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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Has France’s All-Out War on Terror Really Begun?

Filed under: Europe and Israel, Iran, ISIS, Terrorism

France is shocked and trying to recover from the terror onslaught. The French people are stunned and grieving. The cheerful, lively, cultured City of Light is suddenly sunk in gloom, deep mourning, and memorial gatherings. For the first time since the Second World War, except for a few days during the Algerian War, Paris is under curfew and looks like a city of devastation, a ghost town. In the various quarters of the great city stores are closed, cafes are empty, and schools are locked. Armed police officers, soldiers, and security forces patrol the streets. Ambulances dart in every direction and the sirens shriek and reverberate. The capital of France is paralyzed and almost cut off from the rest of the world. Why did it happen, and why is it happening again?

Israel's Knesset lit in France's tricolors in solidarity
Israel’s Knesset lit in France’s tricolors in solidarity

Already at the start of this year, on January 7, 2015, terror struck Paris. Jihadists with French citizenship carried out a massacre of the staff of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and against Jews in a kosher supermarket.

Why have effective measures to prevent further attacks not been taken since then? Why has France still not internalized the fact that terror must be fought until it is extirpated?

To understand why we have reached this point and the reasons why France is a primary Western target, the following points are essential:

France is the symbol of liberty, enlightenment, and democratic values, which stand in complete contrast to the dark, barbaric ideology of the global terror organizations.

France is indeed a Catholic country that separates religion and state. It is a secular republic where freedom of expression and freedom of the press are a supreme value anchored in basic laws. Apparently, the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were published and sparked the massacre last January did not deter the journalists or the authorities.

In the past, France was a colonial empire that exploited the colonies’ natural resources and oppressed the local populations.

France is a signatory to the Sykes-Picot agreement concluded 100 years ago. Today it is still trying to uphold that agreement – in stark opposition to the Islamic organizations that seek to dissolve it and erase the borders that the Western countries, and especially France, laid down in disregard of the national feelings and tribal intricacies of the local populations.

France has continued to uphold the sovereignty of Lebanon and fight the regime of Bashar Assad whom it seeks to overthrow at any price. Yet, at the same time, it is fighting the Islamic State.

The Iranian Connection: Iranian President Rouhani was supposed to pay an official visit to Paris this week. Although the visit was canceled at the last minute because of the attacks, it would have been the first for Iran in a Western capital since the Vienna nuclear deal was signed on July 14, 2015.

Shiite Iran, of course, is fighting the Sunni Islamic State and Al Qaeda-linked organizations in Syria and Iraq. On Thursday evening there was a terror attack in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut, a stronghold of Shiite Hizbullah, which is also fighting on Assad’s side.

There is no doubt that the terrorists who attacked in Paris wanted to take revenge on France, which is not only fighting the Islamic State with aerial bombing but also was scheduled to receive the president of Iran, the sworn and loudly proclaimed Shiite enemy. Thus Islamic State has scored a double victory: mass murder in Paris and the canceled tour of the Shiite foe.

The French have still not forgotten the Algerian War. For their part, the French-born children of Maghrebi immigrants harbor a deep resentment toward the authorities and have been joining the ranks of the Islamic State and other Islamic movements with vengeance as their aim.

The presence of eight to ten million Muslims in France strongly influences governmental decision-making as well as intelligence work.

France indeed has good intelligence services and advanced military and technological capabilities. But it failed in this instance just as in January, and the intelligence failure that undoubtedly occurred must be investigated immediately and thoroughly. France also must invest huge resources in intelligence and skilled manpower. At the same time, it has to be pointed out that because of a measure of arrogance France has refused over the years to cooperate with Western countries including Israel. Since September 11, 2001 that has changed for the better and there are now closer ties with France.

Numerous French intellectuals, opinion leaders, and radicals still see the terrorists as freedom fighters, as underground activists who wage a just fight against all occupation and repression. This is particularly evident regarding the Palestinian issue even though France has no direct connection with the conflict.

French Hesitancy

Although Israel has warned more than once in recent years about the danger lying in wait for France, the authorities have preferred to divert their gaze for various reasons including electoral considerations. They make a mistake, of course, when they are loath to call those responsible for the terror wave “Islamic terrorists.”

Even though Israel is disappointed with France’s diplomacy toward it and especially on the Palestinian issue, today Israel, of course, stands united with the French people in their struggle against terror and wishes the authorities well. Israel will always be prepared to help.

France, which has acted commendably in Africa and Afghanistan and currently against the Islamic State, must do some real soul-searching. Terror has crossed the Mediterranean and is striking Europe. France must unhesitatingly change its strategy and its naïve and obliging attitude toward the radical migrants. It also must take drastic measures against the incitement in the mosques in France even if individual freedoms must be infringed. War mandates an all-out fight until victory, while, of course, upholding the fundamental values of an enlightened democracy.