islamic State recruiter and bomb-maker whose DNA was found on two explosives belts used in last November's Paris attacks and at a Brussels safe house used by Abdeslam before his arrest last Friday.

Some media reported he had been captured in the Brussels borough of Anderlecht, but they later said the person detained was not Laachraoui.

Khalid El Bakraoui had rented under a false name the apartment in the city's Forest borough, where police hunting Abdeslam killed a gunman in a raid last week. He is also believed to have rented a safe house in the southern Belgian city of Charleroi used to mount the Paris attacks.

“BLACK DAYS”

The Syrian-based Islamist group claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attacks, warning of “black days” for those fighting it in Syria and Iraq. Belgian warplanes have joined the coalition in the Middle East, but Brussels has long been a centre of Islamist militancy.

A minute's silence was observed across Belgium at noon. Prime Minister Charles Michel cancelled a trip to China and reviewed security measures with his inner cabinet before attending a memorial event at European Commission headquarters with King Philippe, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

“We are determined, admittedly with a strong feeling of pain in our stomachs, but determined to act,” Michel told a joint news conference with Valls. “France and Belgium are united in pain more than ever.”

Valls played down cross-border sniping over security, saying: “We must turn the page on naivete, a form of carefreeness that our societies have known.

“It is Europe that has been attacked. The response to terrorism must be European.”

More than 1,000 people gathered around an improvised shrine with candles and street paintings outside the Brussels bourse.

Belgium's crisis coordination centre kept the level of security alert at the maximum as the man hunt continued. Some buses and trains were running but the metro and the airport were closed, along with key road tunnels in Brussels.

The blasts fuelled political debate across the globe about how to combat militants.

“We can and we will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world,” said U.S. President Barack Obama.

Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination to succeed Obama in November's U.S. election, suggested suspects could be tortured to avert such attacks.

After a tip-off from a taxi driver who unknowingly drove the bombers to the airport, police searched an apartment in the Brussels borough of Schaerbeek late into the night, finding another bomb, an Islamic State flag and bomb-making chemicals.

An unused explosive device was later found at the airport.

CLOSING IN

Security experts believed the blasts were probably in preparation before Friday's arrest of locally based French national Abdeslam, 26, whom prosecutors accuse of a key role in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks.

He was caught and has been speaking to investigators after a shootout at an apartment in the south of the city, after which another Islamic State flag and explosives were found.

It was unclear whether he had knowledge of plans for Tuesday's attack or whether accomplices precipitated their action, fearing police were closing in.

About 300 Belgians are estimated to have fought with Islamists in Syria, making the country of 11 million the leading European exporter of foreign fighters and a focus of concern in France and other neighbours over its security capabilities.

Reviving arguments over Belgian policies following the Paris attacks, in which 130 people were killed in an operation apparently organised from Brussels, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin spoke of “naiveté” on the part of “certain leaders” in holding back from security crackdowns on Muslim communities.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders retorted that each country should look to its own social problems, saying France too had rough high-rise suburbs in which militants had become radicalised. Valls said France had no place teaching Belgium lessons and had its own security problems.

Brussels airport seemed likely to remain shut for several days over the busy Easter holiday weekend, since the departure hall was still being combed as a crime scene on Wednesday and repairs can only begin once investigators are finished.

How we must respond to Brussels


I was at European Union headquarters in Brussels last month, before moving on to Paris to discuss anti-Semitic hate crimes, terrorism and thwarting ISIS’ brilliant leveraging of social media.

At the end of our EU meetings, my Simon Wiesenthal Center colleague Dr. Shimon Samuels and I rushed to Brussels’ Central Train Station. “Better get there early,” Shimon advised, “after the Paris attacks and the Brussels connection to the terrorists, there are strict new security measures in place.” When we arrived I found no special security in place, just a few bored soldiers smoking cigarettes and one rail worker who asked for an ID to match up to my e-ticket.

The next day, a senior French Interior Ministry official responded with a diplomatic shrug when I asked “what good were the new strict security measures taken on all outbound rail traffic from Paris when there seemed to be nothing serious in place in Brussels, a mere hour away by train?”

Experts are investigating whether today’s highly sophisticated and coordinated attacks in Brussels are linked to the capture this week of Salah Abdeslam, sole survivor of the 10 men behind the French terror mass murders, or if they were set in motion long ago by another ISIS cell. There are now an estimated 5,000 European-born Islamist terrorists, trained in Syria or Iraq or Libya, who have melted back into cities across Europe.

The tactics displayed are deeply troubling to say the least. ISIS has apparently been able to use its control of the vast territories and vast sums of money it has amassed to upgrade the education of bombers and suicide vest makers and to deploy these weapons across Europe.

What must European leaders do?

First, get rid of the open-borders Shengen Agreement, which allows unencumbered travel between 26 European countries. It has been in place for 20 years, but it clearly allows terrorists to move around undetected. Second, all Western countries must vet all migrants from the Middle East. The decency of European countries has been abused by terrorists, some of whom have entered their nations comingled with legitimate refugees.

France, Germany, Belgium and other democracies also must take control of all urban neighborhoods. No-go zones in Arab and Muslim areas are incubators of Islamist extremism and, as in the case of Brussels, safe haven for terrorists.

Failure on the part of European democracies to fully implement these measures will not only ensure escalating terrorist outrages but will push even more European voters to join the ranks of xenophobic far-right parties.

It is clear that Europe is in for a long and, God forbid, bloody struggle.

The unending terrorist carnage should also force the hi-tech and social media giants, from Apple to Google and YouTube, to develop and deploy technological trip wires to thwart ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Al Shabab’s unfettered access to Internet technologies. If they don’t, many officials across Europe have told me they will use their legal and economic clout to force them to do so.

But even if Europeans undertake all of these steps, they cannot win the day without a global commitment to crush ISIS, kill their leaders, and take back all the territory they currently control.

That war can only be led by one country—the United States of America.

The easy thing to do is to focus our attention on the five remaining presidential candidates and to hear from them what steps they would take to eradicate the enemy, starting in January 2017.

But world events won’t wait for a new leader. Right now, the evildoers are winning.

Here is what President Barack Obama said today while in Havana:

“…and we stand in solidarity with them in condemning these outrageous attacks against innocent people.

“This is yet another reminder that the world must unite,” Obama said. “We must be together regardless of nationality or race or faith in fighting against the scourge of terrorism.”

Sorry President Obama, such words are meaningless unless we commit to stop “degrading” ISIS over time, and undertake to destroy them. There is a coalition of the willing waiting to be activated. It will mean putting American, European, Turkish and Arab boots on the ground. All that is needed is leadership from our president.

In sports, we are taught that the best defense is an offense. The same should apply to defeating terrorism.  So after watching the ballgame in Havana, I urge the president to travel to Brussels, lay a wreath in memory of the latest victims, then step up to the EU podium and declare war against ISIS incorporated.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Salah Abdeslam told police he planned to blow himself up


Salah Abdeslam, the prime surviving suspect for November's Paris attacks, told Belgian investigators on Saturday that he had planned to blow himself up on Nov. 13 at the Stade de France but changed his mind, the Paris prosecutor said.

