Police at the scene where a young British woman was killed in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on April 14. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

British woman in her 20s killed in Jerusalem stabbing attack; Palestinian man held

A British woman in her 20s studying in Israel was stabbed to death in Jerusalem allegedly by a Palestinian.

The woman, named by Israel’s envoy to the United Kingdom as Hannah Bladon, died following the Friday attack. She had been taken to the hospital in critical condition after suffering multiple stab wounds aboard the city’s light rail, Israel Radio reported. Police said she was attacked by a 57-year-old man from eastern Jerusalem’s Ras al Amud neighborhood.

Yoram Halevi, commander of the Jerusalem District of the Israel Police, told the radio station that the suspect is mentally ill and has a criminal record for domestic violence. He was apprehended at the scene.

“We know he recently tried to commit suicide,” Halevi said.

Israel’s envoy to the U.K., Marg Regev, condemned the attack on Twitter.

My thoughts are with the family and friends of UK student Hannah Bladon, who was murdered in a senseless act of terror in Jerusalem today.

Following the attack, police increased security in and around the light rail, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld wrote on Twitter.

jThe victim is a citizen of the United Kingdom studying in Israel, according to The Jerusalem Post.

The number of recorded terrorist attacks by Palestinians on Israelis increased last month by 15 percent from the previous month to 119 incidents, the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, said in its monthly report published earlier this week. No one was killed; six were injured.

The 20 attacks recorded in Jerusalem in March constitute a 30 percent increase over the 14 there in February.

A train carriage damaged from an explosion at Tekhnologicheskiy institut metro station in St. Petersburg, Russia, on April 3. Photo by Mikhail Ognev/Fontanka.ru

Israel sends condolences, support to Russia following deadly subway bombing

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin after at least 10 people were killed in a bombing attack on a St. Petersburg subway.

“On behalf of the Government of Israel, I send condolences to President Putin and to the families of those who were murdered following today’s bombing on the St. Petersburg subway,” Netanyahu wrote Monday in a statement hours after the afternoon blast, which also injured dozens more. “The citizens of Israel stand alongside the Russian people at this difficult time.”

The homemade bomb filled with shrapnel detonated in a moving subway car after Putin had arrived in his hometown for a visit. A more powerful bomb was discovered later at a nearby train station and defused.

The attack shut down the entire subway system in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is criticizing YouTube for allowing the proliferation of videos such as this one, posted by an account associated with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

YouTube, Google graded poorly on hate, terrorism by Wiesenthal Center

The video-sharing site YouTube and its parent company, Google, fared poorly in the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s annual social media report card for their handling of hate- and terrorism-related material.

The Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that fights hate speech, says YouTube is being exploited by terrorists to encourage acts of violence and instruct would-be attackers in their methods. The site received a C- in the category of “terrorism” and a D for “hate.”

“Google/YouTube is rightfully under fierce criticism for placing digital ads from major international brands like AT&T and Johnson & Johnson next to extremist videos celebrating terrorist attacks that should never have been allowed on its platform in the first place,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, said March 28 at the media briefing where the grades were unveiled. It took place at the New York City comptroller’s office, four blocks from ground zero.

DTH grades17_Poster

Courtesy of Simon Wiesenthal Center.

He said the Wiesenthal Center awarded YouTube its low grades for allowing terrorism “how to” videos to proliferate on its platform, and for failing to take down thousands of posts by hate groups. He pointed to a number of videos posted on the site in the wake of a recent terrorist attack outside the Houses of Parliament in London, praising the attack and encouraging others to follow suit.

YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A more in-depth report, “Digital Terrorism + Hate,” available at digitalhate.net, details the ways in which terrorist groups use social media to recruit, network and instruct potential attackers. The report names a number of accounts, tactics and pages associated with terrorism.

“Frankly, one of the things that we need is for the companies to be more responsive to their responsibilities,” Cooper told the Journal. “Almost all the companies set rules, and some try a lot harder than others to live up to them.”

He lauded recent changes at Twitter, whose grades have improved since the Wiesenthal Center began issuing the report cards in 2015. The company’s grade for “hate” rose from a D to a C since last year. Cooper said the change was due to Twitter’s move to deactivate hundreds of thousands of accounts associated with terrorism and hate speech.

Facebook received the highest marks because of its “sophisticated in-house system of blocking” objectionable accounts and content, according to Cooper. Other platforms, such as YouTube and Twitter, are reactive rather than proactive, he said.

But in general, Cooper said Silicon Valley has demonstrated a lack of leadership when it comes to fighting hate online. He said the Wiesenthal Center hopes to convene social media companies to comprehensively address the problems of digital hate speech and web use by terrorists. Failing that, the nonprofit would look into other, more drastic measures.

“If they don’t get a handle on this, we can be looking at the horrible R-word — regulation,” he said in the interview. “I’m not particularly enamored with that solution. It’s always messy when you go to Washington.”

However, he said he will be educating public officials about the trends highlighted in the report.

At the press conference, Cooper also announced that the Wiesenthal Center will be offering tutorials for high school students “to empower young people to deal with the tsunami of hate.” The center plans to pilot the tutorials with teens in New York City.

He told the Journal, “Since they usually see [online hate speech] before the adults anyway, we’re going to do our best to try to empower them with some guidelines about how to deal with it.”

President Donald Trump, right, reaches to greet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a joint news conference at the White House on Feb. 15. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Netanyahu to Trump: Let’s vanquish ‘militant Islam’

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Echoing the language favored by President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told AIPAC that Israel would work with the United States to defeat the “forces of militant Islam.”

“We must be sure that the forces of militant Islam are defeated,” Netanyahu said in a video address Monday morning to the Israel lobby AIPAC’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.  “I’m confident the United States and Israel will stand together shoulder to shoulder to ensure light triumphs over darkness.”

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, drew criticism from Republicans and Trump for not naming Islam as an element in the threat faced by the United States in the Middle East and domestically. Trump, in turn, has drawn criticism for unnecessarily alienating moderate Muslims for emphasizing Islam in phrases like “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Netanyahu has made clear his preference for Trump over Obama and he referred in his remarks to his meeting with Trump last month in Washington.

“As you know I had an excellent, warm meeting with President Trump,” he said. “I want to thank the president for his strong support for Israel.”

He praised Trump’s envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, for “standing up for what’s right” at the body. The Obama administration, in its final days, for the first time allowed through an anti-settlements resolution on the U.N. Security Council, leading to openly bitter rebukes from Israeli officials.

Netanyahu intertwined the threat Israel perceives from Iran and its potential for acquiring a nuclear weapon with the threat from the Islamic State, or ISIS.

Trump’s focus has been the Islamic threat. Despite his campaign rhetoric deriding the deal Obama reached with Iran trading sanctions relief for a nuclear rollback, he has barely touched the issue as president.

Defeating militant Islam, Netanyahu said at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee gathering, “means confronting Iran’s aggression in the region and around the world. It means utterly vanquishing ISIS.”

Netanyahu sounded amenable to Trump’s bid to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and extend it to a broader peace deal, although he reiterated familiar demands, including that the Palestinian Authority end incitement, stop payments to families of killed or jailed terrorists, and recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

He also extended a “warm” welcome to David Friedman, confirmed last week as ambassador to Israel in a mostly party-line vote. Democrats opposed Friedman, a longtime lawyer to Trump, because of his deep philanthropic investment in the settlements and  his demeaning broadsides against liberal Jews, which he said he regrets.

Netanyahu alluded to Friedman’s declaration last year, when Trump nominated him, that he hoped to serve as ambassador in Jerusalem. Trump, who as a candidate pledged to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, has retreated from the promise as president and now says he is considering it.

“David, I look forward to welcoming you warmly to Israel and especially to Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said.

London terror: No. 30,499 in a series

Commenting on the recent London attack that killed four and injured at least 50, the acting Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Mark Rowley, told the BBC that it was “Islamist-related terrorism.”

A day earlier, on March 21, an Islamist suicide car bomber killed 10 people in Mogadishu, Somalia.

A day before that, two dozen people were blown up by an Islamist car bomber in a Baghdad neighborhood. 

Two days before that, a mother and her two children were among four people wiped out by three Islamist suicide bombers in Maiduguri, Nigeria.

A day before that, Islamist Shiite rebels fired two rockets into a Sunni mosque in Yemen, killing 34 people during Friday prayers.

On the same day in Paris, the throats of a father and son were slit by a family member yelling “Allah Akbar (God is great).”

A day earlier, a young child was blown to bits by an Islamist suicide bomber in Bangladesh.

On that same day, March 16, in South Ukkadam, India, an atheist was hacked to death by an angry Muslim over Facebook posts attacking his religion.

I know it’s painful to consider that 30,499 deadly attacks could be committed in the name of one religion.

That is just a little glimpse of weekly terror from the Third World and elsewhere. Worldwide, since 9/11, Islamist terrorists have carried out 30,499 deadly terror attacks, according to the independent watchdog site TheReligionOfPeace.com.

Most of these attacks never make it to CNN or The New York Times, because the victims don’t live in places like London, Brussels or San Bernardino. In the West, we see a fraction of the carnage done in the name of Islam. No matter how much media attention we give to the attacks on our soil, it doesn’t come close to capturing the scope of the global problem.

I know it’s painful to consider that 30,499 deadly attacks could be committed in the name of one religion. It challenges our narrative that all religions are pretty much the same, that there’s good and bad in all religions, and there’s no special reason to focus on one in particular. This is a comforting narrative that can lull us into complacency.

Still, there is an aspirational value to that narrative. It gives us something to look forward to. For humanity to succeed, we need it to become true. We need a reformation of Islam so that, one day, the number 30,499 will be reduced to a very low number and we can truly say that the religion is just like any other.

Because right now, it’s not. Too much killing, too much horror is done in its name.

It’s no longer enough to say, “This is not Islam.” For the killers doing the killing, it is Islam. It may be a radicalized, supremacist version of Islam, but there’s enough supporting text in the Quran to make the killers believe they’re doing God’s work.

Despite our efforts to counter this radical Islam, reform only gets more distant and the violence only gets worse. Defending the faith, accusing extremists of perverting it and engaging in interfaith projects is fine, but it’s not enough. True reform must come from the inside, not from interfaith but from innerfaith, from Muslims taking responsibility for the violence done in their name. 

It will come from Muslims who have the courage to acknowledge and confront the extremist parts of their texts and reinterpret them in a holy way that will honor their faith.

One such group is the little-known Muslim Reform Movement, a group of Muslim scholars and spiritual activists whose leaders call for “a respectful, merciful and inclusive interpretation of Islam” and reject interpretations that call for “any violence, social injustice and politicized Islam.”

For some reason, this movement has gained little traction among progressive circles, even though its founding declaration sounds like a love letter to progressive values. Going forward, we must ensure that such moderate groups are no longer marginalized by the mainstream, and are empowered to make progress in their supremely difficult mission.

We must pray that their nonviolent and tolerant interpretation of Islam will one day take hold throughout the jihadist world and win over the hearts of the killers, even if it takes a century. We must pray that the number 30,499 will eventually be reduced to zero.

Yes, that would be a miracle for humanity and for Islam, but God is great.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Praying in London

I have spent much of the past six months in London. It is my adopted home and I love it here. I have a tight group of friends and colleagues in this wonderful city. I enjoy every minute that I am blessed to be in London, a city my father loved so much. I walk every day and my favorite route is to walk is across Westminster Bridge then across to the Tower Bridge, passing Shakespeare’s Globe Theater along the way. It is about a 5 mile walk and a treasured part of my time here. I listen to the soundtracks of Bridget Jones movies and am happy.

I do my walk three days a week. Yesterday however, I didn’t go because I was busy and didn’t have time. I never walk at a set time, so it is impossible to know if I would have been on the bridge during the terrorist attack, but I am shaken. I am sad for those who lost their lives, those in the hospital, and the witnesses of this cowardly attack. I am thankful for the first responders who bravely helped. I am also worried for my Muslim friends here, who feel this attack on levels I won’t ever understand. The world is dark and hate is truly powerful.

