No. 108, 1 July 2011 / 29 Sivan 5771
- The phenomenon of terrorism against Jewish communities and Israeli targets abroad represents the most violent aspect of contemporary anti-Semitism, and the greatest physical danger to Diaspora Jewish communities. The rational calculations of political violence and the irrational fantasies of extreme ideologies can combine to threaten the lives of ordinary Jews and others all over the world. This clarifies in the starkest terms why Jewish communities require security at their synagogues, schools, and community buildings.
- Many terrorist groups that target Jews are rooted in political ideologies that incorporate anti-Semitism. Neo-Nazi groups adhere to the view that Jews are racially inferior and conspire to destroy the white race. Islamist terrorists believe that Jews are morally inferior and conspire to undermine and destroy Islam. Leftist terrorist groups that have targeted Jews have often conflated anti-Semitism with their anti-American and anticapitalist viewpoints. The idea that Jews, Zionism, or Israel are preventing the creation of a new, better world is common across different extremist ideologies.
- The most devastating terrorist acts in recent years have involved car bombs or bombs delivered in bags or belts and triggered remotely, or by suicide bombers. However, Western scrutiny over the sale of domestic chemicals, which are core constituents of homemade explosives, may herald a new trajectory: that of multiple-site armed attacks using firearms, perhaps purchased through criminal associations. Military strategists have been warning for some years that substate violent groups would adopt the tactic of “swarming,” aided by the communications revolution, so as to defeat larger military or security forces.
- The growth of Salafi jihadist terrorism poses the greatest threat to Jewish communal security. Previously the main perpetrators of anti-Jewish terrorism had overwhelmingly been Palestinian secular terrorists; neo-Nazis and white supremacists; and radical leftists. Of the fifty-one recorded attacks and prevented plots from 2002 to 2010, thirty-nine were carried out by Al-Qaeda, its affiliates, Lashkar-e-Toiba, or other individuals or groups inspired by the ideology of the global jihad movement.
The phenomenon of terrorism against Jewish communities and Israeli targets abroad represents the most violent aspect of contemporary anti-Semitism, and the greatest physical danger to Diaspora Jewish communities. It demonstrates how the rational calculations of political violence and the irrational fantasies of extreme ideologies can combine to threaten the lives of ordinary Jews and others all over the world. It clarifies in the starkest terms why Jewish communities require security at their synagogues, schools, and community buildings.
When the first edition of this report was published in 2003, it was the first time that the history of post-1967 anti-Jewish terrorism had been collated comprehensively. It showed that Jewish communities and Israeli-linked targets outside Israel have been attacked by violent extremists from diverse backgrounds: neo-Nazis, Marxist-Leninists, anarchists, Palestinian and other Arab nationalists, Khomeinite revolutionaries, and radical Sunni Islamists. In the intervening seven years since this chronology was first published, this picture has come to be dominated by the new wave of terrorism perpetrated by Salafi jihadists linked to, or supportive of, Al-Qaeda. These are referred to collectively as the global jihad movement, which targets Jews as part of wider terrorist campaigns in Western and Muslim countries.
This new report also demonstrates that many terrorists do not make a clear distinction between Jewish and Israeli targets outside Israel, either in their ideology, their propaganda, or – most important – in their targeting.
Terrorism and Anti-Semitism
Many terrorist groups that target Jews are rooted in political ideologies that incorporate anti-Semitism. Neo-Nazi groups, for example, adhere to the view that Jews are racially inferior and conspire to destroy the white race. Islamist terrorists of both Shia and Sunni varieties believe that Jews are morally inferior and conspire to undermine and destroy Islam. Leftist terrorist groups that have targeted Jews have often conflated anti-Semitism with their anti-American and anticapitalist viewpoints. The belief in a Jewish or Zionist conspiracy is common to the ideologies that drive most terrorist groups that target Jews and Israel. The idea that Jews, Zionism, or Israel are preventing the creation of a new, better world for all is also common across different extremist ideologies.
This ideological anti-Semitism, with its conspiratorial and millennial fantasies, combines with real-world grievances such as the Israel-Palestine conflict to create a specific threat to Jews and their communities from terrorist groups of different hues. For many extremists, Israel and Jews are closely linked in a symbiotic and mutually supportive relationship. They believe that attacking Jewish communities, which are sometimes considered soft targets, may undermine Israel’s national resolve. In addition, Jews are perceived as a particular enemy, as opposed to a general opponent such as the West or global capitalism. Jews are not the primary target for many terrorists; these are currently the United States and countries with military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The extent to which terrorists consider Jews a primary target may depend in part on how much traditional anti-Semitic tropes dominate their worldview.
Terrorist threats to Jews in the twenty-first century come mainly from three directions: the global jihad movement (i.e., Al-Qaeda and its affiliates and followers); Iran and its surrogates; and neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Far-left and anarchist groups carried out many terrorist attacks against Jewish communities in the 1970s and 1980s. Although some residual groups of this type remain in Germany, Italy, Greece, and Latin America, there is now less financial backing or training available for them than there was from the Soviet bloc before its implosion. Consequently, the terror threat from this quarter is currently low.
