“Was IS displeased by what its supporters did in Paris?” (& 5 murdered in Israel)

November 19, 2015

Polish anti-refugee demonstrators burned effigies of an Orthodox Jew holding the flag of the European Union on a stage in front of Wroclaw city hall yesterday, the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported. Poland has officially agreed to accept 5,000 Syrian refugees.

As bad as this anti-Semitism is, it is (in my opinion) less dangerous than the insidious anti-Semitism that has characterized much of the New York Times’s news coverage of the Paris terror attacks in recent days. Or the blaming of Israel for the Paris attacks by Sweden’s foreign minister.


* Please “like” these dispatches on Facebook here www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia, where you can also find other items that are not in these dispatches.



1. Five killed, several wounded in Tel Aviv, Gush Etzion terror attacks
2. Turkish fans boo moment of silence for victims of Paris attacks
3. Video: the true face of BDS
4. “The Jews of France can go to Israel, but where can the French go?”
5. “Declaring war on terror is good rhetoric, bad policy” (By Noah Feldman, Bloomberg, Nov. 16, 2015)
6. “ISIL: Who’s calling the shots?” (By Graeme Wood, Politico, Nov. 14, 2015)
7. “In the battle against IS, where is the Arab coalition?” (By Bruce Riedel, Al-Monitor, Nov. 18, 2015)
8. “Islamic State understands one thing: force” (By Naftali Bennett, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 18, 2015)

[Note by Tom Gross]

There have been a great many of articles in recent days on the Paris terror attacks. I attach four of the more interesting ones below.

Before that some other notes.



Three people, including two Jews (one of whom was an American tourist -- Ezra Schwartz, an undergrad student) and a Palestinian*, were killed in a shooting and car ramming attack by a Palestinian motorist armed with an Uzi submachine gun who opened fire on them in Gush Etzion this afternoon.

Earlier today, two Israelis were killed in another stabbing attack in Tel Aviv. The assailants in both incidents were detained. (No doubt they will later be released in a “goodwill gesture” of the kind Barack Obama and John Kerry have forced upon Israel in recent years. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has been forced by the Obama administration to release dozens of convicted terrorist murderers in return for nothing.)

The official Palestinian Authority news agency praised the attacks today and referred to the victims in Tel Aviv as “Zionist settlers.”

(* No doubt many western media will in future include the Palestinian murdered today by a Palestinian terrorist in their tally of “Palestinians killed” implying that Israel killed him. Such is the duplicitous ways of outlets such as the New York Times.)



Turkish supporters attending an international football friendly against Greece on Tuesday evening booed during a minute of silence being held following the recent terror attacks on Paris, reports the Turkish paper Hurriyet Daily News.

The paper says that the Istanbul crowd first booed and then chanted “Allah-u Akbar” during the moment of silence.



I think it may be worth setting aside some time to watch this video on the BDS movement on American campuses.



Last month before the recent Paris attacks, when writing for Commentary magazine about the Jewish future, I headlined my piece “The Jews of France can go to Israel, but where can the French go?”

Several news outlets have now noted that sentence, for example, here.

Yesterday another French Jew (a teacher) was wounded in a stabbing by a gang of anti-Semites in Marseilles.

-- Tom Gross



Declaring War on Terror Is Good Rhetoric, Bad Policy
By Noah Feldman
November 16, 2015

When French President Francois Hollande said Friday’s attacks on Paris were an “act of war,” he was following a script set by George W. Bush in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Rhetorically, invoking the language of war to describe a terrorist attack sends a message of seriousness and outrage. But as U.S.’s post 9/11 wars show, it isn’t always wise to elevate a terrorist group to the level of the sovereign entities that traditionally have the authority to make war.

This was a mistake with respect to al-Qaeda, but it’s a greater mistake when it comes to Islamic State, whose primary aspiration is to achieve statehood. By saying that Islamic State is in a war with France, Hollande is unwittingly giving the ragtag group the international stature it seeks.

The consequences of Hollande’s declaration go beyond the public relations boon to the Sunni militant group, which has otherwise been struggling to stay in the headlines and gain the adherents it needs to control territory. A head of state who says that war has been made against his country must have a credible response in mind.

The appropriate response depends on whether the state of war is construed legally or metaphorically. The legal angle is somewhat important. Under Article 5 of NATO’s Washington Treaty, an act of war from outside the North Atlantic Treaty Organization against one of the member states triggers obligations of support from the other treaty members.

