THE AGONY OF AN ATTACK WITHOUT
EXPLANATION, AND THE PAIN OF CHAOS
National Post, Apr. 24, 2018
The method is only too familiar. The motive of the man who rammed a van into dozens of pedestrians in Toronto on Monday is so far unclear, although it is for the moment tentatively linked to sexual grievances.
In 1993, when North Americans were still cocooned in their bubble of geopolitical security, a 1,200-pound bomb in a Ryder van parked underground at New York’s World Trade Center exploded, killing six people and injuring more than 1,000 people. It was meant to cause greater damage. Since then, the weaponized “van” has become a meme for Islamist terrorism.
If the motive turns out to be different this time, nobody deserves to be chastised for having instinctively assumed, when the news broke, that the Toronto massacre was related to religion. Given the long litany of ISIL-inspired van attacks (listed on a full page in Tuesday’s National Post, with one of them, committed outside a London mosque, the work of a non-Muslim man claiming he was avenging an Islamist attack), such a leap is not a sign of “Islamophobia.” Patterns lead to prediction. That is the history of human survival.
In this context, I was struck by a tweet put out by the Toronto Sun’s Lorrie Goldstein on Tuesday: “In today’s world, I think we all know what we’re thinking it could be. Let’s hope it isn’t.” That puzzled me. I tweeted back: “What should we hope it is?” Should we hope it is “merely” a deranged individual, whose addled perceptions and inchoate self-pity have merged to produce the insane idea that mowing down a crowd of peaceful strangers will somehow serve to close the loop on his personal anguish?
That to me is a far more unsettling thought. Islamist terror is at least something we have come to understand. Jihadists are not insane, even if their amateur acolytes are often mentally unstable. Their attacks are premeditated along fairly predictable lines. It begins with radicalization. We generally know what they believe. We know how these beliefs are spread. We know who is financing the propaganda mill into which lone-wolf jihadists get sucked.
So when we learn that an attack is based in ideology — whether it’s jihadism or even the terrorism perpetrated by the Baader-Meinhof gang in the 1970s and ’80s — we at least have something positive to do with our grief. We can transmute it into white-hot anger. Our thoughts turn to probable suspects, analysis of the event, of our security policies, of ways to prevent another attack. And we do prevent many.
Knowing that an evil action is part of a pattern, rather than a random act over which we hadn’t a scintilla of preventative control, is the difference between feeling helpless and feeling purposeful, between feeling utterly vulnerable, with no possibility of counter-action and feeling empowered, galvanized to counter-action. On a more metaphysical level, it is the difference between mental order and mental chaos.
Nothing is more frightening in these situations than mental chaos. University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson titled his book — recently the best-selling non-fiction book in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. — “Twelve Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.” I have this passage highlighted in my copy: “Chaos is the domain of ignorance itself. It’s unexplored territory. It’s … the despair and horror you feel when you have been profoundly betrayed … Chaos is where we are when we don’t know where we are, and what we are doing when we don’t know what we are doing. It is, in short, all those things and situations we neither know nor understand.”
And order? “Order is explored territory … It’s the flag of the nation. It’s the value of the currency. Order is the floor beneath your feet, and your plan for the day … order is the place where the behaviour of the world matches our expectations and desires.” And above all, this: “Where everything is certain, we’re in order … We like to be there. In order, we’re able to think about things in the long term.”
I admit I wasn’t really puzzled by Lorrie’s tweet: I knew where he was coming from when he said, “Let’s hope it isn’t.” He was steeling himself, if it were an act of jihadism, for the wave of anger that was sure to include a substratum of #YesAllMuslim types, and countering them, another substratum of “nothing-to-do-with-Islam” types. He was imagining Justin Trudeau lecturing the country on diversity being our strength. He was steeling himself for news of a hijab attack that, this time, wouldn’t be a hoax, that really was directly linked to spillover rage at the attack.