The decline in the leftist terrorism that wracked Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, and the more recent growth of Salafi jihadist terrorist attacks, reflects a wider shift from state-backed terrorism to autonomous terrorist groups and networks. This has had a degrading impact on their ability to successfully execute terrorist attacks, as evidenced by the relatively high proportion of plots by Al-Qaeda and unaffiliated global jihadists that were intercepted before they could reach fruition.
In assessing the ongoing threat to Jewish communities, it should be noted that British, American, Israeli, and other security services have sometimes publicized their interdiction of terrorist plots against Jewish and Israeli targets. Jewish communities continue to receive discreet warnings to enhance security at communal buildings, and in some countries they receive extra police protection.
In several recently foiled plots, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates in the global jihad movement planned to attack Jewish institutions and individuals. Elements of their now widespread ideology manifest a contemporary version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the czarist-era forgery that provided the rationale and underpinning for twentieth-century anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, and that now propels jihadist terrorists to attack Jews.
This forgery and its modern variants are now widely available throughout the Muslim world, and it is referred to directly or indirectly in some of the basic documents of Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and others.
The core ideological statement of Hamas, its charter, contains many anti-Jewish themes and comments, among which Article 32 states:
the Zionist plan has no limits, and after Palestine they want to expand [their territory] from the Nile to the Euphrates, and when they finish devouring one area, they hunger for further expansion and so on, indefinitely. The plan is expounded in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present behavior is the best proof for what we are saying.
Anti-Semitism appears to be growing in the Muslim world, as a consequence of the Islamist influence on traditional Muslim views of Jews as protected but subservient to Islam, as the Pew Research Center established in its 2009 survey of attitudes in twenty-five countries. It found, for example, that 98 percent of Lebanese, 97 percent of Jordanians, and 95 percent of Egyptians hold unfavorable views of Jews. The coming to power of an Islamist government in Turkey may have been a reason for the jump from 32 percent in 2004 to 73 percent there in 2009. Unsurprisingly, a recent large-scale poll in Muslim countries normally described as moderate indicated that there was widespread support for Palestinian terrorism and little empathy for Jewish suffering during the Holocaust.
Antagonistic references to Israelis are therefore very often couched in anti-Jewish terms, thereby promoting the Israel-Palestine conflict to the level of religious conflict, rather than a territorial dispute.
Radical Muslim religious leaders, whether Palestinian or not, often frame their arguments in this way. For example, the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Sheikh Himam Sa’id, stated in an address to Palestinians in Hebron that “you are now waging a war against the Jews. You are well versed in this. We saw how, on a day in 1929, you slaughtered the Jews in Hebron. Today, slaughter them in the land of Hebron. Kill them in Palestine.”
Anti-Jewish references are now commonplace in Islamist, and particularly Salafi jihadist, texts and other publications. Among the many recent examples in Europe, it is worth noting that the Al-Qaeda terrorist Andrew Rowe, who was arrested by the French authorities as he was returning to the UK in October 2003, was said by prosecuting counsel at his 2005 trial in London to have been carrying audio cassettes of militant sermons about the obligation to wage jihad against “unjust Christians and aggressive Jews” and demanding that Muslim lands be liberated from “the sons of the monkeys and pigs,” a derogatory reference to Jews. In 1999, Abu Qatada, said to have been the senior Al-Qaeda representative in the UK, gave a blessing for the killing of Jews in a mosque address, according to evidence cited by the Special Immigration Appeal Commission in March 2004 when it turned down his appeal to be freed from detention.
Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abul Ala Mawdudi, the founder of Jamaat e-Islami, and Sayid Qutb, the post-Second World War ideologue of the Brotherhood, all believed in a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world. In Qutb’s exposition of radical political Islam, Milestones, he formulated an ideology of Islamism and its violent jihadist derivative. For Qutb, contemporary Islam had lapsed into a state of darkness (jahiliyah) that could only be overthrown by violence. According to his program, non-Islamic religions, particularly the Jews – for whom he reserved particular opprobrium – would be required to accept Islamic dominance.
In his later work, Our Struggle with the Jews, Qutb went further, asserting that the struggle between Islam and Judaism must continue because Jews would only be satisfied with the destruction of Islam. Therefore, Muslims must fight against Jewish treachery and subjugate the Jews:
The Jews have confronted Islam with enmity from the moment the Islamic state was established in Medina…the Muslim community continues to suffer the same Jewish machinations and double dealing which discomforted the early Muslims…. This is a war which has not been extinguished…for close on fourteen centuries its blaze has raged in all the corners of the earth and continues to this moment.
The underlying anti-Semitic sentiments are echoed by Qutb’s successors in Al-Qaeda and the global jihad movement. The latter’s foremost ideologue, Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, wrote in his Global Islamic Call that among the most important targets were
all kinds of Zionist or American delegations, responsible for normalization of relations with Israel… and that the important targets in America and Western countries included media personalities and media centers that are leading the war against the Muslims and justifying the attacks on them, coming from the Zionists and Zionist-friendly Crusader media institutions.
In the same document he also wrote that, although jihadists should not attack places of worship, they should attack “places where Jews are gathered, their leading personalities and institutions in Europe.”