The Sept. 11 attacks marked the first time Article 5 was invoked. That required all the NATO members to support the U.S. war against al-Qaeda. (When it came to Iraq, several NATO members famously balked, reasoning that there was no proof the terrorist attack had anything to do with Saddam Hussein.)

If France invoked Article 5, NATO members would be obligated to support it in a war against Islamic State. Yet the disillusioning aspect of this legal position is that France has been bombing Islamic State strongholds in Syria since late September, and its attacks on the group in Iraq are old news.

In other words, France is already at war with Islamic State. The Paris attacks aren’t the first salvo. They are, at most, the Islamic State response to French assaults that expanded after the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish market in January.

As a result, considering the recent terrorist attacks to be an act of war won’t change the basic legal state between France and Islamic State. The newspaper Le Parisien ran the headline, “Cette fois, c’est la guerre” -- “This time, it’s war.” But whatever French public perception may have been, France was already engaged.

That leaves the metaphorical sense of war. Here it’s useful to review Hollande’s options.

Saying that the attacks were an act of war could motivate public opinion for a more rigorous response than France has so far pursued against Islamic State. Because France is already bombing, that would mean a significantly stepped-up participation in the air war -- or the introduction of French ground troops.

To be sure, the war against Islamic State almost certainly can’t be won without ground troops. The remarkable longevity the group has so far shown is primarily attributable to the fact that no regional power has been prepared to commit such troops. Kurdish militias backed by Western air power and Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq are the only troops to have made any real inroads against Islamic State, unless you consider the Syrian regular forces supported by Soviet planes.

French ground troops, then, would be a great boon to the battle. But it seems overwhelmingly likely that Hollande has no intention of sending French troops, no matter how angry the public may be.

The strategic rationale for withholding ground troops hasn’t changed. The U.S. won’t provide any because of public skepticism after the Afghan and Iraqi disasters. And if the U.S. isn’t willing to commit troops, neither is anybody else, from Saudi Arabia to Jordan to, yes, France. The Paris attacks won’t move the needle sufficiently for Hollande to pursue a different course.

That leaves Hollande with no military option but contributing more to the air war. That’s fine, but it points to a deep flaw in his declaration. If Islamic State has really committed an act of war against France, shouldn’t France do more than send a few planes?

More concretely, Hollande must certainly realize that by acknowledging a war against France, he’s acknowledging a war that France can’t win, at least in the short to medium term. More air attacks won’t defeat Islamic State definitively. Thus, the metaphor of the “act of war” puts France into a disadvantageous position: It’s at war with an enemy, but it lacks the political will or military capacity to defeat that enemy. The best it can hope for is to degrade the enemy’s capacities. Yet given that the enemy isn’t even a proper state, the failure to beat it in fact looks very much like defeat.

Painful as it might have been, the right course for Hollande would have been to denounce the terrorists as murderers unworthy to be considered in a war against the great republic of France. He should’ve said that a handful of ideologues who killed innocent civilians couldn’t threaten or move the republic -- and that France wouldn’t allow Islamic State to dictate its domestic or foreign policies.

If President Bush had treated al-Qaeda this way, it would’ve enabled a calmer, more rational approach to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. almost certainly would’ve still bombed the Taliban. But it might not have committed itself to destroying that regime. It might’ve been sufficient to force the Taliban to stop harboring al-Qaeda terrorists.

Meanwhile, eschewing the notion that al-Qaeda had made war on the U.S. would’ve made it much harder to say that Iraq should be invaded on national security grounds. The elision of the threat from al-Qaeda with the threat from Iraq was eased by the idea that al-Qaeda was an entity capable of making war on a great nation.

Morally speaking, a terrorist attack may be as evil as an act of war. But practically, the two are very different -- and preserving the distinction is wise foreign policy.



(I carried Graeme Wood’s important piece on ISIS here: #GenerationKhilafah. (It’s more dangerous than you might think


ISIL: Who’s Calling the Shots?
By Graeme Wood
November 14, 2015

At last count, France had contributed thousands of foreign fighters to the civil war in Syria, the vast majority as foot soldiers of the Islamic State. These include countless young miscreants from the Parisian suburbs but also oddball elderly types, such as a red-bearded man named Abu Suhayb al Faransi, who starred in a propaganda video earlier this year. According to today’s reports, the squad of assassins in last night’s mayhem numbered only eight. One is bound to wonder, then: if the Islamic State required so few people to cause so much harm, then why hasn’t it perpetrated many other massacres already?