An attack of this magnitude can be much more difficult when it is ideological. It can produce social tension. The debates can be exhausting. A “merely” deranged massacrist can produce social unity — a single, grieving circle of citizens, who will privately experience dread of the chaos the massacre represents. But I will cop to extreme selfishness in saying I would have preferred it this had been an act of jihadism or something else linked to a clear ideology or cause. Because I like to be able to think about things in the long term. I prefer mental order to mental chaos.
Canada Is Attacked Again: J. J. McCullough, National Review, April 24, 2018
Threatening Regional Storm Clouds: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 25, 2018
Trump and Syria: Thomas Joscelyn, Weekly Standard, Apr. 6, 2018
70 Years of an Unyielding 3,330-Year Marriage: Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo, Times of Israel, Apr. 22, 2018
“You can mark it down, if they restart their nuclear program, they will have bigger problems than they’ve ever had before.” — U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump issued his warning to Iran alongside French President Macron in the Oval Office, where the two allies discussed the multinational nuclear accord and the war in Syria. One of Macron’s main objectives is to persuade Trump to stay in the deal. Trump reminded Macron of what he sees as flaws in the agreement, which he called a “terrible deal” that fails to address ballistic missiles or Iran’s activities in Yemen or Syria. (Toronto Star, Apr. 24, 2018)
“When the arrogant powers create a sanctuary for the Zionist regime to continue survival, we shouldn’t allow one day to be added to the ominous and illegitimate life of this regime…The Army will move hand in hand with the IRGC so that the arrogant system will collapse and the Zionist regime will be annihilated.” — Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi, the Commander of Iran’s Army. He predicted this would take place within 25 years, a number frequently used by the Iranian leadership. (Times of Israel, Apr. 21, 2018)
“I would suggest to all those on our northern border to think again about what they are doing…It’s seriously not worth it for you to test the IDF, nor the state of Israel…We are ready for every scenario. We are ready for a multi-front scenario and I don’t remember a time when we were so prepared and so ready, both the army and the people of Israel.” — Defense Minister Liberman. As Iran stepped up its threats against Israel, Liberman warned Tehran not to even consider an attack on the Jewish state, which he said has never been better prepared to counter Iran. (Times of Israel, Apr. 21, 2018)
“I am embarrassed due to the fact that Jewish institutions require security details in 2018.”— German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel said she is “burdened’’ by the failure to eradicate antisemitism in Germany. Merkel gave an interview with Israeli media, in which she addressed German-Israeli relations. She connected this with the arrival of refugees and “people of Arab heritage” who, Merkel said, “bring with them a new form of antisemitism into Germany.” Merkel added “to our regret, antisemitism existed in Germany even before [their arrival].” (Jerusalem Post, Apr. 22, 2018)
“According to the statistics, 90 percent of antisemitic crimes are committed by right-wing radicals…But I hear something different from Jews in Germany. Above all, that Muslim antisemitism is stronger than is reflected in the statistics.” — Felix Klein, Germany’s first federal antisemitism commissioner. Klein has urged a renewed effort against anti-Jewish hatred within the country’s Muslim communities, following the shocking attack by three assailants on an Israeli man and his friend who were wearing kippot as they walked in Berlin. One of the assailants, a 19 year-old Syrian citizen, turned himself into police as video of the incident went viral on the internet. German police are treating the incident as an antisemitic hate crime. Klein said that “Jew-hatred also has an ugly Islamist face…Antisemitism is common in many Muslim countries and is often brought into Germany,” he continued. “We cannot accept that.” (Algemeiner, Apr. 20, 2018)