Ayman al-Zawahiri, now the leader of Al-Qaeda, has published several calls to attack Jews, in addition to Israelis. In his book Knights under the Prophet’s Banner, published in the London-based mainstream newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat in December 2001, he wrote:
Tracking down the Americans and the Jews is not impossible. Killing them with a single bullet, a stab, or a device made up of a popular mix of explosives or hitting them with an iron rod is not impossible. Burning down their property with Molotov cocktails is not difficult. With the available means, small groups could prove to be a frightening horror for the Americans and the Jews.
In April 2008 he endorsed “every operation against Jewish interests” and promised to “strive as much as we can to deal blows to the Jews inside Israel and outside it.” He also called specifically for attacks on Jews outside Israel:
Today there is no room for he who says that we should only fight the Jews in Palestine…. Let us strike their interests everywhere, just like they gathered against us from everywhere.
Shortly thereafter he released a videotape in which he responded to a question as to why Al-Qaeda avoided attacking Israel:
Does the person asking the question not know that Al-Qaeda struck the Jews in Djerba, Tunisia and Israeli tourists in their hotel in Mombasa. We promise our Muslim brothers that we will do our best to strike the Jews both inside and outside Israel, and with the help of Allah, we will succeed.
In the same video he went on to call on mujahideen to “attack Crusader and Jewish interests everywhere.”
During the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and southern Israel in December 2008 and January 2009, Zawahiri called on Muslims everywhere to “fight against the Zionist-Christian campaign, and strike its interests wherever you encounter them…[and] so thwart the efforts of these traitors by striking the interests of the enemies of Islam – namely, the Christians and the Jews – wherever and by whatever means you can.”
The leading theological influence on the contemporary Muslim
Brotherhood, and on Hamas following the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, is Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Despite his stated objection to the indiscriminate violent jihad practiced by Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, he frequently makes anti-Semitic statements. His messages influence Palestinian Islamists and their supporters worldwide. In his 2007 “Fatwa on Palestine” he wrote:
[We] believe that the battle between us and the Jews is coming. Such a battle is not driven by nationalistic causes or patriotic belonging: it is rather driven by religious incentives. The battle is not going to happen between Arabs and Zionists, or between Jews and Palestinians, or between Jews and anybody else. It is between Muslims and Jews as is clearly stated in the hadith. This battle will occur between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews, i.e., all Muslims and Jews.
In an anti-Semitic broadcast on Al Jazeera television during the 2008-2009 war in Gaza, he stated:
Oh Allah, take your enemies, the enemies of Islam. Oh Allah. Take the Jews, the treacherous aggressors. Oh Allah, take this profligate, cunning, arrogant band of people. Oh Allah, they have spread much tyranny and corruption in the land. Pour your wrath upon them. Oh our God. Lie in wait for them…. Oh Allah take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people. Oh Allah do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.
Anti-Semitism in Muslim countries, however, is by no means confined to political Islamists. The late Dr. Muhammad Sayyad Tantawi, sheikh of the prestigious seat of learning at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, wrote his 1969 doctoral dissertation on what he called the roots of violence in Jewish civilization from the arrival of the Jews in Egypt to their departure. Extracts serialized in recent editions of the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Youm characterized Jews as selfish and arrogant liars, quick to adopt crime and aggression, who are to be excluded from God’s mercy. In these serializations Tantawi endorsed two of the central themes of historic anti-Semitism, the blood libel and The Protocols:
[Tantawi’s] study examines an assortment of murders and assassinations that were recorded by the [Roman] historian Cassius [Dio] in the 78th volume [of his works], the most egregious of which is that “the Jews in the second century AD massacred the Romans and Greeks, ate their flesh, skinned them, split many of their bodies in two from the head down, and cast many of them to predatory beasts, to the extent that the number of dead reached 220,000.
[Tantawi’s] study states that the most notorious of these crimes [the use of Gentiles’ blood for baking matzoh] was what occurred in 1840 [in Damascus], when it was proven that [the Jews] murdered Father Toma and his servant.
About The Protocols, he wrote that,
The leaders of the Jews held 23 conferences between 1897 and 1951…there they decided on their secret plan to enslave the entire world under the crown of a king descendent from David, may he rest in peace.
Salafi Jihadist Terrorism against Jewish Communities
Unsurprisingly, given the incitement against Jews in their public discourse, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates and supporters in the global jihad movement seek to attack Jewish targets. Jews are not always their primary targets, but they are important secondary objectives. Attacking them fulfills a basic element of the Salafi jihadist strategy.
The cross-examination of Al-Qaeda’s operations chief, Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed, published in March 2007, revealed that attacks on Jews featured very high on the organization’s list of priorities. In listing Al-Qaeda’s successful and unsuccessful attacks, he noted that he was responsible for efforts to hit Israeli targets in Australia, Azerbaijan, India, Kenya, and the Philippines and Israeli flights into and out of Bangkok and Mombasa, and that he provided financial support for others to attack Jewish targets in the United States, Turkey, and the UK. He justified these attacks on the basis that, while killing Christians and Jews is forbidden by the Koran, Al-Qaeda had made an exception because of the invasion of Iraq. In a separate interrogation, Mohammed stated that Al-Qaeda had discussed bombing a U.S. location with a large Jewish population, but that no specific targets were agreed.
