Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from The Board of Deputies of British Jews


  1.1  The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Community Security Trust welcome the opportunity to make this submission to the Foreign Affairs Committee.

  We have previously made written and oral submissions to the Home Affairs Committee Inquiry in Racially Motivated Attacks and Harassment (1993), Lord Lloyd's Inquiry into Legislation Against Terrorism (1996), the Home Secretary's Consultation Document on Legislation Against Terrorism (1998).

  1.2  The Board is the representative body and voice of the British Jewish community. It was founded in 1760. The Community Security Trust was established in 1994 to provide security and defence services and advice for the community. It works closely with the Board, and with the police.

  1.3  This submission is an expression of our concern to see a determined and consistent attack on terrorism. Modern terrorism threatens us as British citizens and also as members of the Jewish community.

  1.4  We wish to comment on the third aspect of the Committee's Inquiry, that of the continuing Middle East conflict, and its bearing on terrorism generally. Our submission therefore focuses on this, and the pretext that the conflict provides for a continuing range of terrorist threats.

  We wish to begin with some general comments, which we believe will assist in understanding the nature of modern terrorism.


  2.1  Much of the "new" terrorism during the last 10 or so years may be distinguished from that of the previous 30 years, in that the latter was frequently the product of national liberation struggles or of anti-capitalist movements. This terrorism sought to influence its opponents or change policies and was often the product of a failed political process. The development of such terrorism was more often than not observable, and may have been part of a cyclical process of opposition and response. It frequently had state backing.

  2.2  New terrorism often seeks not to achieve publicity for its cause, nor simply to terrorise its enemy into submission. It may be driven by an uncompromising, nihilistic, and sometimes apocalyptic religious fervour that may be difficult for the western liberal mind to comprehend.

  This new terrorism may be broadly divided, so far, into three main categories:

    —  religious terrorism;

    —  far right/lone wolf terrorism; and

    —  eco terrorism.

  Political goals often provide the underlying impetus, and the adoption of, for example, religious aims may serve to mask the terrorists' real intentions.

  2.3  Although new terrorism contains many of the elements of old terrorism, there are a number of new and outstanding features which characterise it:

    —  its command and control processes are diffused and networked, and its leadership may be nomadic. These processes have been aided by the development of information and communications technologies, such as the internet;

    —  it operates trans-nationally so that its perpetrators may live in one country and its targets in different countries;

    —  new terrorism's development processes are sometimes difficult to detect;

    —  new terrorism may sometimes rely on "amateur" actors;

    —  new terrorism may be less money intensive; it does not require state funding, and may frequently be self-financing (as the product of crime, or donations);

    —  new terrorism may be franchised, or sub-contracted; and

    —  most importantly, new terrorism does not set out to change minds so much as to destroy the enemy.

  2.4  Over half the 64,000 recorded incidents of terrorism between 1970 and 1995 were the work of religious terrorists, according to US State Department statistics.

  2.5  While much of the terrorism directed at Israel, or its institutions abroad, may be said to be the product of "old" terrorism, it is religious terrorism and Islamist terrorism which currently threatens the UK most acutely.


  3.1  The US military presence in Middle East countries, and its continuing support for Israel, have been interpreted by Islamist terrorists as providing a rationale for their actions within, and without the region. Prior to recent terrorist outrages against the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, and the 11 September outrages, attacks had taken place against US installations in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia with large-scale loss of life, and US diplomatic representatives in the Middle East and Africa have been murdered.

  Among the reasons cited by the terrorist groups responsible have been their opposition to the USA as the symbol of westernisation and modernism, the US presence in Muslim lands (the prophet Mohammed had declared that Muslims must never allow the occupation of its holy soil), and US support for Israel.

  3.2  Islamist terrorists now recognise that US support for Israel, and attacks against Israel's right to exist as a state, may be harnessed as a central core message to attract wider support within the Muslim world.

  Calls to attack Israel and its supporters around the world, the Jewish communities, have therefore become an important feature of Al-Qaeda publications.

  The name of Al-Qaeda's associated body, the International Front to Fight Jews and Crusaders, in itself is telling evidence of the group's intentions. These anti-Jewish threats have also been regularly reinforced by the group's directives to its members. The basic strategy was outlined in The Ladenese Epistle: Declaration of War (1996), and subsequently in Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders (1998). Both called upon Islamists to attack "the Zionist Crusader alliance" which has sought to "occupy the land of the two Holy Places [Saudi Arabia] and Jerusalem".