“Salah Abdesalam today during questioning by investigators affirmed that, and I quote, 'he wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France and that he had backed down',” Francois Molins told reporters, adding that Abdeslam's initial statements should be treated with caution.

The prosecutor said that at worst it could take three months for Abdeslam to be handed over to France after the 26-year old said he would oppose extradition to his homeland.

Molins said Abdesalam had played a “central role” in the planning and logistics of the gun and bomb attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

He cited several trips across Europe in July, September, October and November that included transporting others linked to the attacks. Molins also said Abdeslam had bought detonators and oxygenated water used for the fabrication of explosives.

“His first statements, that we must take with precaution, leave unanswered a series of questions on which Abdeslam will have to explain, in particular, his presence in the 18th district of Paris on Nov. 13 at 22h (10 p.m.),” Molins said.

“He will also have to explain the reasons why he decided to finally abandon his suicide belt.”

Islamic State, which says it carried out the attacks, had in a claim of responsibility described each of the locations struck, including the 18th district of the French capital, where no attack actually took place.

Fugitive from Paris attacks arrested in Brussels shootout


The most-wanted fugitive from November's Paris attacks was arrested after a shootout with police in Brussels on Friday, the Belgian federal prosecutor's office said.

Local media reported that Salah Abdeslam, the 26-year-old French suspect, was wounded in the operation as EU leaders met on the other side of the city to discuss Europe's migration crisis.

Television footage showed armed security forces dragging a man with a sack on his head out of a building and into a car.

“We got him,” Belgium's Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, Theo Francken, said on Twitter.

Several bursts of gunfire rang out earlier in the capital's Molenbeek area – the scene of past investigations into the Paris attacks – and police officers were seen surrounding an apartment block there from around 4 p.m. (1500 GMT).

French President Francois Hollande and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel left the EU summit to discuss the operation, officials said.

Two explosions were heard after the arrest, though it was unclear whether they were part of a new operation or the clear-up.

Media reported two people had been arrested, a third suspect may have been involved and Abdeslam had been shot in the leg, though there were conflicting accounts.

FINGERPRINTS

Belgian police had found fingerprints belonging to Abdeslam at the scene of an apartment raided on Tuesday, prosecutors said earlier.

The Belgian federal prosecutor's office also said an Algerian killed during that earlier operation was probably one of the people French and Belgian investigators were seeking in relation to the Islamic State attacks in Paris on Nov. 13.

Public broadcaster RTBF said it had information that Abdeslam, whose elder brother blew himself up in Paris, was “more than likely” one of two men who police have said evaded capture at the scene before a sniper shot dead 35-year-old Belkaid as he aimed a Kalashnikov.

A man named Samir Bouzid has been sought since December when police issued CCTV pictures of him wiring cash from Brussels two days after the Paris attacks to a woman who was then killed in a shootout with police in the Paris suburb of St. Denis.

She was a cousin of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian who had fought in Syria and is suspected of being a prime organizer of the attacks in which 130 people were killed. Both died in the apartment in St. Denis on Nov. 18.

France's BFM television said the fingerprints were found on a glass in the apartment, where four police officers, including a Frenchwoman, were wounded when a hail of automatic gunfire hit them through the front door as they arrived for what officials said they had expected to be a relatively routine search.

Abdeslam's elder brother was among the suicide bombers who killed themselves in Paris. The younger Abdeslam was driven back to Brussels from Paris hours later.

Belgian authorities are holding 10 people suspected of involvement with him, but there had been no report of the fugitive himself being sighted. There has long been speculation in Belgium that he could have fled to Syria.

Investigators believe much of the planning and preparation for the November bombing and shooting rampage in Paris was conducted in Brussels by young French and Belgian nationals, some of whom fought in Syria for Islamic State.

The attack strained relations between Brussels and Paris, with French officials suggesting Belgium was lax in monitoring the activities of hundreds of militants returned from Syria.

Brussels, headquarters of the European Union as well as Western military alliance NATO, was entirely locked down for days after the Paris attacks for fear of a major incident there. Brussels has maintained a high state of security alert since then, with military patrols a regular sight.

Boy, 13, attacked in Paris on the way to synagogue


A Jewish 13-year-old boy in Paris was attacked while walking to synagogue and called a “dirty Jew,” according to a Jewish hate crimes monitor.

Three youths described as “of African origin” attacked the kippah-wearing teen in the city’s 12th district on Saturday afternoon, the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, said in a report issued Monday.

The assailants called the teen a “dirty Jew” and punched him. The teen also reported that one of the attackers took off his kippah while a second grabbed him by the hair and slammed his head against a pole.The attackers fled when other people appeared on the street, according to BNVCA. The boy made it to the synagogue and later reported the attack to police.

“Those who wish to observe this religious requirement (of wearing a kippah) should not give in to intimidation or threats and should be able to keep their head covered freely,” BNVCA said in its statement. “On the contrary, it is those who spread anti-Jewish hatred and discrimination who should be disturbed, condemned and neutralized.”

BNVCA called on police to “make every effort to identify and question” the attackers.

Florida man pleads guilty over threats to bomb two mosques


A Florida man pleaded guilty on Friday to a federal hate crime for threatening to bomb two mosques and shoot their congregants shortly after November's deadly attacks in Paris.

Martin Alan Schnitzler, 43, of Seminole, pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing persons in the free exercise of religious beliefs, U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley of the Middle District of Florida said.

Schnitzler entered his plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Julie Sneed in Tampa.

The defendant faces up to 20 years in prison, but is likely to get much less under recommended federal guidelines. He remains free pending sentencing, which has not been scheduled.

Schnitzler admitted to having left profanity-laced voice messages with the Islamic Society of St. Petersburg and the Islamic Society of Pinellas County on Nov. 13, 2015, and in which he threatened congregants.

Both messages referred to the Paris attacks, which had occurred the same day and killed 130 people. Schnitzler admitted that his threats were prompted by the attacks.

In one message, he threatened to “personally have a militia” show up at one of mosques, and “firebomb you, shoot whoever is there on sight in the head.”

Bryant Camareno, a lawyer for Schnitzler, in a phone interview said his client expressed remorse at his plea hearing, and was “upset at the emotional harm” he caused congregants.

He also said Schnitzler was not a credible threat, having taken no steps to carry out the harms he threatened.

Schnitzler entered his plea one day after a Connecticut man, Ted Hakey Jr, pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime for shooting at an empty mosque next door to his Meriden home, one day after the Paris attacks. No one was injured.

French Jews slam Iranian president’s visit on Holocaust remembrance day


French Jews protested the arrival of Iran’s president in Paris, saying it was particularly unacceptable because the visit fell on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Hassan Rouhani, who postponed a November visit to France because of the terrorist attacks that killed 130 in Paris that month, landed in the French capital on Wednesday.