It is exhausting to hear the hate. It chisels away at my heart and I hear it every day. People in line at the market, on the subway, having coffee. Everyone speaks freely and loudly about how all the problems in the world are because of Muslims. They say it in front of Muslims. They speak of how every terrorist in the world is Muslim and they must all go. I’m not sure where exactly they want them to go, but as a Jew, and an intelligent human being, it breaks my heart and frightens me to hear of the persecution of a group of people based on faith.

I walked again today, but chose a different route, mostly to stay out of the way. I walked through London this morning because life goes on. I am praying for this city and her people as I count down the days until I go home and hug my son. I’m thankful for my amazing readers, who immediately upon hearing of the attack, reached out to see if I was okay, knowing I am often on Westminster Bridge. I felt embraced and comforted. I am grateful for the opportunities that brought me to London and I hope all of us here can keep the faith.


President Donald Trump signs an executive order in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 27. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

Why I’m for vetting, but against Trump’s ban

I wanted to take the time to lay out clearly why I dislike Trump’s executive order on immigration. I think there’s been too much of people (including me) getting angry about it without explaining why. You can’t have a debate that revolves around anger, it has to be about ideas and facts.

I want to start by saying that I support vetting people coming to the US. I particularly support vetting people who want to become permanent residents here. That’s both logical, and moral. I have no argument against that.

The reason Trump’s order troubles me is two-fold. The first part that troubles me is that it’s focused on the wrong places. Trump chose to ban entry from seven countries that certainly have major terrorist activity, however they’re not the countries that have posed the most threat to America. Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, and Syria certainly have their problems, but the sad truth is that American allies like Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia have produced far more terrorists over the years. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in American history, was a mostly Saudi Arabian affair.

Lets look at the attacks since 2010 and see the origin or familial background of the attackers:

2010 Times Square Bombing
– Faisal Shahzad (Pakistan)

2010 Arlington Bomb Plot
– Farooque Ahmed (Pakistan)

2010 Virginia Military Shootings
– Yonathan Melaku (Ethiopia)

2010 Portland Car Bomb Plot
– Mohamed Mohamud (Somalia)

2013 Boston Bombings
– Tzarnaev Brothers (Chechnya)

2014 Seattle/NJ Shootings
– Ali Muhammad Brown (African-American Convert to Islam)

2014 Vaughn Foods Beaheading Incident
– Alton Nolen (American Convert to Islam)

2014 NYPD Killings
– Ismaaiyl Brinsley (African American Muslim)

2015 Islamic Art Contest Shooting in Texas
– Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi (American Convert & Pakistani Descent)

2015 Chattanooga Shootings
– Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez (Kuwait)

2015 UC Merced Stabbings
– Faisal Mohammad (Pakistani Descent)

2015 San Bernardino Shooting
– Rizwan Farook and Tafsheen Malik (Pakistan)

2016 Columbus Melee
– Mohamed Barry (Somalia)

2016 Pulse Nightclub Shooting
– Omar Mateen (Afghan Descent)

2016 Roanoke Stabbings
– Wasil Farooqi (American-born Muslim of unknown origin)

2016 Minnesota Mall Stabbings
– Dahir A. Adan (Somalia)

2016 NY/NJ Bombings
– Ahmad Khan Rahami (Afghan)

2016 Ohio State Attack
– Abdul Razak Ali Artan (Somalia)

Looking at that list, it would seem like Pakistan, Somalia, and Afghanistan would be the three countries of origin of most concern, however only Somalia is on Trump’s list.

In fact, Somalia is the only country on Trump’s list that had US terrorists that hailed from it in this decade. The other countries had ZERO. Countries like Kuwait, Chechnya, and Ethiopia have produced terrorists that attacked the US, but they’re also not on the list.

This is the first reason I dislike Trump’s ban. It’s poorly targeted. It’s not even hitting the places that have hit us the hardest. That’s either foolish, or willfully stupid.

I’ve heard some people comment that the seven countries were chosen because their governments are either in shambles, or state sponsors of terror. That doesn’t explain why Afghanistan isn’t on the list — its government is no more well-organized than Iraq’s. It also doesn’t explain the absence of Pakistan, whose government has repeatedly been shown to have been infiltrated by extremist elements, even in their security service, the ISI. It also doesn’t explain why Palestinians using PA-issued passports, or temporary Jordanian passports aren’t banned. Any Israeli would tell you that a ban that doesn’t target those passports is not a good one.

The second reason I dislike Trump’s executive order is because it’s incredibly heavy-handed. In an attempt to not actually make it a “Muslim ban” in word, he made it a clumsy Muslim ban in practice. By banning all visa holders from those seven countries from entering the US, Trump managed to hurt Persian Jews, Yazidi Christians, Kurds, and Sudanese Christians, none of whom are, or have ever been a threat to the US. Rather than exempting them from the ban, Trump made it a blanket ban to avoid a court ruling the ban was illegal because it specifically targeted Muslims. We needed a surgeon, we got a butcher.

When you combine those fundamental weaknesses of the executive order with the fact that it was poorly rolled-out, rushed, and that the details of it were vague and not double-checked with the agencies who were supposed to enforce it, it’s an abject failure.

The central premise of the ban is also questionable. Will it make America safer? That’s not terribly clear. It most certainly will make Americans traveling abroad less safe. They’ll be even bigger targets now. ISIS is already using it as a recruitment tool. But will it even make us safer at home? Most of our Muslim terrorists in the past decade have been American citizens, who wouldn’t have been affected by the ban. The ban also likely increases the chances that one of the 3.3 million Muslims already in America will become radicalized, or that a non-Muslim who converts will become radicalized. Does that make us safer?

Vetting is important. Security is important. No one disagrees with that, but it needs to be done well. It needs to be done intelligently. This ban is neither intelligent, nor well implemented, and in that respect, it’s a clear failure.

Even if you support a blanket ban, you should be asking Trump to add Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Palestinian Territories, Egypt, Chechnya and Turkey to the list. If he doesn’t, you know he actually doesn’t care.

Jonathan Maseng’s work has appeared in LA Weekly, The Press Enterprise, The Jewish Journal, and the Jerusalem Post Magazine. He also writes regularly about the New York Mets for SB Nation’s Amazin’ Avenue.

Terrorist attacks doubled in Jerusalem in September, Israel says

Terrorist attacks in Jerusalem doubled last month compared to August, according to Israel’s security agency, the Shin Bet.

There were 26 attacks in the capital in September, compared to 13 in August, the Shin Bet wrote in its monthly report for September published this week. The number of attacks perpetrated against Israelis in the West Bank remained unchanged at 78.

With the increase in Jerusalem, the total number of attacks against Israelis in September rose to 109, constituting a 17 percent increase over the 93 attacks recorded in August. The August figure was the lowest monthly tally recorded since March 2015 and the first dip since then below the 100-incident mark.

Ten Israelis were wounded in the September attacks, compared to seven in August. September saw no Israeli fatalities from attacks.

More than half of the attacks in September involved the hurling of firebombs.

Despite the increase in attacks in Jerusalem, the September tally was 47 percent lower than the average number of attacks carried out there per month since September 2015.

According to the Palestinian Maan news agency, a total of 274 individuals died during the wave of unrest starting from Oct. 1, 2015, to Sept. 30 of this year, including 235 Palestinians, many of whom were killed while perpetrating attacks. During that period, attacks caused the death of 34 Israelis and five foreign nationals — two Americans, one Eritrean, one Sudanese, and one Jordanian.

On Thursday, Israeli troops in the West Bank shot dead a Palestinian teenager who hurled rocks at a patrol, the Israel Defense Forces said. The incident occurred in the Beit Ummar area near the city of Hebron, a flashpoint for terrorist attacks. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the slain Palestinian as 15-year-old Khaled Bahar.

Earlier that day, a Palestinian man died from injuries he sustained in 2007 in clashes with Israeli troops, Maan reported. The Makassed hospital announced the death of Mahmoud Jawda, who had been treated at the Jerusalem medical center ever since he was shot multiple times by Israeli troops in Ramallah.

Lessons from San Bernardino at ADL security briefing

Dec. 2, 2015 was an average day for San Bernardino Police Lt. Mike Madden — until it wasn’t.

On his way back to headquarters from a meeting, he pulled over to pick up a snack wrap from McDonald’s and then again to take a phone call. Then, at 10:58 a.m., the dispatch came in: shots fired at the Inland Regional Center, a county building just north of the I-10 Freeway. 

Madden spends most of his days behind a desk as an administrator. He was hardly the ideal choice to be the first person on the scene of a terrorist attack.

“The biggest dangers that I have on a daily basis are generally paper cuts,” he told dozens of lay leaders, security professionals and clergy members who gathered on Aug. 23 at the Westwood office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Madden’s experience offered one of many lessons from the ADL’s annual security briefing this year: When police respond to an active shooter situation, it likely won’t be a specially trained operative who shows up first.

“It’s going to be some stupid lieutenant who almost stapled his fingers together,” Madden said. “It’s going to be a homicide detective who hasn’t been on patrol for seven years.”

This year, the ADL brought Madden and San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan to share experiences gleaned from the terrorist attack that claimed 14 lives at a county government building there and brought the threat of terrorism home to Southern California.

The two police officials shared lessons Jewish institutions hopefully will never make use of, but might one day have to, and afforded Jewish professionals an inside look at what unfolded the day of the attack. 

Burguan played a 911 call from a man who had spotted a suspicious black SUV leaving the Inland Regional Center. Arriving home, the man saw news of the shooting and phoned in, reciting the license plate number from memory: X523RY. For law enforcement, it was a lucky break.

“I’ve been a cop for 20 years,” the police chief said. “I couldn’t tell you a single license plate for any car parked outside.”

The police were able to trace the number to an Enterprise Rent-a-Car lot that had rented a black SUV to Syed Farook, who, with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, committed  the shootings.

The San Bernardino tragedy was an outlier, but hardly an isolated event. Last year saw an increase in so-called targets of convenience — low-profile, random targets, often chosen to evade law enforcement and increase casualties, according to Joanna Mendelson, an investigative researcher with ADL’s Center on Extremism who introduced the two men at the August event. Overall, 2015 saw more terrorist-related arrests — 82 — than any previous year, she said.

The ADL, a hate-speech watchdog, pays close attention to terrorist attacks since they are “hate crime writ large,” Amanda Susskind, the organization’s regional director here, said at the event.

The annual briefing, held in advance of the High Holy Days, deals with timely topics in security, part of an ongoing effort by the ADL to provide police and Jewish institutions a means to protect the local community from hate-related threats.

In May, for instance, the ADL gathered 400 law enforcement officers at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus to glean lessons from the ideologically motivated attacks over the previous year, including the one in San Bernardino. Two months earlier, it awarded its annual Sherwood Prize, honoring law officers who go beyond the call of duty, to the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, along with the 13 other agencies that first responded to the December attack.

In its online security manual “Protecting Your Jewish Institution,” the ADL suggests that synagogues, schools and nonprofits cultivate close police relationships, as well. Last updated in 2015, the manual encourages Jewish institutions to proactively develop attack response plans that involve the community in their own protection. It includes a section on security preparations for the High Holy Days.

After all, one of the lessons from last year’s tragedy in Southern California is that nobody should consider themselves immune from the threat of terrorism, Burguan said at the event.

“I’m here to tell you: If it can happen in San Bernardino, it really can happen absolutely anywhere.”

Guns, drugs and maybe Islamists: Brazil tightens border before Games

On a chilly morning, with a breeze blowing in from Paraguay, customs officials occasionally stop and search vehicles crossing Brazil's busiest border point, looking for contraband. 

Most passengers are poor Brazilians, carrying electronics they were commissioned to buy duty-free over the river in Paraguay's Ciudad del Este, but there is a more dangerous trade too.

“It's not unusual to find drugs or arms,” said Leonardo, a tall Brazilian customs official with a few day's stubble who has been working the bridge for two years. “You start to get an eye for it,” he said, watching cars crawl across the open border.

With just days to go before the Olympics start in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian security forces have shifted their gaze to an even more amorphous crime: terrorism.

