One of the most shocking responses to the attacks last week in Brussels was that of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
While the whole world was condemning the attack and pointing to it as an additional sign of the ongoing war between the Western world and ISIS, Trudeau came out and highlighted the fact that he does not consider his country to be at war with ISIS.
The free world is slowly uniting to fight the obvious evil that is ISIS. This is probably a fight where the division between good and evil has not been so clear since the war against Nazi Germany.
On the one hand, you have bloodthirsty terrorists who target civilians both in their own land and abroad. On the other hand, you have freedom-loving democracies.
Justin Trudeau decided to highlight the fact that Canada is not at war with the bloodthirsty terrorists. In this battle between good and evil, Canada is now deciding to stay neutral. This is a clear departure from the moral stance embraced by former prime minister Stephen Harper.
One might think that Trudeau is acting strategically, seeing the rise in violence and trying to keep Canada from being attacked.
However, a quick look at the recent attacks shows that the pattern of violence is not necessarily directed toward countries that have been tough on radical Islam. Quite the opposite: Belgium has been notoriously open to immigration from Arab countries.
There even is a political party in Belgium called the Islam Party whose representatives have a stated goal of bringing Shari’a law to Belgium. Redouane Ahrouch, leader of the party, claims that the long-term goal of the party is to turn Belgium into an Islamic state. In the 2012 municipal elections in Brussels, they elected two representatives to the city council. Belgium did nothing to combat this trend.
Trudeau might theorize that being nice and open with bloodthirsty Islamists from ISIS might ensure the security of the Canadian people. However, recent experience shows that the terrorists interpret this only as weakness.
This is not a winning strategy.
THE QUESTION remains, what is Europe to do in order to combat the trend of radical Islam on its own territory?
One thing Europe should do is to look at the Israeli experience and learn from it.
Israel is the only country that has, over the last decades, fought terrorists that come from its own territory. This experience has taught the Israeli people some valuable lessons, learned in the hardest of ways, which should be presented to the European people.
As a response to the attacks in Brussels, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Terrorism does not develop from injustice.
It develops from a murderous ideology, from the desire to destroy the enemy and to take over from him. I have already said many times that terrorism comes, not from occupation and not from frustration, but from hope – the hope of ISIS terrorists who want to create an Islamic caliphate in all of Europe.”
This distinction is critical in order to understand how to fight terrorism. If terrorism comes from the hope of the terrorists to defeat the West, then the greatest victory we can give the terrorists is to show them weakness.
This is why Israel has constantly demonstrated a resilience after every terrorist attack. When a terrorist killed someone in a supermarket in February, it only took a few hours for the supermarket to clean up and reopen. This might seem insensitive, but it is the secret to Israel’s strength. We do not let the terrorists dictate our way of life. We keep living and we do not let them enjoy their victories. If Europe wants to defeat terrorism, it needs to know that there will be more attacks in the short term, but that after every single attack, it needs to make sure to show great resilience and to get things back to normal as quickly as possible.
Another lesson that Europe can learn from Israel is about the prevention of terrorist attacks. Europe has already started learning from Israel about its intelligence- gathering techniques. However, this is not enough.
During the second intifada, many people claimed that there was no way to prevent the constant suicide bombings that occurred in Israel. Ariel Sharon, then prime minister, disagreed and started an operation called Defensive Shield. The operation was a great success, with the number of suicide bombings going down drastically.
THE OPERATION was based on several clear principles:
First, Israel had withdrawn from some Palestinian cities where terrorists were left free to plan their attacks without being bothered. This reality had to change, so Sharon decided to enter the major Palestinian cities and actively remove weapons from terrorist groups. This was a dangerous operation that put IDF soldiers in harm’s way. In fact, 30 IDF soldiers were killed. However, Sharon understood that this was a necessary price to pay for the country’s security.
In Europe, there are many areas where the police are afraid to even enter. The suburbs of Paris are known to be dangerous areas that tourists are told to stay away from. Next to Brussels, Sint-Jans-Molenbeek has been the base of numerous Islamic terrorists, who carried out both attacks in France and Belgium. At least three of the terrorists responsible for the November 2015 Paris attacks were from Molenbeek, and President François Hollande claims that this is where the attacks were planned. Several months later, Salah Abdeslam, a suspected accomplice in those attacks, was captured. The fact that Abdeslam was able to hide for several months in that area indicates that he also had accomplices who helped him.
When problematic areas such as these exist, the police must be proactive. The police force cannot leave the area because it is dangerous, but rather, the brave policemen must be given the tools to enhance their presence in these areas. It might cause riots at first and create short-term problems. It might even put some of these brave police officers in danger. However, it is essential to the security of Europe.
The second principle of Operation Defensive Shield was to bring the fight to the terrorist’s territory rather than wait to be attacked and play defensively. Sharon put a siege on Yasser Arafat’s compound in Ramallah, which was cooperating with the terrorists. He brought the fight to Palestinian cities.
Here, in the case of ISIS and Europe, this means fighting ISIS not only on the European continent, and in cities where they have a large influence, but also in Syria and Iraq, where ISIS is in control. The fight there is critical to protect Europe. In the short term, the defeat of ISIS in Syria might actually motivate the group to carry out more attacks in Europe to compensate for their losses. However, in the long term, defeating them there will mean cutting their resources and ensuring they do not have the tools to carry out those attacks.
Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada might think he is doing the strategically sound thing by staying away from a violent fight between the West and ISIS. However, this is a losing strategy that shows weakness and encourages terrorist attacks.
Trudeau would do well to realize that the whole Western world is at war with ISIS, and that we need a winning strategy to beat this terrorist group both domestically and abroad. The writer is an attorney and a former legislative adviser to the Coalition Chairman in the Knesset. He previously served in a legal capacity at the Foreign Ministry. He is a graduate of McGill University Law School and Hebrew University’s master’s program in public policy.