Recent investigations note that a February 2002 meeting in Istanbul between leaders of the Moroccan Islamist Combatant Group, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (which has since renounced terrorism), Tunisian jihadists and others almost certainly led to the plans for the 2002 attacks in Djerba and Casablanca, the second attack in Casablanca a year later in 2003 and the Madrid bombing of 2004. It is now known that the participants agreed that jihad should not be limited to the immediate conflict zones, but should be carried into the countries from which members of these groups originated, or in which they were residing.
Additional information suggests that the agreement to do so also reached into East Asia. While the primary reason for the agreement was the desire to force the United States and its allies out of Iraq (and this was spelled out in Bin Laden’s October 2003 audio message on Al Jazeera in which he threatened Spain, the United States, and five other countries), a second objective was clearly the wish to attack Jewish targets.
Training instructions posted to an internet forum in 2008 warned Salafi jihadists not to attack religious figures, but prioritized targets as follows:
Jews, but Jews from Israel and the United States took priority over British and French Jews; Christians; apostates. The reality, however, is that synagogues in the Middle East and North Africa and elsewhere have often been priority targets, as the April 2002 Djerba and November 2003 Istanbul bombings indicate.
A new threat has arisen with the internationalization of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which has sought cover under its parent organization Jamaat ud Dawa since its 2008 banning by the Pakistani government. It remains independent of Al-Qaeda, but aspires to a role beyond that of liberating Kashmir.
The assault on the Mumbai Chabad-Lubavitch Center at Nariman House in 2008 was followed by at least one, and possibly two more attempted assaults on Jewish targets in India, by people who had current or previous connections to LeT. On 17 February 2010, seventeen persons died in an attack on the German Bakery, a popular meeting place in Pune (Poona). The chief minister of Maharashtra state later told members of the Legislative Assembly that the attack had originally been planned against the local Chabad center, but the terrorists were deterred by increased security around the building. On 13 March 2010, police and army units surrounded the Paradesi Synagogue in Cochin Kerala, the oldest synagogue in India, after a terrorist alert by the Home Ministry, thereby forestalling a further expected attack.
Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving member of the terrorist group that attacked in Mumbai, revealed that the assault was planned and implemented by LeT, and that reconnaissance for it had been carried out by David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-born American citizen who had scouted other Jewish and Israeli targets in India and who also carried out surveillance on targets in Denmark, including Jewish institutions. What also emerged was evidence that some Pakistani government intelligence officers were involved in the Mumbai attacks. They would have provided the capacities and the international reach of a government institution, which a local terrorist group would have lacked. Headley confirmed this in his own interrogations by the U.S. authorities.
Anti-Jewish rhetoric has also been employed by the Pakistani Taliban, a separate entity from the Afghan Taliban, while threatening in July 2010 to attack India. Their spokesman added that, “For us, whether they are Hindus or Jews, they all are the same. Soon, we will teach India a lesson. India’s defeat at the hands of the Mujahideen is written in our religious books.”
Terror attacks are not limited to Al-Qaeda-linked Sunni Islamists. Terrorism by Iran and its surrogates predates Al-Qaeda by a decade and still poses a threat. The late Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini and his successors, especially current Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have repeatedly threatened Israel with destruction. Although Khomeini criticized Jews, the Islamic regime has mostly not terrorized its own Jewish population, notwithstanding periodic outbursts of repression.
During the 1980s and 1990s, however, Iran and Hizbollah repeatedly carried out terrorist attacks against Jewish or Israeli targets outside Israel. They included: the bombings of Jewish communal institutions in Paris in September 1986 by Lebanese Shiites under Hizbollah control; a failed car bombing against a Jewish community building in Bucharest in 1992, later discovered to have been carried out by Hizbollah; a failed ambush against Turkish Jewish leader Jacques Kimche in January 1993 by the Iran-linked Persevering Workers of Islam group; the truck-bomb attack against the Buenos Aires Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) headquarters in July 1994, now known to have been ordered by Iranian government leaders, which killed eighty-five people. The Iranian-born head of the Shiite community in Malmö, Sweden was expelled in December 1994 for gathering operational intelligence against the local Jewish community.
Following the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah in Lebanon, calls to attack Jews were made in some Iranian media outlets. For example:
Isn’t it true that many sensitive centres of the Zionists, Americans and some pro-Israel European countries are in the hands of Muslims. Isn’t it true that there is easy access to many Zionists in different parts of the world? Therefore which human and legal rule can prevent an attack against such centres and individuals?… Why shouldn’t Muslim nations attack the supporters of the Zionists in nooks and corners of the world?
During the 1980s and 1990s, Iran used terrorism abroad, against Jewish and also Iranian opposition elements, as a tool of foreign policy. There is a danger that if the current diplomatic conflict between Iran, Israel, and the West escalates, and possibly even encompasses military conflict, Iran will once again turn to terror against Jewish communities.
When Hizbollah operations director Imad Mughniyeh, who frequently operated on behalf of Iran, was killed by a car bomb in Syria in February 2008, Hizbollah threatened revenge. Yet the nature of the threat suggested that Hizbollah would not limit itself to attacking Israel, as then- Hizbollah MP Ismail Sukeyir put it: “Hizbollah has the right to retaliate anywhere in the world and in any way it sees fit.”