“The world marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day while France welcomes the Iranian president,” CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, wrote on Twitter. “We say ‘no’ to Rouhani.”

Rouhani’s five-day visit to Italy and France, which will end Friday, is the first by an Iranian president in nearly two decades, as Tehran seeks to rebuild economic ties and secure new trade deals following the lifting of international sanctions over its nuclear program.

Speaking Tuesday at the French National Assembly, the lower house, lawmaker Meyer Habib, a former CRIF vice president, cited Iran’s track record of promoting Holocaust denial, threatening to destroy Israel and its human rights violations as incompatible with French values and those being commemorated on Jan. 27.

Both CRIF and Habib opposed hosting Rouhani in Paris regardless of the date.

Marceline Loridan-Ivens, a Holocaust survivor, and Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, the Europe director of the American Jewish Committee, also lamented the timing of the visit, calling it “laughable” in an Op-Ed they coauthored that was published Tuesday by Atlantico.fr, a centrist news and analysis site. They proposed that French President Francois Hollande invite Rouhani to visit a local Holocaust commemoration site with him.

In poor Paris suburb, crime and extremism spur internal Jewish exodus


At this Paris suburb’s only Jewish facility, Rabbi Prosper Abenaim serves sweet tea to his synagogue’s most frequent and reliable guests: machine gun-toting troops of the French Legion.

Six soldiers, posted here to defend Jews in this heavily Muslim and crime-stricken municipality bordering the capital, are the first new faces in years in this dwindling community, which has lost thousands of congregants over the past two decades to Israel and safer areas of Paris. On some mornings, the troops outnumber worshippers.

That wasn’t the case when Abenaim first arrived at La Courneuve’s Ahavat Chalom synagogue in 1992. There were over 4,000 Jews in the neighborhood then and it was a struggle to fit them all into the synagogue on Yom Kippur.

“The shul overflowed onto the street,” Abenaim recalled.

Since then, improved economic fortunes and repeated anti-Semitic attacks have driven out all but 100 Jewish families from the neighborhood, where drug dealers operate openly on streets that residents say police are too afraid to patrol. The remaining Jews are mostly a graying bunch, stuck here for financial reasons.

“We have two big problems, extremism and criminality, and they often mix,” said Abenaim, who lives in Paris’ affluent and heavily Jewish 17th arrondisement and has encouraged his congregants to leave for Israel. “I understand why people don’t want to raise children here. I’m here myself only because of my duties. Otherwise, I’d be in Israel.”

La Courneuve’s reputation for criminality is well established and reflected in the security measures at Ahavat Chalom, which resembles a fortress with its heavy metal doors, multitude of security cameras and three armed soldiers in military camouflage at the entrance. For years, the city has ranked among the most violent in France, with 19 assaults per 1,000 residents recorded in 2013.

On street corners near the city center, gangs of young men openly exchange drugs for cash. By noon, prostitutes are soliciting clients on Pasteur Boulevard, a main traffic artery.

Near the synagogue, a group of men wearing colorful sports clothes stand around smoking cigarettes and marijuana on a Monday morning. One of them, a native of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin who identified himself only as Degree, said he felt safe “to do whatever here” because “police won’t come here, they’re too scared. If they come, we just kill them.”

Religious extremism is more difficult to measure, but its effects are nonetheless evident. Last month, La Courneuve became the final resting place of Samy Amimour, one of the suicide bombers who killed 130 people in multiple coordinated attacks in Paris in November and whose family lives nearby.

Security around the synagogue was beefed up following those attacks, but the soldiers were already in place. Their presence is part of Operation Sentinel, launched in response to the January 2015 murder of four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris. Ahavat Chalom, which in 2002 survived a fire sparked by four firebombs, is considered especially at risk.

Over the past 15 years, such attacks have spurred many Jews to leave poor Parisian suburbs like La Courneuve in favor of safer neighborhoods, according to Bernard Edinger, a Paris-based former senior correspondent for Reuters.

“Tens of thousands changed neighborhoods, pushed by the hostility of their Arab neighbors or drawn elsewhere through social mobility,” Edinger wrote last month in The Jerusalem Post.

Aubervilliers, a municipality adjacent to La Courneuve, once had three synagogues and many kosher shops. Today there is one synagogue and kosher food is available on one shelf at a regular supermarket, according to the Tribune Juive weekly.

Sammy Ghozlan, founder of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, a nongovernmental watchdog group, said that while immigration from France to Israel has reached record levels, it only accounts for about 15,000 people over the past decade. Many more French Jews have been internally displaced, Ghozlan said, moving farther from Paris or into the city’s wealthier neighborhoods.

Abenaim said he has seen this happening before his eyes. Congregants from La Courneuve have left the area and settled near Abenaim’s home in the 17th arrondissement, which had no synagogues 30 years ago and now boasts no fewer than eight.

Meanwhile, La Courneuve has seen a proliferation of Islamic schools and apartment-size mosques located deep in the maze of drab public housing projects. One of the mosques was a synagogue in the 1960s, when the first Jews arrived here as refugees fleeing the war in Algeria. The 1962 arrival of 4,000 French Jews gave the name to one of La Courneuve’s main projects, now known as the City of 4,000.

Alain Felous, a French Jewish photographer, moved to La Courneuve in 1996 for the low rent and proximity to his workplace and children, who live with their mother in Paris. To protect himself, he has adopted a tough attitude and taken to wearing bulky coats in all weather to signal that he might be armed.

“Of course I’d rather live in the 17th, or someplace nicer,” Felous said. “I’m not here to make a point. Living here as a Jew isn’t for everyone.”

On a trip to the supermarket, Felous paid for the apples of a fellow shopper, an elderly Arab woman with whom he cracked a few jokes. But he was also on guard, kicking the shopping cart of a fellow shopper who had cut him in line while delivering a juicy curse.

“You have to respond immediately here,” Felous said, “or they will eat you alive.”

French Jewish politician found dead with stab wounds in his home


The body of a French Jewish politician from a Paris suburb was found riddled with stab wounds in his apartment.

Alain Ghozland, 73, a municipal counsilor in Creteil, is believed to have been murdered, but police have no leads in the investigation into his death, the L’Express newspaper reported Tuesday.

Ghozland’s  body was found Tuesday morning after his brother called police because Alain Ghozland failed to show up at their synagogue, as he usually does each morning, the news channel RTL reported. Ghozland’s apartment was ransacked, possibly by the intruders, and his body showed deep lacerations that appeared to have been caused by a knife. Judicial sources said an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.

Creteil, about seven miles from the heart of Paris, was the site of a rape and robbery committed in December 2014 against a Jewish couple by robbers who said they were targeted because they were Jews.