This morning, Islamic State channels pushed out official statements praising the attacks. Many have read this message, which gloated and moralized and promised a torrent of future attacks, as a claim of credit. The assassins are described as “a group of believers from the soldiers of the Caliphate,” and the message notes that the Islamic State is pleased with them (“They were truthful with Allah -- we consider them so”).

But the statement gave no indication of having planned or funded the attack, and indeed the message contained no information other than what the authors could have learned from reading their doorstep copy of The Washington Post. It did not give the martyrs their customary send-off to Paradise, with smiling photos showing hairy faces and index fingers extended to heaven, nor an interview, or even mention of a nom de guerre. Moreover, the statement contained infelicities of style and spelling, as if it had been written and translated without the Islamic State’s usual editorial punctiliousness. (Marc Hecker of IFRI, in Paris, tells me the IS materials in French often fail to match the standards of their IS English counterparts.)

One explanation for this hurried claim of credit or endorsement may be that there exists a third possibility, somewhere between “IS did it” and the increasingly far-fetched “IS didn’t.” That possibility is something like “IS was surprised by what its supporters did -- and maybe not altogether pleased.”

As in the case of the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268 over Sinai last month, the IS statement that initially claimed credit lacks critical details to confirm its truth. And we might, in the end, find that IS supporters carried out these operations semi-autonomously, with at most partial appreciation of the group’s larger strategy. And they may have seriously imperiled that strategy by attacking a Western target in such spectacular fashion.

So we have no evidence that this third option is the case. But the break from previous strategy is pronounced. IS’s previous inspired attacks on the West have been spectacular duds, averaging perhaps one corpse apiece. Consider the sinister clownish incompetence of Ayoub El Khazzani, who according to varying accounts either did not know how to unjam his rifle or did not think to lock the train lavatory door while loading it; the Garland, Texas, assassins, who were both shot dead by a local cop; or Man Haron Munis, whose mental problems were apparent to all when he took over a chocolate shop in Sydney.

If IS intends the highest possible body count, as the attackers clearly did in the machine-gunning of a crowd last night, its own propaganda and doctrine have crippled it. Anyone who has spent time with IS messages knows that the first obligation impressed on followers is immigration to the Caliphate, and only if immigration is impossible should they attack at home. On this point, the propaganda has been relentless. Dabiq, the infamous in-flight magazine of the Islamic State, stated:

Come, make your way to dārul-islām [the abode of Islam]. And I remind you of the individual obligation on every Muslim and Muslimah to make hijrah from dārul-kufr [the abode of disbelief] to dārul-islām.... Either one performs hijrah to the wilāyāt of the Khilāfah or if he is unable to do so, he must attack the crusaders.

Since an even minimally functional person can direct his browser to Expedia and get a ticket to IS territory in Sinai, Syria, Iraq, Libya, or Nigeria, those who remain to attack are often incompetent.

The Paris attackers, alas, showed real competence. They planned, and they acquired weapons not easily found in Europe. And if their attack, and the downing of commercial flights as in Sinai, truly represent a new modus operandi for IS, then IS has completely reworked its strategy – or re-estimated its ability to withstand a direct military assault by a NATO alliance. Needless to say, the threat of another nightmare like yesterday could provoke exactly such a response. Unless God intervenes on IS’s side, a full assault on IS in Syria and Iraq will not end with IS still holding its beloved territory and administering a Shariah-compliant state. The Taliban, after all, might still control Kabul today, if they had kept Al Qaeda’s atrocities local. And that is one good reason why the decision-makers in Raqqa might have aggressively lobbied their foreign fighters to immigrate to Syria and join the battle there, rather than stay in Europe and commit their atrocities at home.

Shadi Hamid of The Brookings Institution posed a solution to this paradox today on Twitter: “ISIS’s state-building & apocalyptic messianism had co-existed in uneasy tension. Perhaps, yesterday, the latter finally eclipsed the former.” That would be one explanation: IS has mustered such confidence in its prophetic vision that it is ready to test its strength against the most powerful of earthly enemies. Of course, its recent setbacks against Kurdish fighters might give it pause, zealotry notwithstanding. A further possibility is that IS’s own supporters have put it in a strategically uncomfortable corner by carrying out an attack more gruesome and successful than its leaders wished.

