SaveTheWest.com contributor writer Erez Winner, who spent 25 years in the Israel Defense Forces and retired as a colonel, argues that the days of allowing our leaders to deny or ignore the threat that radical Islamism poses to Western civilization must come to an end.
Mehdi Namush, French of Algerian origin, who was arrested on suspicion of terrorist attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, represents a great example of an increasingly severe problem faced by European leaders. Mahdi is not the first in very recent years, as he was preceded by Mohamed Marah, also a Frenchman of Algerian origin, who committed the massacre at the Jewish school in Toulouse, France in March, 2013.
Such attacks are part of a broad phenomenon that encompasses thousands of young people. According to one study of the International Institute for the Study of the Phenomenon of Islamic Extremism (ICSR), as many as 13,000 young European men fought in the last two years in Syria alone, and will be coming back to Europe, in time.
The Western world is in a war for its survival, and it is not obvious that our leaders really understand the gravity of the situation. European leaders are particularly confused, in the face of a challenging economic environment, a low birth rate, a decreasing workforce, an aging population, a massive wave of immigration, and an uncontrolled change in the nature of society and culture, which simultaneously exacerbate the situation. Much of the Muslim population is not “melting” into the existing European culture, and is suffering from high unemployment, a sense of deprivation and resentment, rising religious extremism, and the return of young jihadists from the battlefields in the Middle East. Rising European frustration among the different countries is leading to the strengthening of anti-Semitism and xenophobia, manifested by the rise of extreme right-wing parties.
As throughout history, from the Black Plague through the Crusades and the more recent wars in the world, the Jews are the first to pay the price, as scapegoats. Growing anti-Semetic and extremist forces are being strengthened, as witnessed by the rise of extreme right-wing parties in the last elections to the European Parliament. Jewish symbols, community centers, and private individuals find themselves attacked by both extreme right-wing forces on the one side and jihadists such as Mohamed Marah and Mehdi Namush on the other side.
Needless to say, the rise to power of Hitler and Nazi Germany and fascist Mussolini in Italy, in light of the social and economic processes of the 1930s, show similarities to today. Then as now, there is an attempt on the part of all parties to reduce and isolate each event, and to not recognize that these attacks represent a very disturbing, growing phenomenon.
Leaders often find it difficult to recognize the hard reality, even when it is staring them in their face, as such recognition would force them to take practical and controversial steps. For those who find it difficult to understand, all one needs to do is to go back and study the plight of European Jewry in the early 1930s. Although Jews were the ones who paid the price, this political and social turmoil was not just a problem for Jews.
The major difference between our time today, and those other dark periods in history, is the existence of an independent Jewish state. Israel can and should be a refuge for all those Jews who have recently discovered, or will discover in the near future, that Europe, the home in which they lived, is not their long-term home and certainly not their shelter.
Rising anti-Semitism is a problem facing Europe as a continent, as well as the countries that make up the Union and their residents as individuals. Rising anti-Semitism is actually a threat to the whole Western world. Similarly, the Iranian nuclear threat might appear to be an existential threat to Israel, but the Western world, and especially Europe, will soon face the same existential threat, either to the life of its citizens or to its culture and values. The recent events in Brussels should be wake-up call to European leaders and to Jews living in Europe today.
Jews must decide how they want to see themselves and their families living in the coming years.
The residents of North America cannot ignore the growing problem either. Just one month ago, we saw police officers in Queens, New York, being attacked with an ax. The attacker, Zale Thompson, a young American who converted to Islam two years ago, was driven by religious-ideological reasons. We also recently witnessed a sequence of attacks in Canada. In Montreal, a soldier was run over by a young Canadian who converted to Islam, and the next day, in the capital of Ottawa, another young Canadian that also converted to Islam recently, Michael Zhaf-Bivio, led a shooting attack on the war memorial and then opened fire in the Canadian parliament building.
To all the Western world leaders, I can only say: Don’t hide your heads in the sand.
The problem of political Islam exists and is expanding, thereby threatening the existence of the world around us, as we have known it. This problem faces the entire Western world, and ignoring it does not prevent or reduce it. On the contrary, ignoring the threat posed by radical Islam to the Western world, and in fact to the entire world, will only increase its threat, particularly as more and more disoriented young people join the ranks of the extremists.
The State of Israel, however, can help by sharing with the relevant countries in Europe and in the Americas (those that still shows signs of wanting to fight the phenomenon), existing information in its possession regarding the phenomenon of jihadist terrorism. These insights can also encourage and assist the diaspora Jews in understanding that their place is with us, in the Jewish state of Israel.