They have increased checks at this border post – where tens of thousands of people cross back and forth every day – and have set up a control room with access to dozens of cameras watching different points of the frontier.

Intelligence officials have long pointed to this border region, home to a sizable Muslim community, as a weak point in Brazilian security. 

With an estimated 500,000 foreigners descending on Rio for the Olympics and recent attacks on European cities raising security concerns, the daunting task of monitoring and controlling the border area between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina has come back into focus. 

Last month, Brazilian authorities arrested 12 people on suspicion of supporting Islamic State and discussing an attack during the Games. 

It was the first time the government has admitted potential terrorist activity within its borders.

Police say they are monitoring a further 100 people with possible links to Islamic extremism, most of them here in the tri-border area, or TBA as it is known in security circles. 

The point where Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil, Ciudad del Este in Paraguay and Puerto Iguazu in Argentina meet, is a popular tourist spot to access the thundering Iguazu Falls. It is also a major smuggling route. 

In the labyrinth of market stalls lining the feet of high-rise shopping malls, where hookah smoke fuses with the smell of new sneakers and money changers swap wads of currency beside men offering guns for sale, the imagination can run riot.

The reality, however, is hard to pin down. 

The only clear link between the 12 plotters arrested and this area is an alleged attempt by one of the group to buy an AK-47 rifle online from a shop in Ciudad del Este. Given the ease of acquiring weapons in Brazil's major cities, the connection was dismissed by many as a greater sign of the group's amateurism than the dangers of the tri-border area. 

But police sources on the border admit the region is fertile ground for extremist movements.

“There's no doubt the situation suits a would-be terrorist,” one police source told Reuters. “Criminal activity, the flow of people, guns, and a well-established but closed Muslim community are all here.”


Concern over the area as a potential fund-raising and access point for militants started after intelligence agencies traced attacks in Buenos Aires on the Israeli embassy in 1992 and the AMIAJewish community center in 1994 back to the region.

Those attacks, which killed 114 people, were blamed on the Lebanese militant political group Hezbollah. 

U.S. intelligence officials drew links to the sizable Lebanese community in the tri-border area and money raised from certain shopping malls in Ciudad del Este.

Diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks from that period showed U.S. frustration. 

“Officially, Brazil does not have terrorism inside its border,” read a message sent in October 2009 from the U.S. embassy in Brasilia. “In reality, several Islamic groups with known or suspected ties to extremist organizations have branches in Brazil and are suspected of carrying out financing activities.”

Another cable, from January 2008, said Brazil “remains highly sensitive” to claims “the TBA is a hotbed of terrorist activity.”

Such sensitivity appears to have been based on a desire not to hurt tourism in the region and a fear of stigmatizing Brazil's Muslim community of about 1 million people, mainly in Sao Paulo, Foz do Iguaçu and the southern city of Curitiba.

The arrests in the run up to the Olympics, all carried out under a new anti-terrorism law passed in March, mark a significant shift in Brazil's approach.

“The law facilitates greatly the sharing of information between police and intelligence services of different countries,” said Marcos Josegrei da Silva, the judge overseeing the investigation.

The prosecutor in the case, Rafael Brum Miron, summed it up even more simply: “If I'd had the same evidence six months ago, I would not have been able to do anything.”

Abdo Nasser Elkhatib, the imam of Foz do Iguaçu's bright white mosque, also stressed cooperation and integration, saying he would alert the police if he suspected a member of his congregation of extremism. 

But at the bridge, or on the river below, it is a different story. Logistical difficulties, corruption and a lack of resources compromise efforts to improve security.


Paraguay is a tricky neighbor. South America's second poorest country behind Bolivia, legal and illegal commerce with Brazil is the lifeblood of Ciudad del Este. 

Attempts to increase security by checking more people and cargo would slow the flow of goods and sound a death knell for Paraguay's eastern border zone. 

Despite being a 10 minute walk from Brazil, Ciudad del Este is considered a hardship posting for Brazilian diplomats. Its manic streets can feel lawless despite a heavy police presence. 

On one visit, a fight broke out between motorbike taxi riders, who swarm on yellow bikes across the bridge like bees. One rider ripped off his helmet and smashed it repeatedly over the other's helmeted head. Police and passersby watched with drowsy curiosity. 

“It's very difficult to manage the border,” said Angel Ibarra Mendoza, head of migration on the Paraguayan side, struggling to open his eyes as he walked out of the dark, sleepy migration office. 

He pointed to a new white truck sitting idle in a parking spot. “That's to help us with security for the Olympics.”

Brazilian officers are quick in private to discuss their own flaws. The federal police in Foz have put their own mayor under house arrest on charges of embezzling public funds.

Beyond corruption, there's the problem of resources. 

Out on patrol with the police in a seized smuggling boat, officers point at clandestine ports that line the Parana River. Wearing bullet-resistant vests against the occasional gunfire that comes from Paraguay, they motor past poor communities set along the river's edge where smuggling has been the livelihood for generations. 

“We'd need 10 times the personnel to really be able to police this border,” one officer says.

Israel has had success against ‘lone wolf’ terrorists — here’s how

“Lone wolf” terrorism in Europe is making headlines around the world. But in Israel, the phenomenon of angry or troubled individuals taking up arms is old news.

Since October, Israelis have endured a wave of violence that has been carried out largely by individual Palestinians without backing from terrorist groups — so much so that some have called this the “lone wolf intifada.”

As of the end of June, 38 people had been killed and 298 injured by attackers, according to the Shin Bet security service.

Yet the violence appears to be winding down, at least for now. In October, when the wave of violence is said to have started, the number of attacks against Israelis spiked to 620. In June, there were 103 attacks, lower than in September, before the wave of violence began.

A large majority of the attacks — some 1,500 out of 2,000 — were in the West Bank, where the Israel Defense Forces is responsible for protecting Israelis. Here are five key methods the army used to turn the tide of violence.

Keep the terrorist groups out of it

The wave of violence may be considered a lone wolf intifada, but that’s because the army has put a lid on the terrorist groups, a senior IDF officer told reporters during a briefing this week. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the nature of his job.

Since the second intifada, the last major Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s, the Israeli army has managed to largely dismantle the networks run by Hamas and other terrorist groups in the West Bank, according to Shlomo Brom, a retired brigadier general and an analyst at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies think tank. 

“Basically the terror networks are dismantled, and basically the security forces are dealing with maintenance,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean terrorist groups have stopped trying to launch attacks against Israelis. In the past three months, the army has thwarted dozens of attempted attacks by Hamas alone in what the senior official called the “old war” against organized terror. 

“We’re still having day-to-day indications of them trying to find people in the West Bank, fund them, give them weapons, give them explosives and tell them to shoot Jews,” he said. “This hasn’t changed.”

Predict the unpredictable

A new war is being waged against the lone wolves. Their attacks started last fall in Jerusalem, sparked by Palestinian fears of Jewish encroachment on the Temple Mount. But the center of the lone wolf intifada quickly shifted to the West Bank city of Hebron, with attacks on soldiers and settlers in the area, as well as across Israel.

Around that time, at the end of last year, the army began building a system to deal with the new threat that was emerging, the senior officer said. The goal was to predict the unpredictable: when, for example, a particular Palestinian youth might grab a knife from his mom’s kitchen and take to the streets to spill Israeli blood. Motives can range from nationalism to family problems, he said.

“Unlike terrorists who belong to Hamas or the Islamic Jihad, if you get to their house the week before the attack, the kid doesn’t know that he’s a terrorist yet,” the senior officer said. “So that’s the main challenge.”

Based on what was known about previous attackers, the army created an alert system that is constantly being tweaked. These days, army analysts feed huge amounts of intelligence information into that system — a combination of “social media, human intelligence, signal intelligence,” according to the senior officer, who declined to provide further details about intelligence gathering. In return, he said, the system produces a small number of alerts about potential future attacks.

“One of the ways you produce an alert is, what are the last actions that a specific individual did,” the senior officer said. “For example, if he’s exposed to incitement and right afterwards he rents a car, maybe an unregistered car, this raises questions.”

In response to an alert, options include arresting a suspect, monitoring his or her actions, intervening through the family or deploying troops to a potential target area. When attackers are arrested or killed without managing to cause carnage, future attackers are thought to be deterred.

“The attacks are decreasing because of their ineffectiveness, because most of them fail,” said Brom, the Institute for National Security Studies analyst. “There is a limit to the number of even frustrated young people who are willing to give their life and to achieve nothing. So it makes sense that over time, the numbers of attacks are fewer and fewer.”

Go after the inciters

Incitement to violence can occur in person, through traditional media or over social media. Hamas is responsible for a large portion of the incitement of Palestinians against Israel, the senior officer said.

“They create some of the memes of the high-level incitement, or the incitement which is very powerful that you see on the web,” he said. “So when you handle most of the Hamas incitement, or when you stop some of the incitement from getting to social media, you also have less incitement by private people that are just sharing a specific post or adding incitement.”

Get guns off the streets 

Despite Israel’s control of the West Bank’s borders, weapons manufacturing in the territory has “increased drastically” in the past couple years, according to the senior officer. He estimated there are hundreds of production centers there.

In recent months, he said, the army has launched an organized crackdown, including closing some 20 locations producing homemade Carl Gustav submachine guns, or “Carlos,” like those used last month by two Hebron-area cousins in a deadly shooting at the upscale Sarona market in Tel Aviv.

“They paid for their suits more than they paid for the weapons,” the officer said of the Sarona shooters, who wore dress suits during the attack. “And our logic is very simple … If not everyone can get a weapon with 2,000 shekels [about $500], the price will go up and they’ll have to make all sorts of arrangements and meet more and more people in order to get the weapon they want, we will see fewer attacks with weapons because people will make more mistakes.”

Israeli soldiers guarding the home where Hallel Yaffa Ariel, 13, was stabbed and killed in a terror attack in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, in the West Bank on June 30, 2016. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Limit blowback

At the same time, the army tries to minimize its footprint on Palestinian society. That starts with trying to arrest rather than kill attackers and would-be attackers, the senior officer said.

According to Brom, the army also pushes to limit collective punishment, like the withholding of taxes that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the West Bank, or revoking permits to work in or visit Israel.

“The more you can separate between the public from the perpetrators, the better,” he said.

When the army does implement measures with punitive effects, like refusing to return the bodies of Palestinians killed during attacks or destroying attackers’ homes, it aims only to target the attackers’ supporters, according to Brom.

Col. Ido Mizrachi, the head of engineering in the Central Command, which is responsible for the West Bank, acknowledged in another briefing with reporters that demolishing Palestinian homes causes resentment, but said he thinks the deterrent effect is stronger. To maintain that balance, he said, his engineers work quickly and use techniques to ensure that surrounding homes, or even adjoining apartments, are not damaged.

While the senior officer downplayed the Palestinian Authority’s security cooperation with Israel, Brom said the partnership is one of the main factors that enables the army to limit wider tensions.

“If the Palestinian Authority stopped cooperating, the Israeli security services would be in a situation in which they would have to do themselves what the Palestinian Authority is doing,” he said. “The problem is, that would create much more friction with population at large. And more friction with population at large means more motivation for more youngsters to join terrorist groups.”

Overall, the army believes this combination of tactics has helped to change the mentality of Palestinians in the West Bank, reducing the number of people willing to risk their lives to attack Israelis.

“We saw more and more people not becoming pro-Israeli or pro-Zionist, but understanding that they don’t achieve anything from this escalation, that it hurts them economically, that it doesn’t help the life conditions, that it doesn’t achieve anything on the national level,” the senior officer said.

For Jews of Nice, terrorist attack came as no surprise

To the millions of tourists who visit Nice annually, the city in southeast France is an ultimate holiday destination that offers inviting beaches and luxury casinos, stunning architecture and world-class museums.

Sandwiched between the Maritime Alps and the Mediterranean Sea, Nice is France’s largest tourist destination after Paris, with 5 million arrivals each year and the country’s second largest domestic airport. Nice sees $1.6 billion in annual tourism revenue — 40 percent from its region known locally as Côte d’Azur and abroad as the French Riviera.

