by Nidra Poller
[This text, commissioned by the online revue Midah, was published in Hebrew translation on July 16, 2016]
The 14 juillet National Holiday fireworks were over, the horror began in Nice. A 19-ton semi-trailer truck went around the barrier and barreled down the famous beachfront Promenade des Anglais. The monster truck drove 2 kilometers, zigzagging to make direct hits, deliberately picking off babies in their strollers, before the driver was stopped in a shootout with police. At this writing the toll stands at 84 dead; 50, including 10 children, with life threatening injuries; and 150, including 54 children, less seriously injured. The mass murderer has been identified as a 31 year-old Tunisian, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, living in Nice on a residence permit, recently licensed to drive big trucks, father of three, separated from his wife since 2014. Bouhlel's criminal record, including assault and battery, theft, and domestic violence, dates back to 2010, one year after he was granted a 10-year residence permit. He is under a restraining order obtained by his wife who has sued for divorce. He is described by several of his neighbors as a mean loner, with the exception of one who found him to be a nice guy, not at all religious, didn't say his prayers, liked to dance the salsa and go out with the chicks.
On March 24th, Bouhlel was given a six-month suspended sentence for assaulting a motorist who had asked him to move his truck that was blocking traffic. The victim, Jean-Baptiste Ximenes, posted on Facebook his indignation that the man who had violently beaten him with a baseball bat, was left free...to commit mass murder.
An irascible young Tunisian armed with a 19-ton truck killed more than 80 civilians and the toll is expected to rise. In the truck he rented on July 11th --and was supposed to return on the 13th-- Bouhlel was carrying two fake machine guns, a pierced grenade, a fake handgun and a real one that he used in the final shootout with the police. The death toll of the November 13th jihad attacks at the Bataclan, sidewalk cafés, and stadium in Paris is 130. That operation, masterminded from Syria, involved dozens of fighters trained in the caliphate or handling logistics in Europe. They traveled by complicated routes, some joined the "refugees" in Greece and snaked up to Belgium with them, probably recruiting a few shahids in the lot. They had safe houses, false passports, money, weapons, ammunition, explosive vests ... Vastly disproportionate weapons and planning, give ghastly similar results Eighty-four dead, fifty maimed for life, the blue waters of the Côte d'Azur trembling with horror and outrage; 130 dead, countless maimed and marked for life, Parisian joie de vivre stunned....
But all of that may be nothing compared to what is coming next. Only the other day Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve warned that the "terrorists" might switch from "suicide" attacks to other methods like truck bombs and IEDS. The root motivation that inspires these mass killings passes through myriad disparate channels and achieves significant results. The focus on anecdotal details obscures that single source and delays our understanding of the war waged on the free world. It must be granted that the Hollande government, ineffectual as it may be, did not call for stricter control of semi-trailer truck rentals in the wake of the Nice attack. The investigation was handed over to Paris Prosecutor François Molins, and classified as a terrorist attack committed in collusion with a terrorist organization. In his first public declaration Molins explained: whether or not Bouhlel was in direct contact with Daesh, his heinous act responds to instructions given by the organization. Subsequently PM Manuel Valls maintained that Bouhlel was in fact connected to a radical Islamic movement.
Mournful ceremonials of sincere flowers & candles and solidarity light-shows in the colors of the afflicted nation after each mass killing give the illusion of exceptional incidents that can somehow be contained in a time frame, with a beginning a middle and an end. They are not appropriate to the reality of all-out war with no borders, no outlined battlefields, no predictable indicators except that the perpetrators will be Muslim, native born or converts. The most graphic illustration of this ceremonial confusion is the current state of la Place de la République in Paris. The national focal point of dignified grieving has been turned into a pigpen. Flowers, candles, and peace & love messages on the pedestal of the Marianne statue, symbol of the République, have been replaced by disgraceful graffiti left by the false hopes Nuit Debout movement. [http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/detail/up-all-nightmare]
Unless and until democratic citizens have a comprehensive picture of jihad conquest they cannot be mobilized to defend their freedom and their lives. However dramatic, these mass killings have to be understood in their totality and accurately. We need determined leadership that will show the way to mobilization, not closure.
