France Can Learn from Israel in Confronting Islamist Terror
As my French friends, colleagues, and acquaintances
agonize over what is to be done in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, the best
advice I can think of is to look at Israel.
This tragedy was not ďFranceís 9/11.Ē Al-Qaeda
effectively depleted its stateside human assets in that attack and never
regained the ability to strike the American heartland. This is
Franceís Al-Aqsa Intifada Ė unfortunately, more of the same is absolutely
going to follow. Whatever oneís political predisposition to Israeli
counterterrorism policies may be, its success fighting Islamist terror over the
past two decades is the only real-world model for overcoming the specific
challenges France now faces.
Here are some of the main takeaways.
First, itís time to sacrifice some freedoms of convenience.
Most Israelis donít know what itís like to walk into a mid-size concert
venue of the kind targeted in France without passing through a metal detector
and their government intends to keep it that way. They may gripe
about it, but they would feel less free if their government wasnít
inconveniencing them on a daily basis.
Second, go ahead and profile. All of the jihadists bent on
terrorizing France have some obvious commonalities. The reason Israelís Ben
Gurion International Airport is considered the gold standard of airline security
is that Israeli screeners are encouraged to single out passengers for
extra scrutiny on the basis of religion, age, gender, and so forth, while waving
the vast majority through terminals more quickly. Not even the most
seasoned terrorist is likely to take the risk of running this gauntlet if he
knows for certain heís going to find himself in a room full of
Third, recognize that deterrence isnít fair. Since
itís impossible to dissuade suicide bombers with the threat of certain death
or bodily harm, you have to threaten things they care about. Israelís policy
of demolishing the family homes of Palestinian terrorists may not be altogether
ďjust,Ē but itís necessary to counter the overwhelmingly positive social
approval and financial benefits these families receive for contributing
ďmartyrsĒ to the cause.
If being related to a terrorist isnít already a deeply
unpleasant experience in France, make it so. Understand that itís neither
possible nor desirable to ensure that terrorists are the only ones paying a
price for their terrorism. Make whatever efforts to avoid harming
innocents are consistent with your values, but donít let the backlash from
armchair counter-terrorists and Francophobes abroad dictate policy.
Fourth, target the brains behind terrorist infrastructure. Go
after the people responsible for recruiting, financing, training, motivating and
directing Jihadis, not just the foot soldiers. Prosecute them if you can, but if
theyíre overseas donít be afraid to dispense swifter justice. Though
controversial when Israel first adopted targeted killing as a counterterrorism
tool, most governments (including most notably the Obama administration) now
recognize its effectiveness. The number of fatalities from suicide bombings
in Israel dropped from hundreds in 2002 to zero in 2010.
Fifth, fight the incitement. Americans can still
afford to pretend that Islamist hate speech and indoctrination has little to do
with terrorist violence, but France canít. The French government took a
step in the right direction when it deported 40 Islamists accused of incitement
in June of this year. It needs to go further. Instead of avoiding the banlieues,
rings of Muslim majority neighborhoods around French cities that are
impoverished, crime-ridden, and blighted, gendarmeries and intelligence services
should sweep into these suburbs and place community centers, mosques, and high
rises under surveillance. Checkpoints should be setup at the entrances to
Islamist havens and searches conducted on those commuting in and out of these
Sixth, France must prioritize national security interests over
sectarian grievances. Itís understandable that French Muslims are
frustrated by their socio-economic marginalization, and there is surely room for
improvement in how the authorities treat this estranged minority. But
the rights and wrongs of this issue donít diminish Franceís right to defend
itself or alter fundamental realities about what it takes to do that.
Finally, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, France must
control and monitor its borders if it wishes to avoid a repeat of Fridayís
terror attacks. The ability of at least one of the attackers to claim
refugee status in Greece and move onto France was an intelligence failure of the
highest degree. As Sweden, Germany, Austria, and other countries
reconsider Schengen, an agreement that allows uninhibited movement around
Europe, so too should France. The French Interior ministry instituted
border controls immediately after the attack. This change should be permanent.
As President FranÁois Hollande declared after the attacks,
France is reeling from an ďact of war,Ē not a crime wave. Israel
has demonstrated that it is possible to win such wars, but this isnít for the