But Nice has a dark side, as demonstrated in the terrorist attack of July 14, when a Muslim extremist killed 84 people on the Promenade des Anglais by plowing his truck through the crowds gathered for a fireworks show on France’s national holiday, Bastille Day. After the attack, thousands of tourists checked out hurriedly from hotels that had not had occupancy issues in years.

The attack came as no surprise to many locals, including many of the city’s 20,000 Jews, who for years have been the targets of anti-Semitic attacks and harassment by members of a growing minority of fundamentalists from within the city’s large Muslim population.

“The only Jews you see walking around with a kippah are the foreign tourists,” said Chalom Yaich, a caretaker at the Michelet Jewish community center and synagogue. One of Nice’s dozen-odd shuls, Michelet is located next to a car repair shop at the northern downtown area about a mile and a half from the glitzier beachfront area.

“We locals have stopped wearing it years ago or covered it with a hat for safety,” said Yaich, 53.

He was considering immigrating to Israel before the attack, he said, and is even more inclined to do so now.

“Many have left already because Nice is especially affected by France’s problem with Islam,” Yaich said, noting that its young Jews are especially prone to leave, either for Paris or Israel.

“We have an aging local population with an average age of 50 or 60,” he said.

Nice has at least 60,000 Muslims, or 17 percent of the city’s population, according to estimates published in Le Monde, compared to a national average of about 8 percent of the population. Indeed, more than a third of those killed in the attack were Muslim, the head of a regional Islamic association told The New York Times. Other estimates say 30 to 40 percent of the city’s population is Muslim.

One Jew, Reymonde Mammane, was killed in the attack.

The attacker, who was shot dead by police while carrying out the rampage, was identified as a Tunisian immigrant, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel. Although Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, 31, was a petty criminal with no known links to terrorism and little apparent interest in religion, the Islamic State terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which French police believe involved several accomplices.

Local Muslim leaders denounced the attacks and organized a blood drive for survivors, saying the attacker was hardly representative of their community. Yet several other terrorist cells have emerged from the community in recent years.

In February, a Muslim man with suspected terrorist ties stabbed three soldiers outside a Jewish community center in Nice. Like other Jewish potential targets throughout France, the center has been under armed guard since January 2015, when four Jews were killed by an Islamist at a kosher supermarket near Paris. The following month, Nice police raided several homes of alleged Islamist terrorists who were “in advanced stages” of preparing an attack, prosecutors said at the time.

In recent years, Nice was among the five most troublesome areas listed in the annual report of the Paris-based SPCJ, a watchdog group on anti-Semitism, with an average tally of 15 to 20 violent incidents per year.

In relative terms, Jews in Nice are twice as likely to experience such an attack than their coreligionists in Marseille, a nearby city with 220,000 Muslims and 80,000 Jews that sees approximately 25 to 35 physical anti-Semitic attacks annually, according to SPCJ.

The difference is felt on the ground, according to Yves Kugelmann, the Swiss editor-in-chief of the Tachles Jewish weekly, who is among hundreds of non-French Jews with pieds-à-terre in and around Nice.

“There is more tension and apprehension in Nice than in Marseille, where even despite all the trouble we’ve seen in recent years, you still also have cafes with a mixed clientele of Jews of North African descent and Muslims from the same place,” said Kugelmann, who was in Nice when the attack happened.

“It didn’t fundamentally change things for the local Jewish population because, firstly, in France today terrorist attacks are no longer surprising,” he said, “and secondly because it wasn’t aimed at Jews.” Hours after the attack, Yossef Yitschok Pinson, the rabbi of Nice’s Chabad House, told JTA that synagogue services and community events would go on as planned in Nice.

Amid growing concern about Islamism, Nice has become a bastion for the French far right, where Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, a niece of party leader Marine Le Pen, garnered a whopping 34 percent of the vote in the second round of voting in the 2015 regional elections, losing by fewer than 10 points to another right-wing candidate, former Mayor Christian Estrosi.

In Nice, the French Jews live among Arabs in and around the city center, between the Jean-Medecin neighborhood and Gambetta. And while this creates more familiarity than in other French cities with Muslim and Jewish enclaves, it also generates more friction than in Marseille, where Jews and Arabs interact but live mostly apart as a result of Jewish migration to the suburbs in recent decades.

Many Jews also live in the affluent towns around Nice and in pricey villas atop the lush cliffs overlooking the Nice Cape east of the city, not far from the borders of the Principality of Monaco, located approximately eight miles from the city. And while they will sometimes attend services at the Chabad synagogue or the Ashkenazi shul, “they are not exactly the synagogue crowd,” Kugelmann said.

Traditionally a cosmopolitan and tolerant port city near the Italian border, Nice has had a Jewish presence since at least the 12th century, according to Leon Alhadeff of Sefarad, a French organization promoting Sephardic culture.

“It drew them because it was a crossroads of cultures,” he wrote on the Sefard website.

Ironically, perhaps, it is now drawing Islamists for the same reasons, according to Philippe Granarolo, a writer and historian who wrote about the truck attack in the Le Figaro newspaper.

The city was targeted, he wrote, because Nice, “by far the best-known French destination in the world after Paris, for over a century has symbolized France’s touristic appeal; Mediterranean culture and openness to the other banks of” the Mediterranean Sea.

What can France learn from Israel?

This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

As France mourned the 84 dead and more than 200 wounded in the attack in Nice, an alert security guard in Jerusalem foiled a potential attack on Jerusalem’s light rail train, when he spotted a suspicious man loitering near the train stop, and demanded he open his knapsack. When the man refused, the security guard arrested him, and found three pipe bombs inside.

It was yet another example of Israel’s success in stopping terrorist attacks, and minimizing casualties when they do occur.

Vehicular attacks, like the one perpetrated in Nice, have been a fixture in Jerusalem and the West Bank for years. In 2014 a Palestinian rammed his car into a light rail stop in Jerusalem, killing a three-month old baby and a young Ecuadoran woman. Just weeks ago, a similar attack in the West Bank wounded three soldiers.

“Israel has been proven as the model of imitation for other terrorists around the world,” Boaz Ganor, the Executive Director of the Institute for Counter-terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) of Herzylia, told the Media Line. “There is a difference between prevention of terrorist attacks and limiting the consequences.”

Preventing terror attacks depends on prior intelligence – a challenge when terrorists act alone.

“The problem with (this kind of ) intelligence is that the initiation, the planning and the execution start and end with the sick mind of one person,” Ganor said. “In these cases traditional intelligence is useless.”

However, he said, counter-terrorism in these cases must focus more on social media. Terrorists often post their intentions. Reports in the British press say that the attacker in Nice posted “I have the material” hours before the bombing. He also reportedly sent over $100,000 to his family in Tunisia just days before the attack.

Another difference between Israel and France is that Israelis are constantly aware of the possibility of terrorism. Anyone who has left a bag or a backpack unattended knows that often within seconds people will ask, “Who does this bag belong to?” Many Israeli civilians have also served in the army, meaning they have had military training, and many carry personal weapons for protection.

All of that together makes it likely that an attacker would not have been able to drive into people for more than a mile without being stopped.

Other Israeli analysts say that a similar attack could happen in Israel, although it is less likely than in France.

“The truck was very big and the protection and security in France was very poor,” Reuven Ehrlich, a terrorism expert at the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center told The Media Line. “The combination between a big truck, a terrorist who is ready to be killed in such an attack, and a lot of people without any protection caused a mass killing.”

When stopped, the attacker said he was carrying ice cream, but he was never asked to open the back of the truck. In addition, press reports say there were only 105 policemen responsible for the security of 30,000 people at the Bastille Day event.

France also has a large number of fighters who have returned from Syria, who have been radicalized to carry out attacks. Israeli terrorism experts say that France must move quickly to secure events with a much larger police presence. But it is the public that can offer the most security.

“The Israeli public is aware of its surroundings and of suspicious cars and behavior,” Boaz Ganor said. “A truck like this in a crowded place would raise people’s suspicions. A lot can be done to educate Europeans about preventing terrorism.”

The Institute he heads is currently holding a three-week intensive course in counter-terrorism for professionals from around the world.

Prepare for a life with terror

This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

The musical sounds from the street saxophonist wafting above Jerusalem’s Jaffa Street this morning nearly drowned out the din of sirens and the noisy rush of curious onlookers while police and security personnel physically restrained a young Palestinian whom we later learned told police he was carrying pipe bombs and knives in his knapsack. It was a good day – another attack, a daily occurrence since last October and a potentially bloody one at that –had been prevented.

In a keen reminder of how life in the 21st century has some frightening aspects to it, I noted three brushes against terror in a period of four days.

It began during a brief trip to Nice with my husband where while sipping coffee on the morning of Bastille Day in a café 100 yards from our hotel, both along the beautiful Rue des Anglais, we pondered an extension to our trip in order to join the revelry. Commitments won out and mere hours before the celebrations were to begin we were airborne. It wasn’t before arriving home in Jerusalem that I learned of the horrific turn of events and the deadly dash through the human gauntlet by a maniac behind the wheel of a four-ton truck that left 84 dead and 200 wounded. Soon learning of the bodies lying in the street in front of our hotel, I was reminded that I had remarked at the strangely sparse police presence on a day that would see tens of thousands of celebrants in the streets.

Ironically, before learning of events in Nice, we had been reminded that while scenery and topography change from country-to-country, the terrorist threat is global as well as lethal. This, after our late night trek from the airport to the capital was interrupted by a miles-long traffic jam that turned out to be a car-by-car police search, vehicles’ insides illuminated by flashlights.

As if someone yelled, “Hold that thought!” I began the week Sunday morning as an eyewitness to the apprehending of the terrorist who sought to board the Jerusalem light rail before he was discovered to be carrying several pipe bombs and knives.

 The world is only beginning to learn the realities of living with terror that are well-ingrained in the experience of Israelis of all ages. How governments and the public sector see terror, how the public sees the environment around them, and how they deal with terror on a daily basis is the difference the people of Nice and Orlando need to come to terms with.

 Maj. Gil Kleinman, former spokesman for the Israeli police who witnessed firsthand hundreds of terrorist related incidents, insists that many countries – and, in particular, European nations — are in denial about calling terror, “terror.” He suggests that there is a widely-held belief that the Nice attack, for instance, is a one-off event and a byproduct of what's going on in the Middle East; and a byproduct of government policies. Kleinman believes the Europeans fail to understand that it’s a terror war directed against Western culture and country. In an analogy to terror and crime, he says that, “once a criminal is caught, it doesn't mean crime has stopped.”

In Kleinman’s estimation, the difficulty lies in finding the right balance between continuing to live life and fighting terror. “If you go too much to the extreme, to dictatorship, you've ruined your society. If you don't do anything, then the terrorists rule the streets. Either way, the people are left in fear which infects society.”

As other counterterrorism experts have cautioned, the fight against terror requires a citizen army. He explained to The Media Line that, “It's not just about what the police or the FBI are doing, but what we are doing. It is not about what your generals feel but the single mother with three children. “Governments are new to terror and think all about tactics — how many bomb robots they have; how many helmets and flak jackets. You need to enlist the public.”  

How? “You have to stop being politically correct,” he says, offering as an example thinking an attack is over because “a couple of arrests have been made in Belgium.”

An activist public drawn into the ranks of the counterterrorism force wants to know how to protect themselves. Morty Dzikansky, a retired detective with the New York Police Department who served as the NYPD’s intelligence liaison to Israel during the violent period known as the Second Intifada, witnessing scores of terrorist attacks, stresses the need for preparedness in large crowds.

According to Dzikansky, who, like Kleinman, teaches terror response training, the first order of business is to know what to look for in terms of recognizing suspicious individuals. Next, he told The Media Line, “Know your alternative escape routes and always have working communications capability.” And don’t be shy in reporting your concerns to the authorities.

Maj. Kleinman believes that the United States, unlike its European counterparts, understands a war is raging. If, for example, a citizen reports a suspicious incident to authorities in Europe, he believes the report will not be taken seriously. Not so in America. But he also points to the difference between ISIS-style terror warfare and urban warfare.