In a climate of national unity after the November attacks, President Hollande solemnly promised to take vigorous measures to protect the population from terrorism. Prime Minister Valls named it Radical Islam. Among these measures was the controversial proposal to strip the citizenship of dual nationals involved in supporting, planning or perpetrating these attacks. Under pressure from his Socialist majority President Hollande abandoned most of the promises. The other day, in his July 14th message to the nation, the president announced that the state of emergency declared in the wake of the attacks and repeatedly extended for three-month periods would not be renewed when it expires on July 26th. As if the very real danger hanging over French civilians could be dissipated by a governmental decision. He reversed this decision on the 15th.
And that's the least of the miscalculations. Since March 31st and despite its own state of emergency declaration, the government has allowed countless protest demonstrations against a labor reform law, even though every single march ended up with vicious attacks against the police. Hundreds of policemen were injured, some seriously. And all were humiliated. At least half a million euros worth of damage to public and private property was committed. On May 18th a policeman and woman narrowly escaped death when their patrol car was smashed and torched. The policeman was beaten as he fled the flames. On June 15th, seven two-story plate glass windows of the Necker Children's Hospital were smashed, teargas seeped into the building, health care personnel were unable to reach the hospital, and young patients were terrified. The Nuit Debout movement occupied la Place de la République for months, damaging property, generating attacks on the police, preaching anarchy and sedition. The mass occupation of the public square made a mockery of the state of emergency, which was high on the movement's list of sins against the people. "Down with the state of emergency, down with the state!" By allowing the Nuit Deboutniks to congregate, agitate, firebomb the police and deface the monument of the Republic the government displayed its lack of resolve. PM Valls had said we are at war. The atmosphere was bread and circuses.
Let the children play. Let the protestors march and holler. Let the smashers destroy. Unpleasant to be sure, but the very nastiness of that familiar violence was a way of saying we have things in hand. These are normal problems that can't really be solved, they just fade away. The labor reform bill was watered down and pushed through (the government engaged its responsibility instead of letting the Parliament debate and vote). Strong measures were taken to protect the Euro 2016 soccer championship that went off almost without a hitch. Then came the fireworks!
Lagging behind reality
Just a short time ago there was debate on what should be done with the thousands of "S-flagged" individuals marked as terror suspects and vaguely watched over until they slip under the radar and emerge with Kalashnikovs or turn to other occupations. Shouldn't they be more closely followed, fitted with electronic bracelets, or even held in retention centers? What of jihadis sentenced to prison? Are they properly isolated from other prisoners? The top dog in this department, Salah Abdeslam, responsible for the logistics of the November 13 attacks, is held in solitary confinement with 24-hour video surveillance. He actually sued the government for violation of his privacy. His complaint was rejected. Meanwhile it was revealed that he has a three-cell complex, including a well-equipped workout room. This is justified by European human rights rules. Abdeslam has never given the slightest shred of information to investigators. Occasionally he promises he will talk, then backs down. He isn't feeling good, doesn't feel like talking, won't talk until his detention conditions improve. He is defended by a court-appointed lawyer at public expense.
Then there are the futile de-radicalization programs. All part of a massive denial of reality. As if the genocidal Islamic rage that inspires lesser and greater mass murderers were some kind of misunderstanding that could be cleared up by heart to heart talking. Another example of focusing on things that can't be done-like persuading jihadis to turn to basket weaving or making it impossible for 19-ton trucks to smash through barriers or Kalashnikov-armed killers to mow down under-armed security guards-instead of finally putting our countries on the appropriate war (that is, jihad conquest) footing.