“I have never felt as nervous and frightened as I feel today at being a Jew. It feels that my party has given permission for anti-Semitism to go unchallenged. Anti-Semitism is making me an outsider in my Labour Party. To that, I simply say, ‘enough is enough.’” — Dame Margaret Hodge. Members of the Labour Party in the U.K. last week turned on leader Jeremy Corbyn over his “betrayal” of Jews as they described death threats they had received for speaking out against antisemitism in their party. Corbyn sat in silence as his MPs read out hate mail they had received from his supporters. Others received standing ovations for calling out the “bullying and intimidation” in the party. (National Post, Apr. 18, 2018)
“I have no words for the people who purport to be both members and supporters of our party…who attacked me in recent weeks for speaking at the rally… who said I should be deselected…They have called me Judas, a Zio-Nazi, and told me to go back to Israel…We have a duty to the next generation. Denial is not an option. Prevarication is not an option. Being a bystander who turns the other way is not an option. The time for action is now. Enough really is enough.” — Luciana Berger, UK Labour MP. Berger detailed the “torrent” of abuse she faced for being Jewish in a party in which Corbyn has allowed antisemitism to become “more commonplace, more conspicuous and more corrosive.” (National Post, Apr. 18, 2018)
“As liberal democracies have become worse at improving their citizens’ living standards, populist movements that disavow liberalism are emerging from Brussels to Brasília and from Warsaw to Washington. A striking number of citizens have started to ascribe less importance to living in a democracy: whereas two-thirds of Americans above the age of 65 say it is absolutely important to them to live in a democracy, for example, less than one-third of those below the age of 35 say the same thing. A growing minority is even open to authoritarian alternatives: from 1995 to 2017, the share of French, Germans, and Italians who favored military rule more than tripled.” — Yascha Mounk and Roberto Stefan Foa. (Foreign Affairs, May 2018)
MEMORIAL DAY: 71 SOLDIERS, 12 CIVILIANS FELL THIS YEAR (Jerusalem) — Since Memorial Day last year, 71 soldiers have lost their lives, as well as 30 more who passed away due to injuries incurred in service. The most recent IDF soldier to lose his life in the line of duty was Sgt. Eliyahu Drori, who was killed in a tank accident in the south last weekend. The number of soldiers that have fallen in the line of duty since the first days of Zionist activity in Israel in 1860 stands at 23,645. Twelve civilians fell victim to terrorist attacks over the past year, the most recent of whom was Adiel Kolman, a security guard who was stabbed to death in Jerusalem’s old city in March. (Jewish Press, Apr. 17, 2018)
RUSSIA LIKELY TO DELIVER S-300 MISSILES TO SYRIA (Moscow) — Russia plans to deliver the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Syria in the near future. Russia’s sale of these weapons to Syria has been a source of tension between Moscow and Jerusalem. Israel fears the S-300 would hamper its ability to attack military sites in Syria that are dangerous to the Jewish State. Since intervening in Syria’s civil war on behalf of Bashar Assad in 2015, Russia has generally turned a blind eye to Israeli air strikes there against arms transfers and deployments by his Iranian and Hezbollah allies. But Russia was quick to blame Israel for an April 9 raid that killed 7 Iranian military personnel. (Jerusalem Post, Apr. 25, 2018)
ROMANIAN OFFICIAL: WE WILL MOVE EMBASSY TO JERUSALEM (Bucharest) — Liviu Dragnea, the chairman of the Social Democratic Party who effectively runs the Romanian government, said that the government had decided to move the nation’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. His statement coincided with Israel’s 70th Independence Day. Romania’s foreign ministry said authorities were analyzing the situation and would consult and coordinate with “strategic allies.” Earlier this month, lawmakers in Honduras voted to relocate the country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In March, Guatemalan President Morales announced that his country’s embassy will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May. (United With Israel, Apr. 22, 2018)
MNUCHIN TO HEAD US EMBASSY DELEGATION (Jerusalem) — U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is expected to head the delegation to the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14. In addition to Mnuchin, presidential adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, is also expected to attend, as will the Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, U.S. Amb. to Israel David Friedman and U.S. Amb. to the UN, Nikki Haley. The embassy will temporarily be housed in an upgraded version of the U.S. Consulate in the Arnona neighborhood. (Jewish Press, Apr. 23, 2018)