Since the attacks began in France, many pundits have opined that it is just the beginning. Kleinman believes 911 was the pivotal moment when America realized it’s under attack. Similarly, the horrific incident in Nice should signal the Europeans that more will follow.

“Once they (the government) understand they are at war, and that it’s not going away and once they understand they have to enlist their public and once they understand what the public is thinking, and not just the police, then they'll be able to solve the problem.”

While we all need to learn live with terror, the sounds of freedom ring louder than terror itself.

Felice Friedson is President/CEO of The Media Line, an American news organization covering the Middle East in context, and founder of the Press and Policy Student Program. She can be reached at felice@themedialine.org.

Hollande: After deadly Nice attack, all of France living under the threat of Islamist terrorism

Speaking after a mass killing on Bastille Day in the coastal city of Nice, French President François Hollande said all of France is living under the threat of Islamic terrorism.

“After Paris in January 2015 and then St. Denis in November last year, and now Nice, in its turn, is touched, it is all of France that is under the threat of Islamist terrorists,” Hollande said in a pre-dawn broadcast Friday which the Elysee, the presidential palace, posted on social media.

He referred to deadly mass attacks in January on a satirical weekly and a kosher supermarket in Paris and in November on a concert hall in Paris, carried out by terrorists affiliated with Islamist terrorist groups.

A truck barreled into a crowd Thursday night during celebrations marking Bastille Day, the French independence day, killing 77 people. Reports said there might have been more than one attacker, and that the truck’s cab was filled with guns, explosives and grenades, according to local authorities.

The driver, who fired a gun into the crowd, was killed by return fire. An identity card in the truck cab bore name of a French Tunisian.

There was no claim of responsibility and security authorities were not yet describing the attack as terrorist, but Hollande made clear he believed that it was.

“The attack’s terrorist character cannot be denied,” he said. “It is clear we must do everything in order to combat against the scourge of terrorism.”

Hollande, who earlier Thursday had said a state of emergency in place since the earlier terrorist attacks would be lifted on July 26, said in his address after the attack that it would be extended three months.

Chabad Lubavitch News quoted the movement’s emissary in the city, Yossef Yitzschok Pinson, as saying that five local Jews were injured in the attack, one seriously. He did not know of any killed.

Flemish Jews: Better coverage of Israel would have prepared Europe for truck attack in Nice

A group representing Flemish Jews said that the vehicular attack in France was shocking to Westerners because their media has willfully ignored a spate of car ramming attacks in Israel.

The Flemish Region’s Forum of Jewish Organizations issued its unusual statement Friday about the July 14 assault in the southern French city. As many as 80 people were killed when a driver plowed his truck through a crowded promenade during the national Bastille Day holiday, in an apparent terrorist attack.

Many European Jewish groups are critical of their media’s coverage of Israel but mainstream organizations like the Forum rarely reference this in commenting about terrorist attacks in Europe.

“It is inaccurate to say, as we have heard said many times after the Nice attack, that car ramming is a new phenomenon,” the Forum wrote. “By ignoring this method of terrorism in Israel – some believe because of political correctness – one is, regrettably, confronted in a horrific manner with reality.”

The statement featured a caricature of a man holding a sword that is sticking into his torso, which is shaped like the map of France, while kneeling with the Eiffel Tower in the background. The sword is labelled “political correctness.”

As the representative body of the Jewish communities of the Flemish Region – one of three autonomous states that make up the  federal kingdom of Belgium – the Forum speaks for half of the country’s Jewish population.

The organization representing Belgium’s French-speaking Jews, CCOJB, made no reference to Israel in its statement about the Nice attack, following which CCOJB expressed its solidarity with France and its condolences to the victims’ families.

CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, made passing reference to Israel in its condemnation of the attack. “The terrorists have the same objectives in Paris, Nice, Brussels, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and around the world,” CRIF wrote. The Board of Deputies of British Jews wrote in its statement: “We know only too well of this kind of attack because of its repeated use in Israel.”

In Spain, the ACOM lobby group for Israel noted in its statement that “the model used in France is a lethal technique constantly used by Palestinian terrorists against the Israeli people.” But FCJE, Spanish Jewry’s representative umbrella group, made no mention of Israel in its statement, which spoke of “Islamic terrorism that once again attacks” the Western way of life.

Since January 2015, the Israel Security Agency recorded at least 34 car ramming attacks by Palestinian terrorists in Israel led to the death of three victims and injured at least 77 people.

Ramming attacks in 2015 were responsible for the second highest number of injured, after 114 people who were stabbed and 39 victims wounded in shooting attacks. It was the third deadliest method employed by terrorists, after shooting and stabbing, according to the agency.

Aliza Bin Noun, Israel’s ambassador to France, did not draw parallels between the attack in Nice and attacks in her native country in a statement she posted on Twitter. “Horrified by the Nice attack. Israel stands with the French People and their pain and is ready to help France combat terrorism,” she wrote.

As terror unfolded in Nice, local rabbis jumped to action

Rabbi Reouven Ouanounou was still in his office at the Chabad Lubavitch of Nice Côte d’Azur at 11 p.m. on July 14 when he saw people running frantically in the streets.

The Chabad house is a five-minute walk from where hundreds had been celebrating Bastille Day with a fireworks display when a terrorist drove a truck into the crowd and began firing a gun, killing more than 80 people and injuring more than 200. When Ouanounou stepped outside to see what was going on, he was told to get back inside and lock the doors, he said. So he did.

Reached by phone shortly before setting out for Friday evening prayers on July 15, Ouanounou sounded tired as he discussed the tragedy that left at least three members of the Jewish community wounded and another two missing at the time of the interview.

Once it seemed safe to leave the house at around 1:30 a.m., Ouanounou made his way to a restaurant to pick up four counselors of Chabad’s Gan Israel day camp who had taken shelter there.

“They were really in trauma,” he said.

The four counselors had missed being hit by the oncoming truck by a few feet, running to escape it, according to a report from Rabbi Yossef Yitschok Pinson, the Chabad director under whom Ouanounou works.

The morning after the attack, Ouanounou made the rounds of area hospitals to seek information about the wounded and to bring food to their families for Shabbat.

He said he visited two wounded elderly Jewish women who attended the Bastille Day festivities. Neither was conscious when he showed up; both had been hooked up to artificial respirators. The sister of one of the women was still missing, he said.

Shortly after Ouanounou hung up to head to Shabbat services, a statement from the Nice Chabad on Chabad.org listed the Hebrew names of the victims: Raymonde bat Nouna, missing; Clara bat Nouna, hospitalized; Hafsia bat Miryam, hospitalized.

Meanwhile, Times of Israel reported that sisters Clara Bensimon, 80, and Raymonde Mamane, 77, had not contacted their families since the attack.

Ouanounou said he was reminded of the passage in the Leviticus where the priest Aaron learns his two sons have died suddenly.

“Vayidom Aaron,” the passage reads. “And Aaron fell silent.”

“There are no words,” Ouanounou said. “You can’t explain, just be there when they need, bring them food, drinks. You talk. That’s the only thing you have. It’s not a moment to find counsel… It’s not proper to encourage them to move forward. It’s not the moment. We don’t know what’s going to happen. So we’re hanging around with them and ‘if you need anything call me.’”

Ouanounou’s brother-in-law, Rabbi Yisrael Pinson, the co-director of Chabad of Greater Downtown Detroit, whose father is the Nice Chabad director, learned of the attack via a WhatsApp chat group with his family even before news had spread in the media.

“Before there was any news on any of the media, even in France, my sister was posting ‘I hear gunshots in the streets what’s going,’” he said in a July 15 interview.

Pinson’s parents were sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Shneerson to establish a Chabad presence in the French Riviera, where about 30,000 Jews live.

The Jewish community there is predominantly traditional Sephardic Jews who came to France in the 1960s from North Africa, he said. Chabad thus plays an important role in their lives.

Pinson said he followed the news of the July 14 attack closely through family members posting information of their whereabouts.

“It wasn’t clear that the terrorist had been eliminated, or there might be another threat,” he said. “The desire was there right away: How can we be there to help?”

Pinson said a number of his family members who hold various rabbinical positions in Nice rushed to the triage center as soon as it was legally allowable.

“The first reaction we have in the Jewish community is: ‘Were there any Jews that were harmed?’” he said.

But even after it was clear that no Jews were among the injured and grief-stricken at that time in the triage area, “they remained there for the whole night basically.”

“They couldn’t leave,” he said. “Because beyond our responsibility to the Jewish community, we’re responsible to all the people in the community, regardless of their religion and their background. So you had these rabbis spending the night with total strangers… literally staying with them, holding their hands, letting them talk, giving them the moral and spiritual support to go through this terrible time.”

Chabad has put up a webpage asking for donations to provide for the needs of families impacted by the terror attack.

The statement from the Nice Chabad concluded: “Men should put on tefillin. Women and girls should light Shabbat candles. Everyone should add in giving tzedakah. … Shabbat Shalom to all.”

Breaking Bodies

Leave my body alone.

This is my thought when I see terror.

I don’t care if it’s a truck, a gun, a knife, a bomb.

Just leave my body alone.

Do not slice my flesh.

Do not splinter my bones or explode my arteries.

Do not rape my muscles and ligaments.

We talk about ISIS and Islam and hatred.

But hatred doesn’t bother me.

What bothers me is a bullet that pierces my pancreas.

Or a car that severs my spine.

Madness doesn’t bother me.

A sharp knife launched into my belly bothers me.

Or a rock that cracks my skull.

I don’t care about pundits or faith or interfaith.

About stereotypes or damage control.

I care about a bomb blowing next to my brain.

Or a white truck crunching 84 bodies.

Terrorists are not cowards,

They are artists of death.

Do not call them animals.

Animals kill to eat,

Terrorists kill to break bodies.

Animals do not want to die.


What shall we do with them?

We can leave their faith and minds alone,

But we cannot leave their bodies alone.

We must break their bodies,

Even if they want us to.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Letters to the editor: Cost of medication, Elie Wiesel, restroom laws and more

Medications’ High Cost to Society

A point that stands out in the story of Laurie Ritz is the high cost of the medications needed to treat his mental illness (“The Failure of L.A.’s Mental Health System,” July 8). The high prices of meds that can treat mental illness and alcoholism are surely a contributing factor to homelessness and to other weighty public and personal burdens (which are hardly confined to L.A.). It would be interesting to see a follow-up story about these important kinds of medications, including why they cost so much.

Kathryn Kirui via email

Recognize Terrorism in All Its Forms

Wow, Rob Eshman. “After the Istanbul airport terror attack that left at least 44 dead and hundreds wounded,” instead of imploring that all terrorism is wrong, you instead choose to engage in hypocrisy (“Istanbul and Hallel,” July 8).  

This works both ways. How often do you call out Israeli terrorism, including collective punishment against innocent Palestinians? Now in the 50th year, the military occupation is by definition terrorism.

Estee Chandler via email

California Needs Restroom Law 

Thank you, Michelle Wolf, for your enlightening column “The Politics of Pee,” detailing Illinois’ Ally’s Law, the Restroom Access Act (July 8). Too bad our California legislators, with their selective liberalism, cannot see how easy it would be to require retailers with three or more employees present to permit individuals suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis (UC), to use “employees only” restrooms on the premises.  

Notwithstanding the complaints by small business protesters, the law could be easily limited — as it is in the 14 other states enacting this legislation — simply by mandating a licensing procedure, the bureaucratic cost of which could be covered by an annual fee (with appropriate exemptions for low-income sufferers) and the application for an ID card, which would require a physician’s written diagnosis. Unlike handicapped-parking placards, there would be little incentive for fraudulent abuse.  

IBD sufferers can have a sudden, immediate and uncontrollable need for a toilet, most often without the normal physical warning signals our bodies give. I guess none of our legislators has a child with Crohn’s or UC; otherwise, they would champion this very simple solution. Perhaps to our elected representatives, this failure, among many other things they do, should be retitled “The Politics of Poo.”