Palestinian and Leftist Terrorism
This report does not deal with Palestinian terrorism inside Israel (except where it reflects a terrorist capacity outside the Israel-Palestine theater), but nonetheless the early part of the chronology, from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, is dominated by the activities of secular Palestinian terrorist groups. A plethora of both nationalist and Marxist-Leninist organizations waged campaigns of terror against Jewish and Israeli targets across Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere. The chronology traces the rise and fall of the terrorist campaigns of different Palestinian factions: 1972 and 1973 are marked by a series of attacks in the name of Fatah Black September, while by 1974-1975 the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was the most active Palestinian terrorist group in Europe.
The international activities of these groups declined markedly in the aftermath of the 1991 Madrid Conference and the 1993 Oslo Accords, following which they renounced terrorism beyond the Israeli theater. In the wake of the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict and the Israeli interception of “aid” convoys, demonstrations and vandalism attacks on Jewish targets in Europe constituted a harsher response than hitherto seen. There is a possibility that this escalating reaction may yet move to terrorist attacks rather than the street violence against people and property seen so far, as it did for the far left in the 1960s and 1970s.
Palestinian terrorism in Europe in the 1970s was often conducted with help from local far-left terrorist organizations. The best known of these attacks was the June 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight by the PFLP and the Red Army Faction’s Revolutionary Cells, also known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang, in which Jewish and Israeli passengers were separated from the others and held hostage at Entebbe Airport until their rescue by an Israeli commando operation. But between 1979 and 1989, over twenty terrorist attacks were perpetrated by far-left groups acting on their own in France, Greece, Portugal, and Latin America. These attacks were carried out in pursuit of the groups’ own political goals, or at the behest of Palestinian groups with whom they cooperated. Since the end of the 1980s, terror against Jews by far-left groups has declined with the collapse of their Soviet-bloc patrons.
Palestinian groups still periodically threaten terrorism overseas, even if their capacity to deliver on their threats is in doubt. For example, in April 2006, it was reported that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade (a branch of Fatah) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad threatened Jews beyond the Middle East so as to force the release of Palestinian terrorists held in Israeli jails. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade stated:
This is an open call to all our fighters in the homeland to focus on kidnapping Israeli soldiers and civilians inside our occupied land. And if the enemy does not release our prisoners, then Zionists outside Palestine will be an easy target for our fighters.
A Hamas infrastructure capable of supporting terrorism in North America became apparent after the convictions of Mohammed Salah, Abdelhaleem Ashqar, and Ismail Elbarasse following their arrests in August 2004 – the first two for providing material support to Hamas, the latter for videotaping a bridge structure in Maryland. Shortly thereafter, Jamal Aqal was convicted by an Israeli court for receiving Hamas weapons and explosives training in preparation of terrorist attacks in New York and Canada.
Anti-Jewish Terrorism from the Far Right
The anti-Semitism of the far right does not need explanation; anti-Jewish terrorism perpetrated by neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups in the post-1945 era remains a continuing threat. These attacks tend to focus almost exclusively on Jewish targets rather than Israeli ones.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the anti-Semitic ideologies of the far right naturally drew on the example of Nazi Germany, but were modified to accommodate the political realities of the age. Among those who advocated violence against Jews, Francis Parker Yockey was important for defining and promoting a transatlantic and trans-European alliance. His failure to persuade several disparate elements to work together within the European Liberation Front, which he founded in 1949 after breaking away from British far-right leader Sir Oswald Mosley, led to his relocation to Egypt, where he worked with former Nazi major general Otto Ernst Remer, former SS colonel Otto Skorzeny, and Haj Amin al-Husseini, all then living there in exile.
A generation later in the early 1960s, the former Belgian Nazi collaborator, Jean Francois Thiriart, established the Jeune Europe movement with the realization that the trappings of Nazism had to be abandoned if young people were to be attracted. He also advocated a wider European collaboration, from the Atlantic to the Urals, excluding America. Like Yockey, he urged the militarization of the white struggle against communism and non-European migration into Europe. As with Povl Riss Kudsen, the contemporary leader of the World Union of National Socialists, he adopted elements of leftist thinking into his evolving ideology, and supported the Palestinian cause against Israel.
During the 1970s, a violent far-right vanguard emerged from the German
National Democratic Party (Nationaldemokratische Partei), and spawned the Action Front of National Activists (Aktionsfront Nationaler Aktivisten) and later the New Front Group (Gruppe die Neue Front). Their terrorist actions, including an armed assault on a NATO establishment in 1978, led to the imprisonment of leader Michael Kuhnen in 1979 and the suppression of the groups.
Between 1968 and 2004, far-right violence resulted in over thirty terrorist attacks against Jews worldwide. These ranged from Molotov cocktail attacks to the substantial September 2003 plot by the German neo-Nazi Kameradschaft-Süd group. The latter plot involved bombing the opening ceremony of the rebuilt Munich Synagogue, which, had it come to fruition, would have led to the deaths of Jewish community leaders and of the German federal president Johannes Rau.
Far-right terrorism does not appear on the surface to be planned or coordinated at either a national or international level. Rather, it is often the consequence of a small minority acting out their extreme ideology.