Georges Fenech, president of the bipartisan Parliamentary Commission that published its investigation of the November 13th attacks last week, regrets the lack of interest from the Hollande administration in the Commission's concrete recommendations. "Our country is not armed against Islamic terrorism." One of the findings of the extensive report is that police forces preparing to intervene to stop the massacre at the Bataclan only had handguns. They begged the soldiers to either come with them or lend them their Famas assault weapons. The soldiers could do neither. They didn't have orders. According to an official of the SCPN [Police Commissioners' Union] the forces that finally stopped the killer truck in Nice did not have proper weapons. They fired repeatedly into the windshield but Bouhlel was able to continue 300 meters before they finally neutralized him. Christian Estrosi, former mayor of Nice and currently president of the PACA [Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur] region had alerted President Hollande, on July 13th, to the lack of proper protection for the July 14th fireworks display in Nice. The central government alone can mobilize national police forces, better armed and trained than the municipal agents.
Nice, for all its nostalgic elegance and beautiful beaches, is a jihad hotspot. An attack against the Carnival of Nice was foiled a few months ago. An assailant stabbed three soldiers guarding a Jewish Community Center in Nice. One of the most vicious jihadi cells discovered in recent years, the "Torcy cell" based in Nice, was involved in the 2012 grenade attack against the Naouri kosher grocery store in Sarcelles, subsequently torched and burned to the ground in the summer of 2014.
Israel as a model
Though the Israeli connection may be brushed off as too hot to handle, Israel is more frequently and frankly mentioned in French debates as a model for dealing with the full range of jihad attacks: citizens are armed and have combat experience, intelligence services are exceptionally efficient, the society has learned to live fully and remain fully conscious of the danger. Olivier Rafowicz, IDF Reserves colonel, says he recently accompanied an Israeli delegation to Nice for security consultations. Private Israeli security agencies are quietly hired by French private and public companies.
The West will improve its defenses when Israel is recognized as the rampart in our defense against jihad conquest, standing for our values in the middle of a vast expanse of genocidal hatred. Israel has always lived in awareness of its perilous surroundings. Now the rest of the free world is in the same neighborhood. I remember the snide voices of French commentators in the early years of the jihad-intifada, spitting on "Israel's sacrosanct concern for security." This constant demonization of Israel is a rot that jams our weapons, weakens our military, and destabilizes our societies in Europe and, yes, even in the United States.
Daesh like a wireless mouse
It was reasonable to suppose that the French prime minister would not have forthrightly claimed a direct connection between Mohamed Bouhlel and a terrorist organization if he did not have evidence drawn from electronic devices seized after the Nice massacre. Did Bouhlel, like the Orlando killer, declare his allegiance to the caliphate just before going on the rampage? Saturday morning Daesh took responsibility for the brave operation conducted by its soldier in Nice. Some French media are reporting that this is a codified designation that follows strict rules and necessarily implies a pledge of allegiance. Several of the five people detained for questioning confirm Bouhlel's "recent radicalization." We will learn more in the coming days or weeks about the nature of that connection. Even if there is not a single incriminating document, conversation, or contact, it is essential to understand that Daesh operates like a wireless mouse: the message goes out from the higher echelons via communicators into the evil hearts of the masses of potential genocidal killers.
A telling personal experience
Saturday afternoon, after spending hours collecting information on the Nice attack from every available source, I took a walk to the post office, stopping on the way at a tobacconist's shop to buy a book of métro tickets. I've been there at least five times in the past six months. Exchanges with the "buraliste" (proprietor or employee, one can't be sure which) have always been cordial. I was reaching for my money, when the gentleman announced the price: 14.10 euros. "14.10," I exclaimed! Had the price gone up again, or did I forget what I paid the last time?
"Don't you ever take the métro?" he scolded. And got nastier as he went along, accusing me of accusing him of being a thief, telling me to go and buy my tickets at the métro station and never come to his shop again. I truly think that he could have reached out to slap me if I hadn't been so calm and sunny.
"If I accused anyone it was the RATP [transport company] but that's ok, I won't come back anymore." I said "au revoir," revised it to "adieu," and walked out.
I mention this because of the visible origins of the "buraliste." Apparently feeling unjustly suspected, for his however distant shared origins with the truck-killer, he found nothing better to do than to lash out at me!
First published in Family Security Matters.