Reeve Chudd Pacific Palisades

Al-Noor on Target With “Hypocrisy”

I want to thank the Jewish Journal for including the words of Nadiya Al-Noor in this week’s opinion page (“Palestinian Terrorism and Muslim Hypocrisy: An Open Letter From a Muslim Woman,” July 8). Her words come as a refreshing reminder of the hypocrisy within the Muslim and Palestinian reactions to terror wherever it occurs. 

Terror and killing innocents wherever they are found is wrong by every standard known. Neither the Bible nor the Quran can support these actions. Hopefully, more Muslims will read and appreciate her words! I thank her for her courage!

Ron Spiegel via email 

Prager Loses His Way in Palestinian Argument

As a liberal Jew, I agree with Dennis Prager’s assertion that moral people cannot support the Palestinians (“Moral People Cannot Support the Palestinians,” July 8). I commiserate with his objecting to liberals who err in reflexively condemning Israel as the heartless oppressor of Palestinians they see as innocent victims of Israeli occupation.

However, as a psychotherapist who specializes in couples work, I have long since learned that Prager’s characteristic style of judging, blaming and setting one side as right and good against the other as wrong and bad is a losing strategy. It is no more effective coming from the right than from the left. Consequently, I doubt that many liberals are influenced by his polemics.

The Journal would do well to assign his column to other conservatives whose communication styles might more effectively stimulate liberals like me to think twice about our positions.

Roger Schwarz, Los Angeles

Elie Wiesel Worthy of the Cover

I am VERY disappointed. Elie Wiesel passed away a week ago Shabbat. I am shocked that he was not on the cover of this past week’s Jewish Journal. 

The cover story regarding mental health is important but could/should have been pushed back one week. 

What a shame and discredit to such a special and unique human being as Elie Wiesel, the voice of the victims. You missed a great opportunity to honor him properly! 

Elke Coblens Aftergut via email

Editor’s Note: Because of the July 4 holiday, the Journal’s cover went to press on the Friday before Elie Wiesel passed away. Our coverage was inside that issue, and inside this one, as well.

Palestinian terrorism and Muslim hypocrisy: An open letter from a Muslim woman

While millions of children got out of bed on the morning of June 30 excited to be on summer vacation, one child did not. A young Israeli girl, 13-year-old Hallel Yaffe Ariel, was brutally murdered in her own bed by a 17-year-old Palestinian terrorist. He broke into her house and stabbed her to death.

Another life lost to senseless violence. Another poor soul taken too early from this world. But few Muslims in this world will be mourning her death because Hallel was an Israeli Jew.

Read more at Times of Israel.

Nadiya Al-Noor is a Muslim interfaith activist with a focus on Jewish and Muslim communities, and she actively supports peace between Israel and the Palestinians. She is a graduate student at Binghamton University in upstate New York, studying public administration. This essay originally appeared in TimesofIsrael.com. Reprinted with permission.

The occupation that killed Hallel Yaffa Ariel

It’s not the disputed occupation of the West Bank that convinced a 17-year-old Palestinian teenager to stab a 13-year-old Jewish girl to death while she was sleeping. 

Rather, it’s the corrosive and longtime occupation of Palestinian hearts and minds with vicious, genocidal Jew-hatred. 

“Hate has no place in the curriculum of schools, and the glorification of violence has no place in the education of children,” Sen. Hillary Clinton said in 2007, after a Senate hearing on Palestinian Authority (PA) schoolbooks and media presented by the watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).

Referring to official PA TV broadcasts, she said they “were a clear example of child abuse.”

Referring to new PA 12th grade textbooks, she said “[these textbooks] do not give Palestinian children an education; they give them an indoctrination.”

Her conclusion: “When we viewed this report in combination with other media that these children are exposed to, we see a larger picture that is disturbing… because it basically, profoundly poisons the minds of these children.”

Poison is the right word. How else do you describe the condition of a mind or a heart that murders a young girl in her bedroom?

Unfortunately, the Senate hearing failed to stop this poison, as PMW has been as busy as ever monitoring the scourge of Jew-hatred in Palestinian society. 

To cite one example, six years after the Clinton hearing, on the official PA television program, “Palestine this Morning,” two young sisters recited a poem that featured these words:

“Oh Sons of Zion,

Oh most evil among creations

Oh barbaric monkeys, wretched pigs…

Jerusalem vomits from within it your impurity…

I do not fear barbarity.

As long as my heart is my Quran and my city.” 

If you are taught that Jews are barbaric monkeys and wretched pigs, and that you shouldn’t fear barbarity, then what’s the big deal about getting rid of one of those wretched pigs? 

This is what we must remember about the Palestinian teenager who killed Hallel Yaffa Ariel: In his mind, he wasn’t killing a little girl, he was killing a wretched pig.

He was eliminating a demon. He was committing the holy act of a martyr.

Why are we surprised when Palestinian leaders send paychecks to the families of those martyrs, since they are the ones who sanction the very demonization of Jews in the first place? 

Of course, none of this is news. We have been hearing about the sanctification of Jew-hatred and glorification of terrorism in Palestinian society for so long that we’ve become numb to it. 

It’s not a coincidence that Jews downplay such inconvenient news. The Jewish way is to focus on our own actions, not the actions of others. We take responsibility for what we can change, not what others must change. 

That’s why so much Jewish energy has been expended on protesting Israel’s presence in the West Bank. This is the “occupation” we are comfortable fighting. The other occupation—the occupation of Palestinian hearts and minds—well, that’s for “them,” not “us.” 

The problem with this way of thinking is that we miss the real obstacles to peace. Murdering a little Jewish girl has nothing to do with fighting Israeli policies and everything to do with the brainwashing that teaches Palestinians that Jews are not humans. 

We have ignored this brainwashing for so long that now we are in freefall. The Jew-hatred has gone so deep and so broad that it is killing all hope and putting Israelis strictly in survival mode. 

As long as the Jew-hatred and the violence continues, the Palestinians will never convince Israelis that they can take risks for peace.

Jewish groups who crave peace must call for an end to the occupation of Palestinian hearts and minds with vicious, genocidal, demonizing Jew-hatred.  

This is the occupation that kills.

Religion-related terrorism and harassment of Jews increasing worldwide, Pew study finds

The harassment of Jews worldwide continued to increase in 2014 even as government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion decreased modestly, according to a new study.

The Pew Research Center’s annual study of 198 countries released Thursday also found an increase in religion-related terrorism, with 82 of the nearly 200 countries studied experiencing religion-related terrorist activities in 2014 — the most recent year studied. In 60 countries, the terrorist activities  led to injuries or deaths. Casualties from religion-related terrorist activities have been rising in recent years, the study reported.

The study did not address the religion with which the majority of the perpetrators of religion-related terrorism identified. However, all the examples cited were of acts perpetrated by Islamist groups and Muslim individuals.

The study found a “notable increase in the number of countries in which Jews and Hindus were harassed.” While Jews make up just 0.2 percent of the world’s population, they were harassed in 81 countries, up from 77 in 2013.

While some religious groups are more likely to be harassed by governments, the study found that Jews are more likely to be harassed by individuals or groups. In 31 countries did governments restrict Jews, while individuals or groups harassed Jews in 80 countries.

The study also found that among the world’s 25 most populous countries, the highest overall restrictions on religion in 2014 were in Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey. With the exception of Russia, these countries are majority Muslim.

Forget Brexit. Remember rain.

I was startled to see Laura Haim’s face on TV. It made sense that she’d be on cable news last week; as White House correspondent for the French network Canal Plus, she was well placed to tell Americans the French reaction to Brexit. What brought me up short was that I’d forgotten about her.

Without consciously deciding to, I’d filed away my recollection of watching her night after night on MSNBC, reporting what her sources were telling her about the ISIS attacks in Paris.  I’d been obsessed with that story, and fearful for my safety and my kids’, just as I’d been even more acutely after the killings in nearby San Bernardino. But at some point in the six months since then my memory of Paris and of Haim had submerged, like the alligator at Disney World, until the terrorist murders in Orlando. 

Sometimes I forget to be afraid of things. Right now I’m plenty worried about the financial and political aftermath of Brexit. I’m panicky about its impact on my nest egg, and I’m scared that the xenophobia that fueled it could also fuel a Trump win. But if the past is any guide, those fears will be displaced by future reasons for insomnia. You can’t worry about everything all the time. For weeks or months on end, I can forget to worry about earthquakes in Los Angeles, but then a serious shaker somewhere in the world will remind me that living here is licking the razor.  I often forget to worry about climate change, until a heat wave in India or a forest fire in California reminds me that most people now alive will live to see its far worse consequences.

Something similar to forgetting fears happens to me, and maybe to you, with outrage. It’s as though my bandwidth for fury has a limit. There’s only so much I can be actively, currently pissed off about; in order to get my anger pumping, new injustices need to push previous affronts off my radar. 

So I’m irate with John McCain for saying that Barack Obama is directly responsible for the slaying of 49 people in Orlando, then I’m enraged at Paul Ryan for refusing to bring gun safety to a vote, until I’m once again livid at Mitch McConnell’s refusal to bring Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination for a vote that resulted in the 4-4 tie that doomed Obama’s immigration plan. I’m boiling at CNN for hiring Trump stooge Corey Lewandowski, until I’m more maddened at the way they cover Trump’s Scottish golf resort infomercial: with a wry, What-an-inveterate-salesman tone, instead of a pitiless, What-a-corrupt-embarrassment.

All the while that fear and outrage are running zero-sum games for dominance of my headspace, even as I forget to be afraid or outraged by anything but the most immediate ugly news, there’s something else I forget unless it forces itself on my attention. But when the breaking news is the sound that rain makes, or the shape of a leaf, or the fact that there is something rather than nothing: that’s when I recall that noticing what is is not a finite human faculty.

We have a limitless capacity for amazement.  Mindfulness is not a zero-sum game. If you pay attention to the crackle of a strawberry seed in your mouth, that wonderment does not displace a prior alertness to existence; it adds to it. Ordinary mysticism — the experience of being right here, right now, whether you’re by the ocean or by the washing machine — is cumulative. The more you have, the more you have. It’s a mercy that we can’t keep in mind all the reasons the world forces on us to be frightened or furious; if we did, our heads would explode, and our spirits would be suicidal. It’s something of a miracle that when it comes to awe, we can contain multitudes.

Right now, any sign that Donald Trump could be our next president has a good shot at owning my mind. I see that the Brexit vote is disproportionately powered by elderly Britons, and I see in that a mirror of Trump’s base. I see “Leave” campaign leader Nigel Farrage promise that if the U.K. exits the E.U., the National Health Service will get the 350 million pounds per week that Britain gives Europe; I see the British press try in vain to debunk that claim; the morning after the vote, I see Farrage admit it was a “mistake” (i.e., lie) — and I think of another liar’s immune-to-fact-checking promise: “Who will pay for the wall?” “Mexico!” I see that within hours of the Brexit outcome, more than a million establishment-kicking, remorseful British voters have signed a petition for a re-vote, and I imagine the American hangover the morning after the send-them-a-message victory of President-elect Trump.

Minds are funny. A North Korean nuke would take mine off Trump. So would a news fast. I’m just glad that no one needs a nightmare or a digital detox to surrender to a starry night.   

Jewish Journal columnist and USC Annenberg professor Marty Kaplan won 1st Place for Commentary at the Los Angeles Press Club's 58th Annual Southern California Journalism Awards on June 26. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Terror and the election: What does it mean?

In an election year that has already passed the abnormal and entered the zone of the surreal, the June 12 terror attack in Orlando, Fla., throws even more uncertainty into the mix. What does it mean for the election? Can we say anything with confidence in a season that has turned predictions upside down?

Presidential elections normally feature a battle between two competing visions of government’s role — one more liberal, the other more conservative. This year is different. This interruption in our political life is because of the rise of Trumpism, a phenomenon more similar to radical right-wing parties in European democracies than to any in the United States. It once seemed inconceivable that the leader of such a movement (without even an actual party behind him) could win the nomination of one of America’s two leading political parties. But here we are. And in the wake of a major terror attack that took 49 innocent lives at a gay nightclub in Orlando, the dynamic of the election may shift yet again. The September 11, 2001, attacks, only eight months into President George W. Bush’s first term, pretty much guaranteed his re-election in 2004. Will terror do the same for Donald Trump’s prospects?

