www.ict.org.il - ICT International Institute for Counter - Terrorism
By Michael Whine
Government and International Affairs Director at the Community Security Trust, and Consultant on Defence and Security to the European Jewish Congress, which he represents at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
On 17 July 2012, Shasta Khan was found guilty of conspiring to bomb Jewish targets in Manchester. Her husband Mohammed Khan had pleaded guilty and therefore did not stand trial. The following day, both were sent to prison.
On 18 July, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb inside his rucksack within a bus full of Israeli tourists at Burgas airport, Bulgaria, killing himself, the driver and five of the Israeli visitors. CCTV footage of the so-far unidentified bomber, showed a European with long blond hair wandering around the airport terminal building for over an hour before he boarded the bus.
On 7 July, the Cypriot police arrested a man on suspicion of gathering intelligence on El Al flights to the island, and of bus tours catering for Israeli tourists.
These three incidents encapsulate the nature of the ongoing threat to Jewish communities and Israeli institutions abroad: both are targets, and the threat comes from different sources, with Iran and its surrogates and Al Qaeda and its affiliates in the global jihad movement presenting the major concerns.
CST’s report on terrorism against Jews and their and Israeli institutions around the world, published at the end of 2010, noted that during the previous 40 years there had been some 427 recorded plots and attacks. This paper brings the tally up to date, and as with the previous report, focuses attention on the direction from which these attacks come.
The 2010 report (which was itself an update of a report published by ICT in 2003) noted that the terror threat to Jews comes primarily from three sources: Al Qaeda, its affiliates in the global jihad movement and self radicalised Islamists; Iran and its surrogates, of which the most active is Hizbollah; neo Nazis. During the late 1970s and until the mid 1980s, anarchist and extreme left terror groups also attacked Jews, synagogues and Jewish schools, but sustained counter terrorist strategies and changing economic circumstances led to a drastic decline in threats and attacks from this quarter. Palestinian secular terrorist groups reduced their attacks beyond the Middle East after the Madrid and Oslo peace accords, when most forswore terrorism beyond the immediate theatre of conflict, and after the deaths of many of the leaders (Abu Nidal, Naif Hawatmeh, Yasser Arafat, etc).
The report noted that antisemitism remains central to the ideologies of all three groups, and that they make little or no distinction between Jews and Israelis. Also, the ideologies of extremist groups provide a milieu within which activists are further radicalised, so that perpetrating acts of terrorism against Jews and Israelis becomes a fulfilment of their ideological aims.
It provided evidence that while the different sectors usually operate in isolation, there have been cases where they have cooperated across their ideological boundaries. Iran in particular has used surrogates, like Hizbollah, converts to radical Islam or mercenaries, who may appear as unknown ‘clean skins’ to security services. There is also evidence that terrorist groups are increasingly cooperating with criminal syndicates. Iran and Hizbollah have sub contracted terrorist attacks to criminals (as in Azerbaijan), and raised funds through black market criminal schemes (as in the USA and Latin America).
Since 2010, the number of self radicalised Islamists who follow the guidance of former AQAP ideologue Anwar Awlaki to attack domestic targets with devices manufactured from easily obtainable constituents, and of global jihad ideologue Abu Mus’ab al Suri, has increased. This has required security services to enhance their capabilities to search out those accessing the proliferating open and closed Internet and interactive social networks, which are designed to seduce and radicalise their viewers. Al Qaeda’s core infrastructure may have been terminally degraded but its affiliates have been reinvigorated by new conflicts, such as Syria and Somalia, to which European and American Muslims have gone in order to join the conflict, or to seek training which they intend to use against domestic targets on their return home.
The Salafi ‘gateway’ organisations, such as Hizb ut Tahrir and the Al Muhajiroun successor groups, remain active in Europe and the USA and although they are themselves non-violent they radicalise members, some of whom follow the conveyor belt processes to recruitment into jihadi groups abroad. These groups promote a violent antisemitic ideology, although their public pronouncements and literature are constrained by laws against incitement. The consequences of this incitement are plainly seen in the prosecutions and convictions of their followers in those countries which use their domestic legislation to set legal parameters for what is, and what is not, acceptable speech in modern society.
In addition to the incidents listed below, there have been other plots which were foiled in their early stages, and where few details have been made public. These include a perceived threat earlier in 2012 to Israelis in Bulgaria following which the Israeli press reported that its transport ministry had warned the Bulgarian authorities of a potential threat. Later, in May 2012, the Israel media reported that the Turkish authorities had thwarted a potential plot to Israelis travelling to Turkey, and at about the same time that a plot had been thwarted in South Africa, again based on Israeli information provided to the local security services.
A final introductory remark. In many cases, Jews were not the primary targets, but secondary or tertiary ones. Primary targets for global jihad movement terrorists are more usually American or Israeli institutions, or targets associated with states with armed peace keeping forces in Muslim lands, such as Iraq or Afghanistan. Nevertheless the fact that operational intelligence has also been gathered on Jewish targets underscores the antisemitic nature of those engaged in contemporary terror. The targets for Iran and its surrogates are primarily Israel and Jews, however.
Reversing the order used in the two reports previously published, this report lists them chronologically but starts with the most recent.