Student cartoon contest commemorates Charlie Hebdo


Last May, the Jerusalem Press Club (JPC) held an international conference on freedom of the press. Some 50 journalists and activists came here from all around the world to discuss the threats against journalists and the assaults on media freedom. The testimonials of participants from Africa and Asia were particularly moving.

One of the highlights of the conference was a session titled “Discussing Charlie Hebdo” (you can watch it on YouTube), at which Eva Illouz, a world-renowned sociologist and professor, conversed with Solene Chalvon, a member of the editorial board of Charlie Hebdo, about the special role played by the viciously biting cartoon in French political and cultural tradition.

At one point, Chalvon, who had proudly defended her magazine’s harsh line, stood up, and holding one of the recent issues, praised a certain cartoon that showed a happy Frenchman smoking a cigar, while in Africa, an armed Boko Haram thug tells a young, pregnant girl: “Now go to France and collect your social security benefits.”

Chalvon, however, was in for a surprise. And so was I. The audience — consisting of journalists and press freedom fighters, mind you — vocally disagreed with her over the value of this image. But it mocks the apathy of the French middle class to the grievances of the Africans, Chalvon argued. No, she was told by the audience, it offends Africans, women, and poor and miserable people. 

Listening to that heated debate about the limits of free speech, I wondered whether there was a compromise: a way of drawing a cartoon that could criticize effectively without hurting too much the feelings of people who looked at it. Furthermore, whether there is something that Israel — a country of so many religious, ethnic, social and national feuds, contrasts and sensitivities — can contribute to this discourse? And how about Israeli youth — maybe with their fresh outlook, they might come up with new ideas that previous generations failed to produce?

What emerged was a competition among Israeli high school students titled “Cartoon, Criticism, Care,” commissioned in cooperation with the Israel Museum of Cartoon and Comics and with the blessing of the commissioner of civic studies at the Israeli Ministry of Education. Thirty of the best cartoons selected by the jury are displayed in an exhibition that opens this week at the gallery of Mishkenot Sha’ananim conference center in Jerusalem, commemorating the first anniversary of the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo and the ensuing manhunt, which took place last Jan. 7-9.

To say the works that resulted from the competition were a surprise would be an understatement. One member of the jury, Michel Kichka, a world-renowned cartoonist, had expressed doubts, wondering whether high school students would be able to provide deep insights on the subject, let alone express them artistically. Summing up his impressions of the students’ cartoon submissions, he said, “This will make a very respectable exhibition.”

Naturally, many of the cartoons dealt with what bothers high school students immediately: The pressure of too many class assignments, the feeling that school dries up their creativity (one cute cartoon depicts a girl entering school from one side and coming out as a robot on the other side). Another laments the conformity and lack of individuality among young people, and one the quest of girls to be thin like models.

Overall, however, what struck the jury was the seriousness with which the students tackled issues and the artistic expression they used to portray them. Israel’s lack of separation between religion and state was a popular theme, as well as pollution, intolerance of the Other and, of course, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

People often ask me how I can remain optimistic when everything in Israel looks so bleak. This time, I don’t have to come up with some elaborate explanation. Just come to the exhibition, or watch it online (jerusalempressclub.com), and you’ll know the answer yourselves.

Here are the three winning cartoons, with the narratives their creators attached to them.

First Prize
The Rabbinate
Amit Katz, 17, Hadera

Second Prize
Fun at the Beach 2116
Iosefa Jacobovici, 16, Ra’anana

Third Prize
Haaretz Hayom
Hava Herman, 15, Jerusalem

Paris attacker shouting ‘God is great’ in Arabic shot and killed


One year after a wave of attacks by Islamists killed 17 in Paris, including four at a kosher supermarket, police in the French capital shot and killed a knife-wielding man shouting “God is great” in Arabic.

Police opened fire on the man, who tried to enter a northern Paris police station on Thursday, because of his shouted declaration and he had wires protruding from his body, police officials told Reuters. The assailant was wearing what was discovered to be a fake suicide bomb belt and carrying an emblem of the Islamic State group, according to reports.

The thwarted attack came on the one-year anniversary of the terrorist shootings at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, which killed 12. The siege of the Hyper Cacher market came two days later.

Shortly before the thwarted attack, French President Francois Hollande finished speaking at a memorial event at police headquarters in central Paris honoring officers killed in the January 2015 attacks, as well as those last November on several sites around Paris for which the Islamic State took credit. Some 130 people were killed in the coordinated November attacks.

The Islamic State said the 18th district, where the police station is located, had been on its hit list for the Nov. 13, 2015 attacks.

“Terrorism has not stopped posing a threat to our country,” Hollande said in his speech.

Charlie Hebdo editor: We are used to Jews being killed


No one questions when Jews are killed because they are Jewish, the editor of Charlie Hebdo wrote in a special edition of the French satirical magazine marking the first anniversary of a terror attack on its staff.

“We are so used to Jews being killed because they are Jewish,” Gerard Biard wrote in an editorial in the latest edition of the magazine, which is set to hit the newsstands Wednesday, The Associated Press reported Monday. “This is an error, and not just on a human level. Because it’s the executioner who decides who is Jewish. Nov. 13 was the proof of that. On that day, the executioner showed us that he had decided we were all Jewish.”

Some 130 people were killed in coordinated attacks throughout Paris on Nov. 13, 2015.

In the Jan. 7 attack on Charlie Hebdo, 11 artists, writers and editors and a police officer were killed. Two days later, four Jewish patrons of a kosher supermarket in Paris were held hostage and killed by an Islamist.

The cover of the special edition features a caricature of a bloody God wielding an assault rifle.

Paris synagogue goers mildly poisoned by irritant smeared on lock


Fourteen people were mildly poisoned by a toxic substance that was applied to the keypad of an electronic lock of a synagogue south of Paris.

Members of the Jewish community of Bonneuil-sur-Marne on Monday called rescue services to report a sudden strong burning sensation in their eyes and itchy rashes on their skin, Le Parisien reported.

Some 25 firemen rushed to the synagogue, which is under police and military protection whenever it is open. They treated congregants who were poisoned and traced its source to the lock. Described as a non-lethal irritant, the substance found on the pad was sent for analysis at a police forensic lab.

The substance was applied to the pad when the synagogue was closed and the military personnel guarding it were not present, according to the daily. Two of the victims filed a police complaint against unidentified individuals believed to have been responsible. Police believe the substance was deliberately placed there to cause harm.

Separately, on Dec. 7, a passenger on a train from Paris to the southeastern suburb of Melun threatened and insulted a group of French Jews.

The man, who said he was a former soldier, said loudly: “If only I had a grenade here, how do you call it, a fragmentation grenade, I would blow up this wagon with the f***ing Jewish bastards.”

He proceeded for several minutes to harass the group of eight Jews, who were wearing yarmulkes, according to a report Tuesday by the news website JSSnews. It also said he identified himself to passengers as an Algerian. In the video, the man is seen turning to a female passenger, asking her: “What’s the matter, ma’am, do you find this shocking? I don’t. Not when they’re massacring Palestinian babies.”