We may yet find that IS’s leaders were simply fools, and that they ordered exactly this attack and were pleased with its results, even if their PR department wasn’t quite ready to capitalize on it. But in the meantime the possibility remains that their ability to inspire got ahead of their ability to control the results of that inspiration. Along with its loud rejoicing over Paris, IS in Syria may also be quietly worrying about what comes next.



In the battle against IS, where is the Arab coalition?
By Bruce Riedel
November 18, 2015

In the wake of the Islamic State’s (IS) attacks in the Sinai, Beirut and Paris, there is an urgent need to mobilize resources to deal with the threat, especially resources in the Arab world. Instead, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are devoting their resources and efforts to a floundering and expensive military campaign in Yemen.

When the air campaign against IS began more than a year ago, the Royal Saudi Air Force was an early participant. But it has not flown a mission against IS targets since September, according to The New York Times. Bahrain last flew a mission against IS in February. The United Arab Emirates stopped in March – even Jordan stopped in August.

There has been no formal or public announcement of the stand-down. The Arab governments all reiterate their strong opposition to IS. This week, Riyadh’s skyscrapers were lit in the French colors to express solidarity with Paris. King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud told President Barack Obama in Ankara that Saudi Arabia will play a major role in Syria. But in practice, American military officials report the war in Yemen has drained Arab air power away from the fight with the terrorists in Syria and Iraq. Yemen is the priority even if some token operations occasionally are taken to strike IS targets.

The absence of Arab air forces creates a political – not military – void, even though Russia, France and America are fully capable of waging an air war against IS. The coalition is missing the Muslim answer to the self-proclaimed “Caliph Ibrahim.” This is a waste of symbolically important resources.

The war is also expensive. No official estimates of the cost have been released, but it must now be running into the tens of billions in armaments, maintenance and other expenses.

For example, this week the Pentagon announced the sale of $1.29 billion in air-to-ground munitions and associated equipment to restock RSAF bombs used in the Yemen campaign. The sale provides close to 20,000 new munitions to replace those used already. The United Kingdom, another major source of the RSAF’s inventory of aircraft, is also replenishing Saudi stocks. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have raised questions about the use of these weapons and possible war crimes.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has itself been targeted by IS repeatedly, as IS has carried out suicide bombings in both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It promises to overthrow the House of Saud and raise its black flags over Mecca. Hundreds of Saudi citizens are fighting with the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria, while Jordan has been a target of IS, with one of its pilots locked in a cage and burned to death. These states have a stake in this war.

But Riyadh’s attention and resources are focused on Yemen as the war there has come to a stalemate. After some successes over the summer, the Saudi-led coalition had promised to capture Sanaa (Yemen’s capital) this fall. That looks unlikely today. The war is also a humanitarian catastrophe for 25 million Yemenis, as the blockade prevents supply of food and medicine.

Even worse is that the major beneficiaries of the war so far are al-Qaeda and Iran. Al-Qaeda has seized control of large parts of southeastern Yemen since the war began. Its black flags fly in Aden, the temporary capital of the pro-Saudi government. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has grown stronger in the months since it attacked Paris in January, not weaker. That is a disturbing portent for those now promising to defeat IS.

Iran is fighting to the last Houthi, laughing at the Saudis and Emiratis as they spend resources in what Tehran hopes will be an endless quagmire. Iran gains in Iraq and Syria from the Sunni forces’ diversion to Yemen.

Washington and Paris have both indulged Riyadh’s Yemen mission, as both have hosted Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the 30-year-old architect of the Yemen war – and have done far too little to bring an end to this disaster. They have the leverage, along with London, since they control the pipeline of military resupply to the RSAF and its allies, but their half-hearted attempts to start a political process need much greater urgency. Both sides have accepted UN mediation and the UN Security Council resolution for a cease-fire, but the conflict drags on without pause.

After the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January, there were promises that the terrorists in Yemen who launched the attack would face a global response. Instead, they are stronger than ever and Yemen has become another battleground in the sectarian Sunni-Shiite war that is devastating the Islamic world.