MOSSAD BLAMED FOR DEATH OF HAMAS-AFFILIATED ENGINEER IN MALAYSIA (Kuala Lumpur) — A Hamas-affiliated Palestinian engineer from the Gaza Strip was shot dead near the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur in an assassination blamed on the Mossad. The dead man was an expert on attack-drone and rocket systems, according to Israeli sources. Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Dr. Fadi Muhammad al-Batash must not be brought to burial in Gaza until bodies of Israeli soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul are returned to Israel. Palestinian media reported that Batash, 35, was leaving a mosque after morning prayers in the town of Gombak when he was struck by close to 20 bullets fired by two people on a motorcycle. A Senior Islamic Jihad leader accused the Mossad of being responsible for the assassination. (Jerusalem Post, Apr. 21, 2018)
GENESIS PRIZE CANCELS EVENT AFTER NATALIE PORTMAN DECLINES ISRAEL VISIT (Jerusalem) — The Genesis Prize announced it was canceling its prize ceremony in Israel in June after 2018 recipient Natalie Portman said she would not take part in light of “recent events.” In November, the Genesis Prize announced that Portman would receive its 2018 award, which comes with cash prize that recipients may direct toward causes of their choice. She joins artist Anish Kapoor, violinist Itzhak Perlman, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and actor-director Michael Douglas as winners of the $1 million prize. Genesis said in December Portman’s prize money had been doubled to $2 million by a donation by Israeli philanthropist Morris Kahn. (Jewish Press, Apr. 20, 2018)
BARNARD STUDENTS VOTE TO DIVEST FROM ISRAEL (New York) — Barnard College students voted this week in favor of the institution’s divestment from eight companies that “profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.” Almost half of the students at the college voted in the election for SGA positions as well as the referendum, and of the 1153 students voted on the referendum, 64.3 percent voted in favor of the boycott against Israel. Student groups for the Boycott, Divest & Sanctions campaign (BDS) against Israel worked hard to convince students of the justice of their cause, as did those who opposed it. (Jewish Press, Apr. 19, 2018)
GWU SENATE VOTES TO DIVEST FROM ISRAEL (Washington) — George Washington University’s student government called on its administration to divest funds from companies accused of violating Palestinian rights. In a secret ballot vote of eighteen to six, with six abstentions, the Student Association Senate adopted a resolution urging the university to withdraw its holdings in nine companies that do business with the Israeli government. The measure was rejected by University President Thomas LeBlanc. The senate also voted down a resolution to take action against one of its members, Brady Forrest, who came under fire last month for supporting a boycott of multicultural and interfaith events because they included GW Hillel and the Jewish Student Association (JSA). (Algemeiner, Apr. 24, 2018)
FOOTAGE EMERGES OF VIOLENT ANTISEMITIC ASSAULT IN BROOKLYN (New York) — Footage emerged of the violent anti-Semitic attack on an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man who was severely beaten and choked while walking home from Shabbat services in New York. In the video, the attacker jumps on the victim, 52-year-old Menachem Moskowitz, from behind in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. Moskowitz sustained a cracked rib along with a black eye, swelling, bruising and scratches over his body. Police have opened an investigation into the attack as an assault motivated by bias. It was the second attack against Jewish men in the neighborhood within a week. Last Friday night a Jewish man was assaulted in the Crown Heights. (Times of Israel, Apr. 23, 2018)