Organizationally, a normal campaign season features two massive party organizations, get-out-the-vote drives, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. One party’s candidate, Hillary Clinton, will have those assets. Trump is going in a completely different direction. Either because he does not have access to raising big money, or is not as wealthy as he claims, Trump seems on the verge of trying to run without an Electoral College state-by-state strategy, nor a voter database, nor money for grass-roots operations, but rather with a message delivered in a combination of rallies, the occasional formal speech and many tweets. It’s an experiment without precedent. (As a side note, Trump is continuing to pursue his business life, including taking off for Scotland at the end of the month to mark the opening of one of his golf courses.) 

The Democrats are largely united in their fear and loathing of Trump. Republican leaders and many Republican voters, as well, are being torn into pieces over what they should do about this takeover of their party by someone both so appealing to their electoral base but potentially horrifying to the rest of the electorate and also to many of them.

Trump’s campaign may very well turn all of traditional U.S. politics in its head, and continue providing his own sort of late-night running commentary on the news of the day and the failings of our political leaders in both parties, mixing sarcasm and rage. Most campaigns are a mixture of message, organization and money. What if Trump’s campaign ends up being just pure message? That kind of campaign he could do part time, in the hope that his message conquers all. It would explain his avoiding “battleground states” and instead focusing on big media markets such as California and New York. Being all message with no campaign machinery enables him to respond instantaneously to changing events like the recent terror attack.

For Republican leaders, however, especially those currently in tough re-election races, Trump’s method is a high-wire act, because it leaves little campaign money or effort flowing from the presidential race to down-ballot contests. And who knows what Trump will say or do on any given day? So Republican Party leaders are holding on for a wild ride, balancing their endorsements of Trump with reservations and criticisms, or in some cases trying to painfully differentiate between “support” and “endorse” — two words that mean pretty much the same thing (see Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire).

If a climate of fear and chaos were to emerge over the next five months, it could tilt the electorate toward Trump.

Can Trump win the presidency? Never underestimate the power of a message crisply and engagingly delivered. It can move electoral mountains. Crisis and chaos are the best arguments for Trump and his chaotic and crisis-ridden campaign. He wins only if chaotic times speak so loudly that they override all the normal cautions that voters apply in this most important of job interviews. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the normal vetting and evaluation processes are too cumbersome to save us.  

And that brings us back to the horrifying shooting in Orlando. Events have a way of reframing and reconceptualizing what political candidates and leaders say, and we may then see them in a new light. Trump certainly thinks so; he immediately sent out two tweets, congratulating himself on his prescience and calling for President Barack Obama’s resignation for not referencing “radical Islam” in his speech in the immediate aftermath of the attack. At this moment, Trump’s Republican “frenemies” are frozen in place, not sure whether or not his words will strengthen him.  Here’s a further complication: The victims were LGBT. There is evidence that the killer was driven as much by homophobia as by his proclaimed allegiance to ISIS. How will Trump and the Republicans deal with the fact that men kissing may have helped drive him to homicide?

If a climate of fear and chaos were to emerge over the next five months, it could tilt the electorate toward Trump. Israelis have certainly turned rightward in recent years, although the differences between the two countries and their voters are instructive. For decades, Israel has faced an existential threat from its neighbors. Little by little, the progressive wing lost its support, and Israelis have moved right, not as a result of an individual terrorist attack, but because of a much wider and continuing assault on the nation’s very survival. Even the most horrific terror attacks, like 9/11 and the one in Orlando, have not placed the United States as a whole in jeopardy of its very survival.  

Reducing or preventing a sense of chaos and fear will be critical to Democrats’ success against Trump.  That’s why the violent protests against Trump, which have even included physical attacks on Trump supporters, are supremely self-destructive. The only defense against demagoguery is democracy itself, which requires faith that arguments can be won without violence. 

Obama has his own challenges. After the San Bernardino shootings, he wanted to show that his policy against ISIS was working, and thereby missed an opportunity to explain to the American people how defeating ISIS’ strategy to acquire a physical kingdom had, in fact, caused it to undertake terror worldwide. The current attack by an avowed ISIS believer offers the president another chance to be the explainer in chief. We want to understand what we can expect to face, and why, and what the government is going to do about it. The president can be the most reliable source of information, given his access to intelligence and military advice, and when he shares what can be made public, it provides some reassurance. 

It was striking that Hillary Clinton, in her response to Orlando, slightly distanced herself from the president by openly referring to “radical Islamic terrorism.”  Long sought by conservatives, this terminology sends a subtle signal that she will carve some of her own territory. This degree of separation may help her with foreign policy experts who have expressed skepticism about Trump and had their own reservations about Obama’s foreign policy.

For Trump, the fear engendered by the attack provides a fresh opportunity to reach voters with his message. However, the close attention to terrorism that an attack engenders could just as easily show him in the worst possible light. His one-man show of tweets and off-hand comments runs the risk of revealing even more of his limitations in the glare of the public eye. In this case, his veiled suggestion that Obama is in league with terrorists contrasts starkly with the images of the president’s news conference, his consultations with leaders and with Clinton’s comments.

Were he a more “normal” challenging candidate, Trump would have had respected military and intelligence advisers at his side to bolster his comments. He has already alienated many of the foreign policy intellectuals in his party who might have come to his defense. By his own choosing, he is on his own on a matter that benefits from the best and widest advice. He may not be ready for prime time.

Raphael J. Sonenshein is the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles.

Pulse and Pride

OK, I’ll start with the good news. 

While the extent of the Orlando tragedy was being revealed back East, in Los Angeles, tragedy was averted.

Acting on a tip from a suspicious resident, Santa Monica police stopped a man, James Wesley Howell, who said he was on his way to the gay pride parade in West Hollywood on the morning of Sunday, June 12.  When police searched Howell’s trunk, they found three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and chemicals to make explosives.  Howell, who is from Indiana, is in custody.

If the resident, the FBI and the Santa Monica Police had not acted with such vigilance and professionalism, Sunday would have been even worse than it was.  Just as at the Pulse nightclub, where the Orlando shooting took place, West Hollywood could have the site of multiple innocent victims, pools of blood, chaos and unimaginable grief.  Pride could easily have been as bad as Pulse.  

So there are some blessings to count, but also lessons to learn:

We are winning. One of the lessons is that America is not losing its war on terror.   We are not weak, or under siege or being overrun by hoards of Islamic terrorists.  Self-proclaimed Islamic terrorists have perpetrated eight attacks on American soil since 2009. Including the Orlando tragedy, and the total number of their victims is 95.  These are shocking incidents, with horrific consequences.  But the numbers do not warrant anything close to panic.  

If anything, the arrest that happened Sunday morning in Santa Monica is the norm, not the exception.  It’s not that America isn’t full of freedom and soft targets – it is.  But law enforcement and intelligence services have gotten much better at thwarting planned attacks.  President Barack Obama’s decision to take the fight overseas to target those inspiring or, in same cases, abetting our homegrown  jihadis has also crippled their ability to plan and execute attacks here.

Victims are victims. It’s deceptive and unhelpful to make our reaction to these attacks all about Islamic terror.  Since 2009, there have been 17 far-right-wing terror attacks inside the United States, more than double the number of Islamists’ attacks.  These include the murder of three people outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and the shooting of a security guard outside the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. in 2009.  All told, these far-right extremist attacks, which have disproportionately targeted gays, Jews, blacks and Muslims, have claimed 45 lives.  

Tough talk is for losers.  Literally, if all our leaders, or our wannabe leader, can offer is tough talk untethered to experience and sound policies, we will eventually lose.  In the wake of Orlando, Donald Trump tweeted that he was being congratulated for pointing out Islamic terror and calling for a ban on Muslims.  I kept thinking:  Hillary Clinton urged President Obama to smoke Osama Bin Laden, then watched it happen.   This while Trump, I’m guessing, was wrapping another episode of “The Apprentice.”

From left: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Photos by Reuters

Better gun laws would help.  Where in the Second Amendment does it say people investigated twice for terrorism have the right to bear arms? Where does it say a person on the Federal “No Fly List” should still be able to buy a gun?  In the immediate aftermath of every massacre, the pro- and anti-gun forces immediately take to Twitter, finding plenty of fuel for the next round of debate.  And the result: A lot of yelling, no change.

The truth is, banning assault rifles in the wake of a massacre committed with an assault rifle may sound good, but the evidence shows such bans do very little to reduce gun violence.  Assault weapons account for 4 percent of the 32,000 (yes, 32,000, including suicides) gun deaths in the U.S. each year. 

Public health officials might keep guns out of the hands of potential terrorists through much tougher background checks, and it would help for the government to go after gray-market gun dealers; it would also reduce accidents and suicides to require fingerprint-controlled triggers.  Where there is a will, there are solutions. Consider this: 10 years after Connecticut passed a law requiring gun buyers to pass a background check and a safety course with a certified instructor, gun homicides in the state fell 40 percent.

These steps might not have kept a gun out of the hands of the Orlando shooter. But it will be a shame if we spend all our time arguing about assault rifles when there are other, likely more effective, common-sense laws that could reduce the obscene number of gun deaths in this country

Vigilance, not panic. The day after the June 8 terror attack at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv, patrons made a point of flooding back and ordering coffee and cake at the restaurant where two Palestinian cousins had gunned down four Israelis in cold blood.  That Friday night, Israelis of all backgrounds came for Shabbat services at the market.  We can learn a lot from a country that has been dealing with wanton, nihilistic terror for decades.  Vigilance works. Too many of us assume it takes a Carrie Mathison to penetrate terrorist sleeper cells. But we all need to be aware of the warning signs of a super-empowered fanatic, willing and able to act on his or her own.  After Orlando, our job remains the same:  to keep our guard up — and our values too.

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

Israeli security experts weigh-in after Orlando massacre

Omar Mateen had left a long and worrisome trail much before he stunned the world with the mass murder of 49 men and women at an Orlando nightclub.

For the past nine years, the 29-year-old New York-born resident of Ft. Pierce, Fla., worked as a security officer for the G4S company in the town of Jupiter, during which time, it appears, he managed to spook many of his co-workers, numerous acquaintances and his Internet bride.  

“When I saw his picture on the news, I thought, ‘Of course, he did that,’” said Eric Baumer, a G4S co-worker told Newsday. “He had bad things to say about everybody — blacks, Jews, gays, a lot of politicians, our soldiers. He had a lot of hate in him. He told me America destroyed Afghanistan.”

“He did talk about killing people — gay people — people he thought were bad,” Baumer added. “I didn’t know he meant it. How could you know?”

Another co-worker, Daniel Gilroy, told the New York Times that when he heard about the shooting attack “I wasn’t shocked. I saw it coming.”

Mateen, he said, “talked about killing people all the time.”

Expressing regret that no action had been taken against Mateen, Gilroy, a former police officer who claims to have repeatedly alerted G4S to Mateen’s profane utterances and frequent racial, ethnic and sexual slurs, said “he was just agitated about everything, always shaken, always agitated, always mad.” 

“I kind of feel a little guilty that I didn’t fight harder,” Gilroy said. “If I didn’t walk away and I fought, then maybe 50 people would still be alive today.”

A former neighbor, Oana Braescu, 32, of Ft. Pierce, recalled hearing Mateen screaming at his former wife, Sitora Yusufiy.  

“He’d scream and scream, and one time … I could hear her asking him to stop hitting her,” she recalled, adding that she had seen Yusufiy run out of the house in tears more than once. 

Speaking from her new home in Boulder, Colorado, Yusufiy told CNN that she was “devastated, shocked. I started shaking and crying. More than anything I was so deeply heartbroken for the people that lost loved ones.”

She described her onetime husband of about a year as initially “normal,” then, gradually, becoming physically abusive. 

Two years ago, alerted by Mateen’s colleagues, the FBI investigated him for potential links to Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, the first American-born terrorist to carry out a suicide bomb attack in Syria.

Experts and lay people alike are now focusing on the question of how it was all missed. 

