AJC Global Forum Blog

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A Deadly Anniversary: What’s At Stake 1 Year Later

Europe’s values are built on the rule of law, pluralism, and the protection of human dignity. One year after the Charlie Hebdo terror attack, the continent finds itself in the midst of an epic struggle against those who seek to destroy those cherished ideals. Here’s a look at the current status of Europe’s fight against radical Islamist terror:

The Charlie Hebdo Attack

January 7, 2016, marks exactly one year since the murderous attack on the Paris offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo. That day, two brothers, both jihadi Islamists, killed 12 people and wounded several others, escaped, and then shot a police officer before being gunned down. Just two days later—while the Charlie Hebdo assassins were still at large—another jihadist, a friend of theirs, took 15 customers hostage inside a kosher food store, the Hyper Cacher, and killed four of them before police shot him to death.

These terrorist incidents on European soil at the outset of 2015 were not the year’s last. Little over a month later—on February 14—another young jihadist man burst into a Copenhagen café where a discussion was taking place on “Art, Blasphemy, and Freedom of Expression” and shot to death a Danish film director.  From there the assassin drove to the local synagogue and murdered the man standing guard, a member of the Jewish community.

The Cancer Is Growing

But the range of victims would not be confined to Jews and free-speech advocates. Despite tight security measures that the French government instituted in the wake of Charlie Hebdo, on November 13, Paris was the scene of the country’s deadliest terror episode since World War II. In a carefully coordinated operation, three teams of young jihadists...

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Date: 1/6/2016
Europe’s Blind Spot in its Fight Against Anti-Semitism: A Lack of Security Coordination

By Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs

Now, nearly a year after the terrorist attacks on a kosher market in Paris and the synagogue in Copenhagen, European governments recognize the special security concerns of vulnerable Jewish communities. In Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and France, new measures have been instituted to provide protection, drawing on both military and police units. These visible signs of support are reassuring to Jewish community leaders, and they are grateful. But at the same time, they wonder how long these measures can remain in place. They also do not know if in each country the steps being taken are the most effective or efficient.

Lack of “Best Practices”

Within the European Union and in other intergovernmental bodies such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), it has become almost second nature to identify “best practices” for addressing common problems that member states often confront. But as far as I can observe, in this case each country has stepped forward to offer security to Jewish communities by devising their own methods and means.

Mobilizing the Military

In France and Belgium, it has meant mobilizing the military, while some countries now have police patrolling in front of Jewish buildings. Those soldiers are a formidable deterrent, but the police are...

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Date: 1/6/2016
3 Ways the Saudi Arabia-Iran Dispute is Bigger than Those Two Countries

Last weekend, Saudi Arabia—at the heart of the Sunni world—executed Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr for agitating against the ruling family, along with 46 other dissidents and terrorists, mostly supporters of al-Qaeda. In Shiite Iran, itself a world leader in executions and religious persecution, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei spoke of “divine vengeance” and mobs attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the consulate in Mashhad. The Saudis then severed diplomatic ties with Iran, and were quickly followed by several Sunni allies. Let’s take a look at the three major takeaways from this sequence of events.

Where is the United States?

While both countries have egregious human rights records, Saudi Arabia is a long-time American ally, Iran a long-time foe—indeed, many Americans still remember the storming of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and the months-long detention of U.S. personnel. But our government’s response to this growing crisis has been generally restrained, save for expressing “particular concern” about Saudi Arabia’s execution of Sheikh Nimr, condemning the attack on Saudi missions in Iran, and calling for calm and dialogue between the two countries. Many are doubtless trying to divine U.S. intentions from these comments. Could it be that following the nuclear deal with Iran, the United States is now neutral in the long-simmering Saudi-Iranian conflict? Might we even be tilting toward Iran?

What does this mean for Israel?

Israel has learned to cope in a Middle East where its immediate neighbors are predominantly Sunni states; Lebanon, with an ethnic mix, is largely Shiite on its border with Israel. While Israel has diplomatic ties and security understandings with Egypt and Jordan, and various degrees of contact with other Middle East/North African states, hostility toward Israel has been state policy across the region for decades – most aggressively in Shiite Iran, where leaders routinely call for the Jewish state’s destruction. A shift in the Sunni-Shiite power balance, or the perception that Washington is warming toward Tehran, would have profound strategic consequences. If U.S. support for Saudi Arabia is brought into question, or if the Iranian-Saudi clash—previously confined to the proxy battlefields of Syria and Yemen—heats up, the future becomes much less certain for Israel.

Economic turmoil

The economic implications of this turn of events cannot be ignored. Markets around the world plummeted on Monday, reacting, in part, to fears of how the conflict will affect the energy market. How that market—already distressed—will ultimately respond is anyone’s guess. Thus this dispute between two Middle Eastern powers has implications ranging far beyond the region.  

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Date: 1/5/2016
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