Islamic State Understands One Thing: Force
By Naftali Bennett
Wall Street Journal
November 18, 2015

On March 27, 2002, a suicide bomber walked into the Park Hotel in the Israeli city of Netanya and blew up the explosives belt he had strapped around his waist. Thirty people, who moments earlier were sitting down for the Passover Seder, were murdered. A celebratory and civilized scene, like those in Paris last week, had suddenly become a field of carnage.

The Park Hotel attack came at the height of the Second Intifada, a conflict that would ultimately claim the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis. More than 130 people were killed that March, and by then there had already been thousands of terror attacks.

My country, Israel, seemed paralyzed and the national sentiment was that the military would be unable to defeat the terror campaign. The only real way to stop the attacks, many supposed experts said, was by political means.

They were wrong. Two days after the hotel massacre, the Israeli government launched a military operation called Defensive Shield to stop the suicide bombers and retake control of Palestinian cities in the West Bank.

It worked. Within weeks of the operation, the number of attacks and Israeli casualties dropped by more than 80%, and while it took time, we eventually succeeded in bringing suicide attacks down to zero. We proved that terror can be defeated.

Europe, the U.S. and their allies can defeat the terrorists of Islamic State, or ISIS. The first step is making the decision to fight back. The next step is understanding that drones and standoff missiles will not be enough. Ground troops will be needed.

In 2002 Israel went on the offensive in the West Bank cities of Nablus, Jenin, Jericho and Tulkarm, going house-to-house and door-to-door to hunt down Palestinian terror suspects. We found and demolished bomb labs, arms caches and terrorist command centers.

I remember the period well. At the time I was in New York running a high-tech company. As an officer in an elite Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commando unit, I got on a plane, flew back to Israel and joined my fellow soldiers as we fought to stop the terror wave that had struck our country.

We succeeded because we understood that when fighting Islamic terror, there is no middle ground. There is no halfway solution. There is one path to victory and that is taking the fight to the enemy. I know that “boots on the ground” is a scary phrase and that the Western world has gotten used to sterile attacks. But we need to be honest – while these attacks hurt ISIS, they will not destroy it.

To win, the world needs to go on the offensive. There is no other way. What Israel did in 2002 is a model for how terror can be defeated. Soldiers may be put in harm’s way, but the number of civilian lives saved will be much higher.

Europe must also share intelligence within and outside the continent. Israel can help on that front. We maintain powerful counterterrorism intelligence tools because we are in the thick of the Middle East turmoil, with borders surrounded by Islamic State, Hamas and Hezbollah. But you don’t have to live next to terrorist lands to be able to defeat the enemy. The West has demonstrated its ability in the past to project power and move troops to distant regions.

What Israel showed in 2002 was that when you take the fight to enemy territory, the enemy will have difficulty taking the fight to you. This is not currently the case with ISIS. Yes, the jihadists face occasional airstrikes and missile bombardments, but they aren’t on the run. They don’t go to sleep worried that soldiers may burst in during the night and seize them. Their command centers are not really threatened. Only when that happens will the ability of ISIS to direct attacks in Europe or America be hindered.

Like Israel, Europe and the U.S. also face terrorists who lurk in their own cities. Hundreds of young Westerners have inexplicably been drawn to the ISIS death cult; they fight in Syria or Iraq and return home with orders to attack. Europe is especially vulnerable to terrorists who may hide among the refugees pouring across its borders.

To detect these threats, European countries and the U.S. must strengthen their surveillance techniques. Liberty, freedom of speech and human rights are pillars of our democracies, but in Israel we balance them with national-security needs. Privacy is occasionally and under certain circumstances invaded, passports are confiscated and administrative detention is used to lock up terror suspects. We also demolish terrorists’ homes to deter future attacks.

These steps can be highly effective. Last week a Palestinian terrorist ambushed an Israeli car, murdering a father and his son. The terrorist’s family turned him in on Sunday to prevent their house from being demolished.

Europe can adopt some of these models. French President François Hollande on Monday called for amending France’s constitution to allow for more effective and aggressive measures against terrorists. This is an important step. No time can be wasted.

The historic upheaval currently engulfing the Middle East is not going away. The world needs to be determined, to show resolve and not to blink when challenged by adversaries like ISIS. These terrorists understand only one language: force.

(Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of education and diaspora affairs, is a major in the IDF reserve corps.)

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.