Israeli security experts who have amassed more direct experience than most of their colleagues with “lone wolf” Islamist attacks had words of identification and words of caution for their counterparts in the West. 

Sounding grim, Ram Ben-Barak, the former deputy chief of Israel’s famed Mossad intelligence agency, told The Media Line, “This is a war. It is an attack upon the West and the United States just like at the time of 9/11.” 

“To fight a war, you need intelligence,” he continued.” To neutralize terror you need intelligence. You need to identify the target population and act; and the laws about what it is permissible to collect and what is not will need to be changed.”

In numerous surveys, Israelis have displayed a much greater willingness than Americans to relinquish certain rights of privacy in exchange for a vigorous security régime, a fact reflected in Ben-Barak’s comments, which he mitigated by adding “of course, you need regulation in place so that this is not abused, but the targets need to be uncovered and stopped before they manage to perpetrate their attacks.” 

“They will have to start to develop networks, quickly,” he said of his American peers. “The problem today is not in collecting intelligence, but in processing it and separating the wheat from the chaff. And even then,” he sighed, “it’s not 100% sure. These are very complicated events.” 

The complication in the definition of the crime came quickly, as Los Angeles police announced the arrest of a suspect identified as James Howell, who was arrested hours after the Orlando massacre while on his way to the LA Gay Pride Parade carrying in his car an arsenal of assault rifles, explosives and Tannerite, a substance used to make pipe bombs, along with loaded gun magazines taped together and a security badge. 

Rukmini Callimachi, the New York Times correspondent covering militant Islamist movements, tweeted extensively about Mateen’s adherence to instructions transmitted in recent months by Islamic State outlets encouraging “lone wolf” attacks, and stated that as a result, “I feel somewhat uncomfortable calling the Orlando shooter a ‘lone wolf’, but am continuing to do so because I don't know of a better term.”

“Several elements of the Orlando siege… recall operational tactics used in recent months by top ISIS cadres,” she posted.

Michael S. Smith, a terror expert from the Congressional Taskforce on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, posted in reaction that in fact there has only been a single true Lone Wolf in the history of American terror: “the Unabomber. Had 0 contacts.” 

In a bizarre moment in the day’s proceedings, Seddique Mir Mateen, Omar’s father, posted a Facebook video announcing the death of his son to some 8,000 followers.

“My son, Omar Mateen, was a very good boy, an educated boy, who had a child and a wife, very respectful of his parents,” the immigrant from Afghanistan said speaking directly to the camera.

Mateen Jr. was, in fact, divorced and has no known children. 

“I don’t know what caused this,” the father said. “I did not know and did not understand that he has anger in his heart.”

“Only God can punish homosexuality,” he continued, referring to the attack at Pulse, the popular Orlando gay nightclub. “This is not an issue for humans to punish.” 

A senior Israeli security expert who had operational responsibilities for ensuring the security of the last Olympic Games and World Cup, told The Media Line that “a case like this is an almost impossible task.” 

Mentioning the recent attack on a Tel Aviv café, the expert, who requested anonymity on account of the discretion required by his work, said “it is very difficult to prepare against the so-called ‘lone wolves.’ Until the leaders of ISIS are eliminated, it will in my estimation be impossible to keep up with all the individuals — with these lone terrorists it is very, very difficult.” 

Ben-Barak, the former deputy head of the Mossad, also emphasized the difficulty of acting against such threats, and declined to criticize the security arrangements at the nightclub. “In every case,” he said, “the building itself is the very last line of defense. Think of a football game—it doesn’t much matter if an attacker hits the cash registers at the entrance or commits his crime on the pitch. You get to the same result. The building itself is important, but it is the last ring of security.” 

After Orlando, Trump amps up calls to ban Muslim entry, monitor U.S. Muslims

Donald Trump amped up his calls to cut off Muslim entry into the United States and to monitor U.S. Muslims, in the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, through his Twitter feed and speaking to news outlets on Monday, said a substantial threat existed among Muslims overseas and Muslims in the United States.

“First of all we have to stop people coming in from Syria, we’re taking them in by the thousands,” he told CNN, referring to Obama administration policy on Syrian refugees, which has allowed in just over two thousand this year and which sets an annual maximum of 10,000.

“This will only get worse because we have very weak leadership,” he said, and called for more monitoring of American Muslims. “We need intelligence gathering, we have to look at the mosques, we have to look at the community.”

Omar Mateen, the attacker who killed 49 people in an attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday, was American born. He pledged allegiance to Islamic State during the attack. An array of Muslim American groups has condemned the attack.

Speaking to Fox News Channel, Trump increased the number of Syrians he claims to be entering the country each year to “tens of thousands” and said they were not vetted. U.S. officials vet asylum applicants from Syria for up to two years before allowing them in.

Trump accused Muslims in the United States of not reporting terrorists in their midst.

“You have many, many people, thousands of people living in our country, people who are around them, Muslims, know who they are,” he said. “People in his community,” Trump said, referring to Mateen, “and their community, they know who the people are, almost in every case, they know who they are, they brag about it, they talk about it, they have to turn them in.”

He did not cite evidence showing that Mateen’s coreligionists in his south Florida community knew he was planning a terrorist attack. Local and federal law enforcement agencies generally work closely with Muslim community leaders to track radicals.

Trump called on President Barack Obama to resign and Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, to quit the race, for not saying that “radical Islam” is at fault.

Clinton rejected the accusation. “I have clearly said that we face terrorist enemies who use Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people,” she told NBC. “We have to defeat radical jihadist terrorism and we will. And to me, radical Jihadism, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing. I’m happy to say either, but that’s not the point.”

Obama, speaking just prior to a briefing on the mass killing by FBI chief James Comey, described the attack as emblematic of “homegrown extremism” that “perverts” Islam, and said it was critical to confront the ideology fuelling it.

“Countering this extremist ideology is increasingly going to be just as important as making sure we’re disrupting” Islamic State activities overseas,” he said.

Trump on Fox appeared to suggest that Obama knew more about radical Islamic plots than he was saying.

“He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anyone understands, it’s one or the other, and either one is unacceptable,” Trump said of Obama.

Even before the shooting, Trump was promising to make his proposed ban on Muslims a centerpiece of his campaign. On Friday, he told a conservative Christian group he would defend Israel and protect American Christians.

“We will respect and defend Christian Americans,” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said Friday, addressing the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference in Washington, D.C. “Christian Americans,” he added, for emphasis.

He said Americans faced dangers from Islamic extremists, and he would keep them out, promising “new immigration controls to keep us safe from radical Islamic terrorism.”

He said at the Christian forum that his policy would extend to protecting Israel as well.

“We must continue to forge our partnership with Israel and work to ensure Israel’s security,” he said.

Trump is planning to elaborate on his plans to combat radical Islam in a speech in New Hampshire scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Terror is the real Nakba

Palestinians consider the birth of the State of Israel a catastrophe, a “nakba.” It’s their Holocaust Day.

The two Palestinian terrorists who went on a rampage at the Sarona restaurant complex in Tel Aviv must surely consider Israel, and Tel Aviv, a catastrophe. The beaches, the night clubs, the museums, the hotels, the high tech vibe, the restaurant where they ordered brownies before murdering Jews– it’s all a catastrophe.

Palestinians are taught that the very existence of Israel is a catastrophe.

I wonder, though, what Yousef Jabarin thinks about Israel. He’s the Palestinian bartender from Umm al-Fahm who served the terrorists those brownies before they did their murderous act. Is the country that gave him his job a “catastrophe”?

I also wonder what Arab terrorists must think when they see fellow Arabs like Jabarin living freely in that “catastrophic” country called Israel. How dare you work for Jews? How dare you look so happy serving us those brownies?

When Palestinian terrorists come to Israel to murder Jews, they’re showing their hatred not just for Jews, but for what the Jews have built: A civil society where Israeli Arabs can work and live freely, where they have more rights, legal protections and economic opportunities than in any Arab country in the Middle East.

For any Arab who has been taught to hate Jews, the fact that Arabs are better off living in the Jewish state must be a real source of embarrassment.

It’s the catastrophe of humiliation.

This is what must drive the murderers nuts — the realization that for Arabs like Yousef Jabarin, Israel is not a nakba but a miracle.

It is Jew-hating terror that is the real nakba.

Egyptian officials say terrorism more likely than accident in EgyptAir crash

An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo with 56 passengers and ten crew crashed into the Mediterranean on Thursday, apparently killing everyone on board, and raising fears that it was a terrorist attack. The plane had taken off from Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport in France, and apparently crashed soon after it entered Egyptian airspace.

Among the passengers were 30 Egyptians, 15 French, two Iraqis and one each from several countries including the UK, Belgium, Kuwait and Canada. Signs of possible wreckage were found off the island of Crete, about twelve hours after the crash. The objects were pieces of plastic in white and red and were spotted close to an area where the transponder signal had been emitted.

Egyptian officials said it was too early to tell if the crash was an accident or terrorism, but that terrorism seems more likely. The Airbus A320 was relatively new and known as a safe aircraft.

“If you analysis the situation properly the possibility of having a terror attack is higher than the possibility of having a technical [problem],” Minister of Civil Aviation Sherif Fathy told reporters in Cairo.

Fathy also corrected an early report that said that signal was heard two hours after the flight disappeared from radar.

“There was a mistake made by an official somewhere,” he said. “He talked about a signal and then a few minutes after he came back and apologized, and he came back and said ‘sorry there was no signal’. After his first statement we all went to the press and said the signal was received, thereafter we denied that and we admit there was a mistake that happened.”

The head of Russia’s domestic intelligence agency said he believes the plane was brought down by a terror attack “in all likelihood.”

Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service, called for governments to come together to track down those responsible for the “monstrous attack.”

The crash comes after an Airbus A321 operated by Russia’s Metrojet crashed in the Sinai desert last October killing all 224 people on board. Russia said the plane was most likely brought down by a bomb, and the Islamic State said it had smuggled an explosive device on board.

Reuters later reported that an EgyptAir mechanic, whose cousin joined Islamic State in Syria, was most likely the one who placed the bomb.

In this case, there was no claim of responsibility 12 hours after the plane disappeared. There were no weather disturbances reported, and a British pilot who had been flying in the same area told the BBC that there were no communications problems and the weather was “perfect.”

Even if the crash is eventually ruled an accident, it could have further affect tourism in Egypt. Until the Arab spring protests in 2011, Egypt attracted 15 million visitors a year. That number was down to nine million in 2014, according to Egyptian government figures. So far this year, the numbers are down even further, after the UK and other states warned there was a serious risk of terrorism in Sinai, where the Russian airliner exploded.

“This incident will further damage Egypt’s tourism industry,” Israeli terrorism expert Shlomo Brom of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University told The Media Line. “It will also be a blow to the prestige of EgyptAir as it may show that its security arrangements are not good enough.”

Brom said, however, that as the flight originated in Paris, it is the French government that should be responsible for security.

Israeli travel warning: Leave Turkey immediately

Israel warned its citizens living in or visiting Turkey to leave immediately.

The travel warning was issued Monday by the National Security Council Counter Terrorism Bureau, which is part of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The warning, which was upgraded from a basic concrete threat to a high concrete threat, comes a week after a suicide bombing at a main shopping center in Istanbul killed three Israelis and one Iranian national. Turkish media later reported that the bomber targeted an Israeli tour group.

According to the warning, the March 19 bombing “underscores the threat by Daesh against tourist targets throughout Turkey and proves high capabilities of carrying out further attacks.” Daesh is the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

“Terrorist infrastructures in Turkey continue to advance additional attacks against tourist targets – including Israeli tourists – throughout the country,” the warning also said.

Turkish Police issued a nationwide alert on Sunday warning of possible Islamic State attacks over the weekend against churches and synagogues, and calling on consulates and embassies in the country to be on high alert.

The Islamic State has been blamed for four of six bombing attacks in Turkey in the past eight months, the English-language Turkish news service Hurriyet Daily News reported.

On March 22, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a telephone conversation with his Israeli counterpart that his country is “ready to cooperate with Israel against terrorism.”