ANOTHER RECORD-SETTING YEAR FOR ANTISEMITISM IN CANADA (Toronto) — B’nai Brith Canada’s Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents reports that 2017 was the second consecutive year in which record numbers were reached. The Audit recorded 1,752 incidents, a 1.4 per cent overall increase nationally compared to 2016. It was in antisemitic vandalism, however, where there was a whopping national increase of 107 per cent, reaching levels unseen in Canada since 2013. Homes, schools, parks and highways were defaced by Nazi graffiti and antisemitic epithets, including swastikas and hate signs. Other disturbing antisemitic trends included the rise of antisemitism from both the far-right and the far-left of the political spectrum, politicians seeking support from those with anti-Jewish prejudice and a lack of criminal charges for faith leaders caught praying for the death of Jews. (B’nai Brith Canada, 2018)
SUICIDE ATTACK AT AFGHANISTAN VOTER CENTER KILLS DOZENS (Kabul) — A suicide bombing at a voter registration center in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, left at least 57 people dead and 119 people injured. The attacker detonated the bomb at a voter center where Afghan authorities were handing out national identity cards in their effort to register more people to vote. Islamic State claimed responsibility. Even though I.S.’s presence in Afghanistan has largely been reduced by airstrikes and covert military operations, the group continues to claim deadly attacks in urban areas. The suicide bombing is the fourth attack on voter centers since voter registration for October’s long-delayed parliamentary elections began a week ago. The attack was Kabul’s deadliest since an ambulance bomb killed more than 100 people in January. (The Hill, Apr. 22, 2018)
SAUDI CINEMA BAN ENDS WITH BLACK PANTHER SCREENING (Riyadh) — Saudi Arabia held a private screening of the Hollywood blockbuster Black Panther — a stark reversal for a country where public movie screenings were banned in the 1980s during a wave of ultraconservatism. Authorities planned the invitation-only screening of the movie in a concert hall converted into a cinema complex in the capital, Riyadh. The screening, attended by both men and women, will be followed by a rush to build movie theatres in major cities. (CBC, Apr. 18, 2018)
DERSHOWITZ CHOSEN FOR UN WATCH LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD (Geneva) — UN Watch is proud to announce that it will honor Alan M. Dershowitz, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Law School, for his monumental contribution to the cause of universal human rights, at the organization’s 25th Anniversary Gala Dinner, on May 7, 2018, in Geneva, Switzerland. “Few in the world exemplify the ideals of UN Watch more than Professor Alan Dershowitz,” said Hillel Neuer, the organization’s executive director. Professor Alan M. Dershowitz has been called one of the nation’s “most distinguished defenders of individual rights” and “the best-known criminal lawyer in the world.” (UNWatch, Apr. 18, 2018)
GIRO D’ITALIA TO MAKE HISTORIC START IN ISRAEL (Rome) — When the 101st edition of the Giro d’Italia kicks off with a race through Jerusalem on May 4, it will mark the first time any of the cycling world’s three grand tours – the Giro, the Tour de France or the Vuelta d’Espagna – will have taken place in Israel. The race then moves to Catania in Sicily on its way to the penultimate stage in Rome on May 27. (Grapevine, Apr. 11, 2018)
Canada Is Attacked Again: J. J. McCullough, National Review, April 24, 2018—Media coverage of yesterday’s monstrous van attack in Toronto, which as of this writing is responsible for ten deaths and more than a dozen other casualties, was punctuated by political press conferences of the sort that are now an inescapable part of the dark theater of public tragedies.
Threatening Regional Storm Clouds: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 25, 2018—Notwithstanding the exuberance of Israelis at the jubilant 70th Independence Day celebrations, justified in light of Israel’s extraordinary achievements and progress on both the diplomatic and defense fronts, the Jewish state will be facing major challenges over the next few months.
Trump and Syria: Thomas Joscelyn, Weekly Standard, Apr. 6, 2018 —The White House declared on April 4 that the “military mission to eradicate ISIS in Syria is coming to a rapid end, with ISIS being almost completely destroyed.”
70 Years of an Unyielding 3,330-Year Marriage: Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo, Times of Israel, Apr. 22, 2018—This year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut commemorates the anniversary of a marriage that has lasted more than 3,000 years and has now completed its 70th year. An almost minor event on its own, but once seen in the larger picture, a milestone, and a miracle.