However, a 2007 analysis by Europol noted that: “Although violent acts perpetuated by right-wing extremists and terrorists may appear sporadic and situational, right-wing extremist activities are organised and transnational.”
The inspiration for many is almost certainly the philosophy of “leaderless resistance” as popularized by the American neo-Nazi Louis Beam, and the messages contained in the American novels of National Alliance founder William Pierce, The Turner Diaries and Hunter. The former depicts a violent revolution in the United States that leads to the overthrow of the federal government and the extermination of all Jews and nonwhites; the latter describes a campaign of targeted assassinations of couples in interracial marriages and civil rights activists carried out by a Vietnam War veteran who gets drawn into a white-nationalist group planning insurrection.
The Turner Diaries was a formative influence on David Copeland, the London nail bomber, a former member of both the British National Party and the more extreme National Socialist Movement, who was imprisoned for life after a bombing campaign in London in 1999 that killed three and injured over two hundred. The police investigation into his three bombings, which targeted minority communities in the capital, showed that he also considered bombing a Jewish target.
One trans-European group is the Racial Volunteer Force (RVF), which emerged out of the British Combat 18, with branches in the UK,
Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. It describes itself as an “international militant Pro White Organisation,” hints at violence, and warns potential members to think hard before joining. The Dutch security service identified the Force’s members as “strongly ideologically developed and capable of playing an important role in furthering and cementing contacts.”
Preparing for terrorism is an element in the strategies of all these groups, although it does not necessarily indicate a readiness to act. During April and July 2005, the German authorities confiscated large caches of arms and explosives in raids on neo-Nazis’ homes, although the security service commented that the intention appeared to have been to possess the arms rather than use them immediately. A 2008 Europol report noted an increasing number of far-right terror plots in the UK by individuals classified as “lone wolves,” who share “an ideological or philosophical identification with an extremist group, but do not communicate with the group they identify with.”
These concerns have since been borne out by a succession of terrorism convictions of British neo-Nazis. These include Ian and Nicky Davison, the founders of the Aryan Strike Force, who manufactured ricin poison and pipe bombs and were described in court as “Nazi zealots who believed in white supremacy and revered Adolf Hitler. They hated minority ethnic groups, be they Black, Asian, Muslim or Jewish…. It is clear that they wanted to take violent, direct action.” Trevor Hannington and Michael Heaton, also Aryan Strike Force members, were found guilty on terrorism charges and their website threatened to “kill Jews and burn down a synagogue today.” Martin Gilleard, a member of several neo-Nazi groups, was found guilty of preparing a terror attack, and described in court as “actively planning to commit terrorist acts against people and communities he hated,” including Jews.
Within Europe at least, the primary targets for far-right terror in recent years have been Muslims rather than Jews. This correlates with a wider change in the agenda of the European far right, both violent and nonviolent, from anti-Semitism to Islamophobia, although openly neo-Nazi groups still express and promote anti-Semitism. Muslims are now the primary victims of political agitation by racist groups in Europe. This is partly because they are more easily identifiable targets and partly because Muslim migration and integration are the focus of mounting public debate across Europe.
Cooperation across Extremes
Historically, links between different terrorist movements have existed, though it is more accurate to view each as discrete rather than engaged in formal alliances. These connections should not be ignored, however, as they continue to be renewed and replicated.
Violent extremists of the far right have sometimes sought to make common cause with others, or have been recruited by others, in their plans to attack Jewish communities. Fortunately, their capabilities have seldom matched their intentions. The close collaboration in the 1940s between the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, and Hitler’s Third Reich was mirrored, at least in small measure, by the training offered to both neo-Nazis and anarcho-syndicalist terror groups in Palestinian camps in Lebanon during the 1970s. Members of both the German neo-Nazi Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann and the leftist Red Army Faction were trained by Fatah; Italian neo-Nazis were invited to Iran for training after the Islamic Revolution; and, as noted, members of the Red Army Faction and the PFLP cooperated in the 1976 Air France hijacking that ended at Entebbe.
These examples show how extremists from seemingly opposite ends of the political spectrum, but with a common and unifying hatred of Israel, Zionism, and Jews, cooperate in joint actions. If terrorism is the consequence of radicalization processes, then it is also important to note the “conveyor belt” process that can lead radicalized people to extremism, and potentially on to becoming terrorists. It is therefore necessary that any efforts to identify the sources and direction of future terrorist threats should incorporate an analysis of currently nonviolent, but extremist, movements and activities, particularly if they display evidence of an ideological or rhetorical move toward violence.
Cooperation across different political extremes is more common in nonviolent activities. A lasting legacy of the post-1968 era of far-left activism has been continuing international liaison between groups, and an anti-Semitism that transcends continents, although it may now be channeled into anti-Zionism and anti-Israel activity. This is most commonly found between far-left groups and Islamists, in what has been widely characterized as the “left-Islamist alliance” or the “red-green alliance.” Less well known, and fewer in number, are the examples of far-right groups that attempt to link up with Arab nationalists and Islamists, and have taken part in pro-Palestinian demonstrations. For example, the Dutch Anti-Zionist Movement (Antizionistische Beweging), a neo-Nazi group, participated in pro-Palestinian marches and has published names and addresses of Jewish institutions, together with a call to members to “deal with them,” on its Werewolf internet page.