Addressing the woman, he said: “Call whoever you want, call your mother, call the army.”

Turning to the Jewish passengers, he yelled: “Bunch of bastards, we’ll get you and we’ll screw you.”

Worried by terrorist attacks, some L.A. shuls hike security


Shortly after the November terrorist attacks in Paris, the board of trustees at Sinai Temple held an emergency meeting during which the members voted to double the number of armed guards posted at the prominent Westside synagogue. Sinai’s extra guards were in place by the next morning. 

One day later, the perceived threat moved even closer to home when a heavily armed couple walked into a government building in San Bernardino and murdered 14 people. 

The high-profile nature of both the Paris and San Bernardino attacks — the latter striking on the outskirts of Los Angeles — have placed Jewish communities in the Southland on even higher alert, and, as a result, some Jewish organizations have chosen to ramp up security measures.

For Jews and Jewish institutions, when terrorists and extremists strike, the fear is deeply personal: Attackers in Toulouse, France, targeted a Jewish school in 2012, and a Paris kosher market came under assault this past January. A 1999 shooting at a Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills still acts as a grim reminder today.

In addition to increasing the number of its armed guards, Sinai Temple is installing a “custom-made safety-buffer zone” with bullet-proof glass to restrict access to the building in case of an active shooter situation, according to Howard Lesner, Sinai’s executive director. The temple is requiring each of its families to pay an extra $200 for the security upgrades, to which the response has been overwhelmingly supportive, Lesner said.

“We know we did the right thing,” he said. “We’re sad that we had to do it.”

He sees the increased need for security as an unfortunate “new normal.”

Indeed, Americans are more fearful of a terrorist strike now than at any time since the Sept. 11 attacks, a New York Times/CBS poll reported on Dec. 11. Lesner said the 9/11 attacks first prompted Sinai to implement existing security measures, including limiting pedestrian access to one entrance.

Sinai Temple’s senior rabbi, David Wolpe, said the congregation undertook the recent adjustments as a preventive measure and not in response to any specific threats to the synagogue.

“I feel fundamentally safe, and I think American Jews are fundamentally safe,” Wolpe told the Journal. “But there is no perfect safety.”

Wolpe said not much can be done to offset any disconcerting effect the visibly increased security might have on some people, but he believes it’s “going to reassure people more than its going to upset them.”

Many synagogue leaders at Los Angeles institutions contacted by the Journal were hesitant to share details of their security mechanisms, for fear those details could be exploited. But each described an increase in concern and attention to security in light of the terrorist acts so close to home. 

“In these days of heightened tension, we have stepped up our security personnel to some degree,” Bart Pachino, executive director of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, wrote in an email. “We have also intensified our procedures for checking identification and bags, but cannot be more specific about other measures for precautionary reasons,” he wrote.

“To date, the response of our members has been uniformly positive without a single complaint registered about the increased measures we have taken,” Pachino added.

The San Bernardino killings have dominated the news cycle since Dec. 3, with continual updates about the couple and their motives from the FBI. 

The San Bernardino shootings came just five days after a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“Local incidents notwithstanding, we’re constantly re-evaluating our security needs and concerns,” said Michael Cantor, executive director of Temple Isaiah, a Reform congregation on the Westside. “When things strike close to home, it brings an urgency to those considerations.”

Many people appear to be more frightened than ever now, because they’re aware of the seemingly random nature of these terrorist attacks.

“Nothing changed, it’s not like there was some major shift,” Jess Dolgin, president of the Modern Orthodox Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, said, adding that the statistical likelihood of such an event in the Los Angeles area is no greater because of recent high-profile attacks. 

Instead, synagogue leaders feel a need for a new and more urgent tenor to a longstanding conversation about keeping members safe.

“We have a committee that is dedicated to constantly monitoring — literally on a daily basis — the security measures that the shul employs,” Dolgin said.

Today’s concerns were identified at the prominent Olympic Boulevard synagogue long ago, Dolgin said. In particular, two years ago, Beth Jacob identified “evident lapses, with the understanding that the danger is clear and present.”

“We started to make radical changes and beef up security, and educate and raise awareness in our congregants about the importance of security measures and alertness,” he said.

The conversation has also been ongoing just east of Beth Jacob, at the Conservative Temple Beth Am, which houses one of the area’s largest Jewish elementary schools.

“There have been near-constant and meaningful upgrades to how we process new faces, how we make the campus secure,” Rabbi Adam Kligfeld, Beth Am’s senior rabbi who took over nearly seven years ago, said.

Recent high-profile attacks have forced Beth Am leadership to weigh the benefits of upgrading security while also attempting to maintain a welcoming environment and growing the congregation. Having those two conversations at once, he said, is “mind-boggling.”

“Some people in the Jewish world will only feel safe if they walk into a building where there are not only armed guards, but visibly armed guards, Kligfeld said. “There are many people who would never feel comfortable walking into a synagogue on Shabbat past a gun. It’s anathema to them.”

Nonetheless, Kligfeld is realistic about Beth Am’s risk factors, including its location on La Cienega Boulevard, a busy commercial thoroughfare.

Sometimes the methods of keeping a synagogue safe can result in unexpected events.

In his first year at the synagogue, Kligfeld said, he was chatting with a friend in his office when the friend pointed out a nondescript white button under the rabbi’s desk.

“He said, ‘Push it, see what happens,’” Kligfeld said. 

And so, the rabbi pushed.

“Three minutes later, there were [Los Angeles Police Department] officers at my door,” he said. “They had not passed go or collected $200, they had come straight past security at the time. That’s the ‘something very, very, very bad is happening to the rabbi’ button.”

Two arrested in connection with attack on Paris kosher supermarket


An “acknowledged mercenary” and his partner have been arrested in connection with the deadly attack in January on a kosher supermarket in Paris that left four people dead.

The man and woman arrested Tuesday are accused of helping to provide guns to Amedy Coulibaly in his siege of the Hyper Cacher on a busy Friday nearly a year ago. Coulibaly, a radical Islamist, murdered four Jewish hostages before he was killed when police stormed the market.

The Paris prosecutor’s office identified the man as Claude Hermant; The Associated Press called him an “acknowledged mercenary.” The woman was identified as his partner.

Jews against Trump


In ways direct and subtle, the Jews of America and the Jews of France, the Jews of the left and the Jews of the right, the Jews of the Reform movement and the Jews of the Orthodox movement, have sent Donald J. Trump a message: Feh.

“Feh” is a Yiddish expression of disgust.  And the fact that Trump could provoke such a uniform reaction from such a fractious people is a credit to the dumbness and darkness of his ideas.

His increasingly xenophobic and racist rhetoric reached a low point this week when he declared that under a Trump administration, America would close its borders to Muslims.   

“We need a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States while we figure out what the hell is going on,” Trump said to cheers of approval from his supporters.

