The state of European-Israel relations reminds me of the issue of climate change. Some deny it, and some are convinced it is happening but are unable to take the right steps to face it and manage it. During the last decade, the relationship between our nations was governed by frameworks, conceptions, and alliances that were thought to hold the key to many intricate dossiers on both sides of the ocean.
All those perspectives have today vanished. They are replaced by a growing uncertainty and the absolute need to redesign our paradigms of cooperation and alliances in the face of a rapidly evolving and complex geopolitical and security environment.
The security and social situation in many European cities is an adequate “thermometer” of this ongoing redesign of geopolitics. What we describe in our law enforcement jargon as “globalization” illustrates what evolutions in the Middle East and beyond can trigger among our communities, on the local level, even in the smallest neighborhood. Thinking global and acting local is not for us just a concept, but rather a mandatory step.
Indeed, for the last four decades, and since the Iranian revolution, the “religious and ideological equation” has opened a Pandora’s Box that many struggle to define what more consequences and surprises it still holds for both sides of the Mediterranean area. As a consequence of that revolution, all sorts of extremisms have risen and dominated the daily lives of our citizens and sensitive communities. It has led to an increasing insecurity, the rooting and persistence of fear, systemic risks, terror threats, etc.
It has all resulted in two main trends that law enforcement and actors on the field have to deal with on a daily basis: polarization, the rise of radicalization and anti-Semitism, which in turn fuel populism, and the rise of Fascism and far-Right groups and governments in various countries in Europe. This is a risk that many naively thought unrealistic and is leading, for instance, to mind-boggling situations where the Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe are both seriously under a “common threat.”
As they took advantage of this threat against the European social fabric and democratic values, that we all cherish, and by the way take for granted, various players around the world started activating alliances, and increasingly projected their power or global vision, on the field, through proxies, not only in war zones, but also in our European neighborhoods.
After my first appeal for vigilance in June 2017, I will repeat this again, to whom it may concern, for the sake of our democratic values and the tolerance that we’ve always stood for: our social cohesion in Europe is seriously at risk.
This raises two questions: the issue of alliances and the issue of values for which we stand.
Have we really been able to articulate the most adequate strategic foresight, in order to prevent all of this, or not? Have we, on the other hand, understood the hidden agenda of some of our “friends?” And therefore have we conducted the right and “non-naive” stakeholder analysis? This I will respectfully leave to our diplomats and political specialists;
The only thing I can confirm, from my law enforcement perspective, is that on the field, in our cities, certain geopolitical games and “instrumentalizations” have left their permanent footprint and taken a huge toll.
This ranges from the radicalized youth being permanently fed hate speech and a polarized view of the world – to the great satisfaction of certain foreign actors – to the terrorist attacks of Paris and Brussels, and the following aftershocks, called by some, “low-cost terrorism.” It is so low cost, with car rammings and kitchen knives, that it has become part of our daily lives, just like in Israel, with whom we objectively share a set of similar threat scenarios since 2015.
The ideological equation has until today won its first battles. It has developed a “hybrid ecosystem,” an “incubator” that will be producing various waves of instability and violence for decades to come, on both sides of the “mare nostrum,” even forcing thousands of members of the Jewish community in Europe to consider exile. That is a given.
Therefore, maybe the time has come for a mind shift, time to aspire to be “intellectually” agile and reconsider certain paradigms, frozen in time.
Beyond all the differences of opinion between Europe and Israel, I believe in our shared foundation of values – a foundation that transcends our opponents, those who advocate for authoritarianism, hate speech, religious extremism, populism, racism, fascism, anti-Semitism, violation of human rights and freedom of the press, and challenge democratic principles. If we can agree that all of this is really happening and threatening our stability, then it is time to have a “new and serious conversation” between “objective allies.” Objective, beyond any “reasonable doubt.”
In this new “world disorder,” I believe in “exposure.” It leads to a better understanding of the “field challenges” and “systemic risks” as they were explained to me in concreto by my Israeli counterparts. I believe that there is room for benchmarking and dialogue that can lead to a “redesigned cooperation” based on those very values I described.
In the face of a common threat, maybe security services professionals can contribute to building bridges between Europe and Israel and pave the way for a new “rapprochement.” Right now, our citizens are adamantly requesting a better and sustainable security. It is a legitimate demand. It is a sine qua non condition for building social cohesion, integration, and stability in our cities, which in its turn facilitates economic prosperity. Security indeed is not an end in itself; it is a formidable vector. It can be a vector for peace.
The EU Commission has, through programs like Horizon 2020, opened the door to various forms of cooperation with Israeli institutions. And I commend that. Indeed, interesting consortia can be put in place, in association with critical issues. We can only hope that these initiatives, among many others, can be extended and be the beginning of a new paradigm, a new “virtuous exposure.”