The Dutch far-right Dutch Peoples-Union (NVU) and the RVF organized an anti-Israel demonstration in July 2005, jointly protesting the assassination of Hizbollah military chief Imad Mughniyeh in March 2008. The Nationale Volksfront (NVF) leader, Etie Homan, participated in the Netherlands’ Al Quds demonstration, an annual worldwide rally originally established by the Ayatollah Khomeini to protest Israel’s control of Jerusalem and call for the “liberation” of Palestine.
The fluctuating intensity of terrorism against Jewish and Israeli targets around the world reflects major trends in global politics, tactical shifts in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and developments in new extremist ideologies. Conflict can sometimes act as a “trigger event” for terrorism: the highest number of attacks in a single year was recorded in 1982, which coincided with Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and the Christian Falangist massacres of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila, for which Israel was indirectly blamed. Similarly, high numbers of attacks in 1980 and 1985 were responses, in part, to the Israeli interception of Fatah and Force 17 ships off the northern coast of Israel and Israel’s bombing of the PLO headquarters in Tunis, respectively.
Terrorism can also generate its own momentum: Black September’s assault on the Israeli team at the 1972 Munich Olympics resulted in the deaths of eleven Israeli athletes and coaches, and was the first of forty attacks in just eighteen months. Yet peace can also act as a trigger for terrorism: an increase in attacks in 1994 reflected efforts to derail the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO, and a peace treaty signed by Israel and Jordan.
As noted, one consequence of the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Madrid peace conference in the same year, and the 1993 Oslo Accords was a reduction in terrorist attacks by Palestinian groups and their sympathizers against Jewish communities and Israeli institutions abroad, in the second half of the 1990s. However, these were followed by attacks by the global jihad movement in the first decade of the twenty-first century, thereby replacing one threat with another.
The most devastating terrorist acts in recent years have involved car bombs or bombs delivered in bags or belts and triggered remotely (e.g., by telephone signal), or by suicide bombers. This compares with the use of firearms and letter bombs during the 1960s and 1970s. However, Western scrutiny over the sale of domestic chemicals, such as acetone and peroxide, which are core constituents of homemade explosives, may herald a new trajectory: that of multiple-site armed attacks using firearms, perhaps purchased through criminal associations. The 2008 assault on Mumbai was the first such attack; media reports have suggested that Al-Qaeda is looking to replicate that attack in European cities. Military strategists, such as David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla, have been warning for some years that substate violent groups would adopt the tactic of “swarming,” aided by the communications revolution, so as to defeat larger military or security forces.
Another trend that became apparent in the 1990s was the shift in countries targeted by terrorists. During the 1970s and 1980s, Germany, Italy and, above all, France were the primary targets in Europe. In Latin America, it was Argentina. These countries were confronted by indigenous terrorist threats from radical leftist groups, as well as from Palestinian secular groups, led by the PLO and Abu Nidal’s Fatah Revolutionary Council (FRC). At that time, according to Dennis Pluchinsky, Europe in particular offered: a manpower pool that facilitated the building and maintenance of a logistical infrastructure; geographic proximity to the Middle East and the former Soviet Union, which assisted in training; easy cross-border movement; attractive and unprotected targets; guaranteed publicity; and a substitute battleground for Palestinian groups.
In the twenty-first century, however, primary targets for Al-Qaeda in particular have become countries with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, or Denmark and those countries where the press has published cartoons of Mohammed. The growth in neo-Nazi terrorism has seen the United States, the UK, and Germany become significant arenas for anti-Jewish terrorist efforts, as well as the Salafi jihadist terrorism that has struck Jewish communities in Muslim countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey.
The 1980s witnessed the highest number of terrorist attacks against all types of targets. However, the large number of Jewish targets was also a consequence of states’ failure to recognize that Jews and Israelis abroad were particular targets and therefore required additional protection. States had yet to learn how to confront terrorism without compromising democratic institutions, and their unpreparedness and willingness to accede to terrorists’ demands added to the terrorists’ confidence.
Toward the end of the 1980s, however, Western resolve began to assert itself, and retaliatory measures all contributed to a severe reduction in anti-Jewish terror for almost a decade. Examples of this retaliation include the U.S. bombing of Libya for aiding Palestinian and leftist terrorists; the cut in diplomatic ties by European states with Syria for its involvement in Nizar Hindawi’s 1986 plot to smuggle a bomb onto an El Al flight out of London; and the convictions of leftist terror-group members.
Homegrown Radicalization and Diversifying Threats
Authoritative reports now note the continuous degrading of Al-Qaeda’s core operational capability, particularly in Pakistan where its leadership resides. Yet the same reports note the comparatively large numbers of British, European, and American citizens traveling to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia for military training, who then return home skilled and inspired to carry out attacks. The quantity of plots against the West has shown no signs of diminution, despite continuous counterterrorist action both at home and abroad.
A second documented trend is the worrying rise in homegrown radicalization. According to the U.S. State Department there were forty-six reported incidents of domestic radicalization and terrorist recruitment between September 2001 and 2010, of which 30 percent took place in 2009.