If Trump thought Jews, so often the targets of Islamic terrorism, would join the cheers, he really doesn’t get Jews.   The reaction from Jewish organizations and leaders was immediate and uniformly negative. 

Trump’s plan was “unacceptable and antithetical to American values,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in a written statement.

“The U.S. was founded as a place of refuge for those fleeing religious persecution, and religious pluralism is core to our national identity,” Greenblatt continued. “A plan that singles out Muslims and denies them entry to the U.S. based on their religion is deeply offensive and runs contrary to our nation’s deepest values.”

Greenblatt’s words echoed similar statements from across the Jewish political, religious and ideological spectrum.  Last month, even the Orthodox Union joined in opposing Trump’s call to keep Syrian refugees out of America.

Trump must be scratching his – insert your own hair joke here. Jews are a particular target of Islamic terror.  The coward who shot up the disabilities center in San Bernardino was “obsessed” with Israel, his father told reporters. 

According to the FBI’s most recent statistics, Jews still are the prime target for hate crimes in America—59 percent are directed at Jews.  Second place, but rising faster, are Muslims.

But Jews understand that the democratic safeguards built into America’s Constitution, including the separation of church and state, form our strongest safeguard against hate and discrimination.  When those crumble, we all fall down. 

Beyond the danger posed by the threat to civil liberties and religious freedom, there is the practical issue.  In Trump’s mind, the best way to stop Islamic terror is to target all Muslims.  But that just encourages Muslim radicalism, creates the “holy war” between Muslims  and non-Muslims that the extremists pray for, and pushes moderate believers to the extremes.   

Liberal claptrap?  Ask the French Jews and the Israelis. 

When Trump’s recent foulness exploded across the Web, I was having coffee with an Israeli official.  Israelis, he told me, are simply bemused by Trump’s antics.   If Muslims in and of themselves are the problem, how to account for the success of Israel, a democratic Jewish state with a 20-percent mostly Muslim Arab minority ?  

Israel faces threats from Islamic extremism that, to use a Trumpism, would make your head spin, but Israeli leaders from David Ben Gurion to Benjamin Netanyahu have known that the best way to increase radicalization is to persecute the majority of law-abiding Muslim citizens, or to insult the Muslim religion itself.

French Jews have seen their own and their fellow countrymen slaughtered on the streets of Paris and Toulouse at the hands of Muslim terrorists – but they know the moral and practical dangers of a discriminatory France are a far greater threat.

This week, the Jews of France issued a stinging rebuke to their homegrown anti-democratic forces, and, by extension, to Trump.

On the eve of the upcoming regional elections in France, the Alsace chapter of CRIF, the umbrella Jewish organization, came out strongly against the Muslim-baiting National Front, led by Marine Le Pen.

“The Alsace chapter, strongly attached to the values of the Republic,” the statement read, “calls upon all voters to participate at the upcoming elections – since so much is at stake. We are calling to reject the extremist parties that advocate hatred and try to prosper at the expense of the divide within the society created by fear.”

CRIF president Roger Cukierman called on the Jewish community to vote “in order to block the National Front, a party of xenophobia and populism.”

It was heartening this week to see Republican presidential candidates and Party leaders all denounce Trump’s ideas.  And it was especially thrilling to hear the silence and jeers that met Trump at the recent meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

If Jews in America, France and Israel can all agree on the danger to their countries and their liberty in the kind of ideas Donald Trump espouses, then there’s not a lot more to be said about Trump or his candidacy.

Except, feh.


Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

In Paris, public Chanukah ceremonies held despite security concerns


Some 6,000 people gathered in Paris under heavy security for the public lighting of a Chanukah menorah at the base of the Eiffel Tower, despite security concerns in the wake of last month’s terrorist attacks.

French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia lit the first candle of a 30-foot menorah on Sunday night, the first night of Chanukah, in the Eiffel tower  ceremony attended by French Jewish leaders and government representative and sponsored by Chabad-Lubavitch.

“This year, Chanukah delivers a particularly relevant message,” Rabbi Chaim Schneur Nisenbaum of the Complexe Scolaire Beth Haya Moushka school system in Paris said. “In Paris, we very recently faced terrible attacks … intended to put an end to freedom of mind and opinions. In the historical times of Chanukah, the invaders of the land of Israel, the Greeks, had the same intention. But the Jews did not submit.”

The Eiffel Tower event is one of more than 30 public menorah-lighting celebrations scheduled to take place across the city and in nearly 100 towns nearby. The public gatherings, which had to be approved in advance, are being held under heavy security, according to Chabad.org.

Rumors circulated last week that public menorah lightings would be canceled in light of the state of emergency in Paris initiated after the Nov. 13 coordinated attacks that left at least 130 dead.

Two of the menorah lighting venues of previous years, Republic Square and Bastille Square, both located near the Bataclan theater – the site of one of last month’s attacks – were not approved, Nisenbaum told Chabad.org.

Public Chanukah celebrations in the French city of Marseille will be held indoors this year at the request of public security officials, according to Chabad.org. Marseille has been the location of several violent attacks against Jews in recent months and has a history of attacks on Jews.

Taking of hostages in northern France not linked to Paris attacks


Armed men who took hostages on Tuesday in the northern French town of Roubaix appeared to have no link to the Nov. 13 attacks by Islamist militants in Paris but were probably planning a robbery, police sources said on Tuesday.

“This is apparently not a terrorist attack, it's apparently a robbery,” one police source said.

France remains on high alert after the Nov. 13 attacks in and around Paris in which 130 people were killed.

Dermer blasts world’s confusion on Islamic terror, treatment of Israel


The lineup of speakers at the Zionist Organization of America’s annual Louis D. Brandeis Awards dinner at the Grand Hyatt in NY Sunday evening, turned out to serve as the perfect venue for venting about Israel’s standing in the world and the offering of suggestions about the U.S. conducting the war on terror in the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Paris and in Mali.

The highlight of the dinner was when Sheldon and Miriam Adelson (“The two greatest Zionists in the World,” according to ZOA President Morton Klein) presented the “Adelson Defender of Israel Award” to Hollywood actor Jon Voight.

“Voight is the leading Zionist in the entire Hollywood genre, a giant among righteous gentiles and an extraordinary defender of Israel,” Sheldon said before presenting him the award, which he said “looks like a marriage certificate.”

Israel’s new Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon addressed the crowd at the beginning of the event, describing his job as a defender of Israel’s policies as much harder than the work of Israel’s Ambassador Ron Dermer in Washington, DC. “I have to tell you, I have been here only six weeks, but it feels like six years,” he told the crowd that included top donors, politicians, and operatives, as well as hundreds of students, gathered in the ballroom. The UN Representative blasted the world body for referring to the wave of terrorism in Israel as a cycle of violence. “Let me be clear: there is no ‘cycle of violence.’ There’s only one side that is instigating violence and attacking Israelis for no reason other than the fact that they are Jews living in their historic homeland,” he stated.

Danon, who previously served as a minister in the Israeli government and as head of the World Likud, also made a point to declare, “We will not allow an international presence on Har Habayit – The Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is the heart of Jerusalem – our eternal and united capital.”

Ambassador Ron Dermer, who received the Dr. Bob Shillman Award for Outstanding Pro-Israel Diplomacy, delivered the keynote address. At the start of his speech, the Israeli Ambassador turned to Klein – an outspoken critic of the Obama administration – and quipped, “I have one request: every once and a while you need to get off the fence and tell the people what you really think – enough of this wishy-washiness back and forth.”

In his 30-minute speech, Dermer decried the world’s double standard when it comes to condemning terrorism directed at Israelis and its confusion in confronting ISIS and Islamic terrorism.

“Now that you’ve watched some of the 24/7news coverage, here is my question to all of you: by a show of hands, how many of you think the world has finally woken up? How many of you think the international community will now have the clarity to successfully prosecute this war and win it?” he asked the crowd. But no hands went up. “Zero, zero,” he joyously declared. “Well, I share your skepticism. Instead of clarity I see confusion – confusion over the nature of the enemy and confusion over the nature of terrorism.”

“The enemy has a name: it’s called Militant Islam. It’s not militant, it’s not Islam; it’s Militant Islam,” Dermer continued. “[But] it is not only important to define the enemy, it is important to defeat the enemy. And, once again, here I see confusion and [lack of] clarity. The main weapon of militant Islam today is terrorism, and to defeat them we must ensure that this weapon is neutralized. But to neutralize that weapon we must identify it. Terrorism is the deliberate targeting of non-combatants and is not defined by the identity of the perpetrator. Terrorism is an immoral weapon no matter what the circumstances… To counter them we need a moral antidote, we need moral outrage, and we need to deny terrorists any moral legitimacy for their actions… And here is where the world has totally and utterly failed.”

The Israeli Ambassador stressed that the world’s confusion is mostly notable with the “shameful treatment” of Israel. “Imagine what would happen if the international community said that the murderers in Paris and the French army in Syria were part of a ‘cycle of violence’ that had to stop,” he asserted. “Imagine what would happen if the UN Secretary General asked the French president and ISIS to act with restraint and work to restore calm.”

“The test … is not how [the world] responds to the terror attacks in Paris. It’s how it responds to the terror attacks in Jerusalem,” Dermer said. Adding, “When I see the Eiffel Tower lit up with Israeli Blue and White after a terror attack in Israel, then I will now that the world [has woken up and] finally gets it.”

Closing the evening was ZOA President Morton Klein. “We at ZOA will never be the ‘Sha! Shtil!’ (Hush! Quiet!) Jews of silence of the past,” he declared. “ZOA will blow, and blow, and blow its horn for the Jewish people of Israel.”

The event also featured former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who recently suggested that Christians should convert as many Jews possible. Klein called Bachmann the “Esther of our time” in his introductory remarks.

The National Democratic Council criticized the invitation of Bachmann. “What does ZOA have to say about Michelle Bachmann’s message that it’s more urgent than ever to convert as many Jews as possible to Christianity? Is that someone that they’d like to continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with?” the NJDC asked in an emailed statement.

Mort Klein told Jewish Insider that Bachmann apologized to him personally over the remarks, “and it was heartfelt.”

“She is an extraordinary friend of Israel and the Jewish people,” added Klein.

Suspected Paris attacker Abdeslam was in Italy in August


Suspected Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam travelled through Italy in August with a companion, but his presence caused no alarm because he was not a wanted man at the time, an investigative source said on Monday.

His companion was Ahmet Dahmani, a Belgian man of Moroccan origin who was arrested in Turkey last week on suspicion of involvement in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, the source said. 

Separately, prosecutors in the southern Italian city of Bari have opened an investigation into suspected Islamist militants who passed through the port on about five different occasions between February and August on their way to Greece, another investigative source said.

This investigation has no apparent connection to the Paris attacks, the source said. Prosecutors suspect that militants, using false documents, are travelling through Italy en route to Syria.

The cases show the difficulties of policing and collecting intelligence in the 28-member European Union, where each country's security forces work independently and have different priorities.

Abdeslam is a French citizen and could therefore travel freely between countries in the European Union's Schengen area, where there are no border controls.

Since the attacks, some countries have imposed temporary controls and there have been calls for the borderless system to be scrapped.

Abdeslam, whose brother blew himself up in the Paris attacks, has been on the run since the assault that killed 130 and is the focus of a massive manhunt. 

He boarded a ferry in the south-eastern Italian port of Bari on Aug. 1 en route to Patras, Greece, the source said, with another man. Abdeslam returned from Patras to Bari by ferry on Aug. 5. The source gave no further details. 

In an interview with an Italian Web site on Monday, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano confirmed Abdeslam had passed through Italy.

“The point is that they were citizens with European passports and … they were not wanted” by police, Alfano said.

U2 sets December dates for Paris concerts postponed by attacks


Irish rock band U2 set early December dates for concerts in Paris on Monday, after cancelling two earlier performances following the attacks by Islamic State militants that took 130 lives.

U2 said they hoped to reflect the indomitable spirit of the city with their “iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE LIVE IN PARIS” special, which will be filmed live and broadcast by cable TV channel HBO.

The band was originally scheduled to perform in Paris on Nov. 14 and Nov. 15, immediately after the Nov. 13 attacks on bars, restaurants, a soccer stadium and the Bataclan concert hall. 

“So much that was taken from Paris on the tragic night of November 13th is irreplaceable. For one night, the killers took lives, took music, took peace of mind – but they couldn't steal the spirit of that city,” frontman Bono said in a statement.

“It's a spirit our band knows well and will try to serve when we return for the postponed shows on December 6th and 7th. We're going to put on our best for Paris,” he added.

The Dec. 7 concert will be filmed live at the Accorhotels Arena in Bercy and will air on HBO the same day.

France finds explosive belt, detects Paris suspect’s phone


A suspected explosive belt was found dumped near Paris on Monday and the mobile phone of a fugitive believed to have taken part in the attacks on Nov. 13 was detected in two locations in the city, a source close to the investigation said.

France and Belgium have launched a manhunt following the attacks that killed 130 people, with a focus on Brussels barkeeper Salah Abdeslam, 26, who returned to the city fromParis hours after the attacks and is still at large. 

Abdeslam's mobile phone was detected after the attacks in the 18th district in the north ofParis, near an abandoned car that he had rented, and then later in Chatillon in the south, the source said on Monday. 

Detectives were examining what appeared to be an explosive belt found in a litter bin in the town of Montrouge, south of the capital and not far from Chatillon.

The source said it was too soon to say whether the belt had been in contact with Abdeslam, whose elder brother blew himself during the gun and suicide bomb attacks.

One theory was that Abdeslam had intended to blow himself up in the 18th district but had abandoned the plan, although it was not clear why.

“Maybe he had a technical problem with his explosive belt,” a police source said.