Again, and according to the annual Europol report on terrorism within the European Union, two-thirds of violent Islamist terrorists arrested on terrorism charges in Europe were not linked to a particular terrorist group. Indeed, in the majority of terrorist plots in the United States and Canada since September 2001, the players were self-radicalized and not part of any Al-Qaeda-linked group. While these plots often involve some element of formal terrorist training at camps in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, or elsewhere, the radicalization process is facilitated by Al-Qaeda’s use of English and other languages, and internet broadcasts to ensure that its message reaches a wider Western audience, as well as the activity of Islamist radicals who, though they may denounce terror tactics against the West, nevertheless convey a message of intolerance and even hatred of the West. Anti-Semitism constitutes a core part of their messaging.
The consequence of these trends is a diversification of the Salafi jihadist terrorist threat, as Al-Qaeda and its supporters step up their efforts to recruit nationals within every country in Europe and North America who are capable of blending into the local environment, who subscribe to the violent aspirations of the global jihad movement, and who have absorbed its anti-Semitic ideology. Homegrown terrorists are less well trained, and therefore less capable of successfully seeing a terrorist plot through to completion; but they are also less likely to have attracted the authorities’ attention, and may be satisfied with a more crude form of attack. The stabbing and attempted murder of UK Member of Parliament Stephen Timms by Roshonara Choudhry in April 2010 is a case in point.
The foiled Najibullah Zazi plot against the New York City subway system in 2009 demonstrates the continuing intention and ability of the surviving central Al-Qaeda leadership to organize and direct a major terrorist strike. However, it is the Al-Qaeda affiliates and the Al-Qaeda-inspired recruits to the global jihad movement who pose the greatest threat to Jewish communities. It is from their ranks that local jihadists, who have the capacity to attract less suspicion, are recruited.
The most stunning example of such a person was David Headley, who between 2006 and 2009 carried out hostile surveillance on several Jewish and Israeli-linked locations across India while pretending to be Jewish. This included the facilities attacked in Mumbai in November 2008, including the Chabad Center. Headley also surveilled the offices of the Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten in Copenhagen and
Aarhus as part of a (foiled) plot, which was devised in conjunction with Lashkar-e-Toiba and Harakat-ul Jihad Islami. The conspiracy involved plans to attack the two facilities of the newspaper and to assassinate
Flemming Rose, its cultural editor, and Kurt Westergaard, its cartoonist, for their role in the publication of the Danish cartoons of Mohammed in 2005. As part of this plot, Headley also performed surveillance on a Copenhagen synagogue close to Jyllands-Posten‘s office under instructions from his handler who believed that Rose was Jewish and that he attended that synagogue (incorrectly on both counts).
Within the European far right, a tiny, violent fringe element is increasingly influenced by the leaderless-resistance model and demonstrates a continuing capacity for terrorism against Jews, as well as others. The same conditions and thought processes apply to the American far right, as demonstrated by the bombing of Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City in 2004 and the shooting at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC in June 2009.
However, the growth of Salafi jihadist terrorism poses the greatest threat to Jewish communal security. The nature of anti-Jewish terrorism, and the direction from which it is coming, changed dramatically after the April 2002 bombing of the Djerba synagogue in Tunisia. Indeed, in one sense, it had changed after the November 1990 assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane by El Sayyad Nosair, who was later convicted for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in Manhattan; but it was only revealed years later that this was the work of a small group inspired by global jihadist ideology. Previously the main perpetrators of anti-Jewish terrorism had overwhelmingly been Palestinian secular terrorists; neo-Nazis and white supremacists; and radical leftists. Of the fifty-one recorded attacks and interdicted plots from 2002 to 2010, thirty-nine were carried out by Al-Qaeda, its affiliates, Lashkar-e-Toiba, or other individuals or groups inspired by the ideology of the global jihad movement.
As a result of this shift in the sources of anti-Jewish terrorism, a 2009 UK
Metropolitan Police Authority report noted:
Jewish groups feel disproportionately targeted by international terrorists. The centrality of anti-Semitism in Islamist rhetoric (such as that of Abu Qatada) and a litany of terrorist attacks on Jewish people and premises around the world validate Jewish unease at the current threat. This is aggravated by the deliberate conflation and confusion of Americans, Britons, Israelis and Jews by the likes of extremists such as Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Since the onset of the twenty-first century, then, governments and their law enforcement and security agencies have come to recognize that Al-Qaeda, its affiliates, and those who subscribe to its ideology pose a specific and separate threat to Jews and Jewish institutions, in addition to the threat to society in general. This has important implications for Jewish communal security. The damaging impact that a successful mass-casualty terrorist attack would have on Jewish communal life is inestimable, and that is why Jewish communities in Europe invest so much time, effort, and money in physical security at their communal buildings.
Michael Whine is the Director of Government and International Affairs at the Community Security Trust. The chronology to accompany this essay may be found at http://www.thecst.org.uk/
The first edition of this report was published as Terrorist Incidents Against Jewish Communities and Israeli Citizens Abroad, 1968 – 2003, by the International Institute for Counter -Terrorism, Israel and by CST, London.
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also “Antisemitism in Iran,” Voice of America, 30 June 2005, http://voanews.com/.
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 See the websites of the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism at
and of the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism at www.tau.ac.il/antisemitism.
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