Fearing an imminent threat of a Paris-style attack, Belgium extended a maximum security alert in Brussels for a week but said the metro system and schools could re-open on Wednesday.

“We are still confronted with the threat we were facing yesterday,” Prime Minister Charles Michel said. Potential targets remained shopping areas and public transport.

Belgium has been at the heart of investigations into the Paris attacks since French law enforcement bodies said two of the suicide bombers had lived there. Three people have been charged in Belgium with terrorist offences, including two who travelled back with Abdeslam from Brussels.

TERRORIST OFFENCES

As authorities tried to establish Abdeslam's movements and whereabouts, a source said he travelled through Italy in August with a companion, but his presence caused no alarm because he was not a wanted man at the time.

His companion was Ahmet Dahmani, a Belgian man of Moroccan origin who was arrested in Turkey last week on suspicion of involvement in the Paris attacks, the investigative source said.

In Belgium, prosecutors said they had charged a fourth person with terrorist offences linked to the Paris attacks.

They released all 15 others detained in police raids on Sunday. Two of five people detained on Monday were also released while the other three had their custody prolonged.

Soldiers patrolled the streets of Brussels, which has been in lockdown since Saturday.

The metro, museums, most cinemas and many shops were shut on Monday in the usually bustling EU capital where many staff have opted to work from home. There was also no school or university for almost 300,000 students.

On the Grand Place, a historic central square that usually draws crowds of tourists, an armoured military vehicle was parked under an illuminated Christmas tree.

NATO, which raised its alert level after the Paris attacks, said its headquarters in the city were open, but some staff had been asked to work from home. EU institutions were also open with soldiers patrolling outside.

Interior Minister Jan Jambon told RTL radio, however, that the capital was still operating. “Apart from the closed metro and schools, life goes on in Brussels,” he said.

City buses were running normally and many shops in the suburbs were open.

Workers were also setting up stalls for the city centre Christmas market, which is due to open on Friday, and organisers of the Davis Cup tennis final between Belgium and Britain in the city of Ghent, 55 km (35 miles) from the capital, said it would go ahead this weekend. 

AIRCRAFT CARRIER

French jets from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier struck Islamic State targets in Iraq on Monday while Britain offered France the use of an air base in Cyprus to hit the militants behind the Paris attacks. 

French President Francois Hollande met British Prime Minister David Cameron in Paris as part of efforts to rally support for the fight against Islamic State, which claimed the Nov. 13 attacks. Hollande is also due to visit Washington and Moscow this week.

Cameron offered air-to-air refuelling services and said he was convinced Britain should carry out air strikes alongside France and would be recommending that Britain's parliament vote through such measures.

France has intensified its bombings in Syria since the attacks in Paris.

French jets taking off from the country's flagship in the eastern Mediterranean destroyed targets in Ramadi and Mosul in Iraq on Monday in support of Iraqi forces on the ground, the French armed forces said in a statement.

Belgian police mount raids in Brussels and other towns


Belgian armed police mounted raids across the country late on Sunday after the prime minister announced another day of lockdown in the capital for fear a new, Paris-style mass attack may be imminent.

Shortly before midnight, the public broadcaster, announcing several arrests, said the operations had concluded and the mayor of a Brussels borough that is the focus of a manhunt for a key suspect in the Paris attacks said shots had been exchanged.

Prosecutors plan a news conference at 00:30 a.m. (2330 GMT). 

Earlier in the evening, Prime Minister Charles Michel, speaking after a meeting of security chiefs called to review the threat status, said the capital's metro, universities and schools would be closed on Monday.

For the rest of the country, a threat level of three on a four-tier scale would remain in place, Michel said. Brussels would remain at level four, meaning an attack was imminent, as it has been since Saturday.

“What we fear is an attack similar to the one in Paris, with several individuals who could possibly launch several attacks at the same time in multiple locations,” Michel told a news conference.

Armed police mounted searches in several parts of the capital on Sunday evening and cordoned off areas close to the main tourist attraction, the Grand Place around the town hall. Broadcaster RTBF said there were also raids near Liege in the east, Antwerp in the north and Charleroi, south of Brussels.

Helicopters could be heard flying over the capital.

Possible targets were malls, shopping streets and public transport, Michel said, adding the government would boost police and army presence in the capital beyond already high levels.

He said a new evaluation of the situation would be made on Monday afternoon and everything was being done to return the city to normal as quickly as possible.

Commuters trying to get to work on Monday are expected to suffer delays as a result of the metro closure, though some companies had already indicated on Sunday they were ready for staff to work from home.

Belgium has been at the heart of investigations into the Paris attacks on Nov. 13 that left 130 people dead after links with Brussels emerged.

In France, investigators on Sunday extended into a fifth day the detention of a man arrested on Wednesday outside the building where the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks died in a raid. Police also released a picture of a man they said had blown himself up in the attacks and called for witnesses. 

Two of the Paris suicide bombers, Brahim Abdeslam and Bilal Hadfi, had been living in Belgium. Fugitive suspected militant Salah Abdeslam, Brahim's 26-year-old brother, slipped back home to Brussels from Paris shortly after the attacks.

Earlier, Interior Minister Jan Jambon said Salah Abdeslam was not the only security threat.

“It is a threat that goes beyond just that one person,” he told broadcaster VRT. “We're looking at more things, that's why we've put in place such a concentration of resources.”

Bernard Clerfayt, the mayor of the Brussels district of Schaerbeek, was quoted by broadcaster RTBF as saying there were “two terrorists” in the Brussels area ready to carry out violence.

Mohamed Abdeslam, the brother of Brahim and Salah, urged Salah in an interview on RTBF television to give himself up, adding that he believed Salah was still alive because he had had a last-minute change of heart while in Paris.

The mayor of Molenbeek, where the brothers lived, said there was an exchange of fire in one incident in the borough.

WITHOUT PRECEDENT SINCE WORLD WAR II

Intelligence, police and judicial officials reviewed the alert status during the day. The national security council, including top ministers, convened later on Sunday.

The government has advised the public to be alert rather than panic-stricken. People have been told to avoid crowds in the capital, while authorities have also closed museums, cinemas and shopping centers. Clubs and venues have canceled events.

Brussels' chief rabbi Albert Gigi told Israel's Army Radio on Sunday that the city's synagogues were shut over the weekend for the first time since World War Two.

Soldiers are on guard in parts of Brussels, a city of 1.2 million people and home to institutions of the European Union and the headquarters of NATO.

That said, Brussels on Sunday morning resembled most other Sundays, with the normal limited number of shops, such bakeries and small supermarkets open, and many churches in the largely Catholic country still holding services. However, larger markets were shut.

The latest measures go far beyond those taken the last time Brussels was put on level four alert, for about a month at the end of 2007 and the start of 2008, when authorities intercepted a plot to free convicted Tunisian Nizar Trabelsi from a Belgian jail.

Then the city closed the downtown Christmas market early and canceled its New Year fireworks display.