  The theme was expanded upon in the subsequent important strategy documents; The Manual of Afghan Jihad, discovered recently in Afghanistan, and Ayman Al-Zawahiri's testament, Knights Under the Prohphet's Banner, published in Afghanistan shortly after 11 September. Both provide a framework for continuing Islamist terrorism, which must firstly stage a tactical retreat to recover from the American and British assault on Afghanistan and destruction of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda terror apparatus, then proceed to carry the terrorist war to the west, attacking American and Jewish targets particularly. The latter are chosen because Al-Qaeda insists that Palestine is the sole issue which unites all Muslims.

  3.3  Calls to attack Jews draw upon deep antisemitic motifs within Islamist thinking. Anti-Jewish sentiment is central in the teachings of, for example, Sayid Qutb, the post-Second World War leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is Brotherhood ideology which underlies much Sunni Islamist thinking.

  A consequence of this has been the continued demonisation of Jews in Islamist teachings and writings. Pernicious anti-Jewish material permeates the media in Middle East countries, and such messages are frequently underlined by schools and mosques which teach hatred of the Jews.

  Islamist terrorists have attacked Jewish, as well as Israeli institutions. For example, the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) bombed a Jewish school in Lyon, France in 1995 as part of its terrorist campaign against the French state, and a joint Hizbollah/locally recruited group of nazi sympathisers within the police bombed the central office of the Jewish community in Argentina in 1994.

  Jewish communities around the world, including the British community, report that they are the targets of intelligence gathering, and it is only the vigilance of police forces and the communities themselves which have prevented or deterred further attacks which would undoubtedly have resulted in large-scale loss of life.

  3.4  The inability of the Muslim community to integrate fully into Britain, despite the fact that it now contains its third UK-born generation, and the influence of its religious, cultural and political life from the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East make it receptive to increasing Arab antisemitism.

  Although previously confined to the Islamist fringes, it is apparent that antisemitism is now seeping into the discourse and publications of the mainstream Muslim community.

  3.5  There is now evidence of a second generation of terrorists emerging from the Al-Qaeda apparatus. New military commanders are said to have been appointed and that many senior members have fled to Pakistan, Lebanon, Gaza, Iran, Yemen and possibly Somalia.

  3.6  The Al-Qaeda attacks on the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the USS Cole in 2000 and the World Trade Centre in 2001 reveal that Al-Qaeda operations were heavily reliant on local pre-positioned infrastructures.

  Attempts to destroy such infrastructures continue but may not be totally successful in the short to medium term.

  Arrests of Al-Qaeda members, and of other associated terrorist groups, in Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the UK indicate how widespread and deep-seated is the threat. It is now clear that the Muslim community in Britain has provided a recruitment ground for these groups, often to the despair and embarrassment of its leadership.


  4.1  Iran and Syria have both increased assistance to terrorist groups operating in the Middle East in recent months.

  Syria continues to host the Palestinian secular and Islamist terrorist groups. The headquarters of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command (PFLP-GC), and others, are all based in Damascus.

  Some of these groups maintain foreign infrastructures outside the Middle East, although they generally have lain dormant since the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991.

  The PFLP which recommenced terrorist activity lately has previously established an extensive foreign infrastructure, as has Hizbollah. Both have had an infrastructure in the UK.

  Prior to the start of the peace process Jewish communities were repeatedly attacked by Palestinian secular terrorist groups, and frustration with events in the Middle East may cause them to return to committing terrorist acts in Europe.

  4.2  Iran continues to arm and finance the Islamist groups Hizbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

  Recent events, most notably the Karine A shipment, indicate clearly that Iran has also now embarked on a long-term attempt to arm the Palestinian Authority with offensive, rather than defensive weapons. It should also be noted that the interception of the Karine A followed other less publicised interceptions by Israeli forces.

  4.3  Antisemitism is used as a strategic weapon. Iran continues to hold its own Jewish community hostage; in recent years 11 members of the community have disappeared, and 13 have been falsely imprisoned on espionage charges.

  There is growing evidence that Iran and Syria fund neo-nazi activity abroad, as well as funding Holocaust denial. Both have provided asylum to a number of neo-nazis who fled their countries of origin following prosecution, and or conviction, for Holocaust denial activity.

  Iran and Syria therefore directly and indirectly threaten the long-term security of Jewish communities abroad.

  4.4  Iran's refusal to accept HMG's newly appointed Ambassador, shows that it is not possible to isolate the growing antisemitism within the Muslim world from the international situation.

  Antisemitism occupies a growing place in the Muslim world's media and this influences the diplomatic stage, and the worldwide Muslim diaspora, including that of Britain. In some cases the anti-Jewish propaganda emanating from Middle East capitals, particularly Tehran, Damascus, and Cairo, is almost comparable in its virulence to that of the nazi era.

  Like its precursor, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas shares the view that a state of war has existed since the founding of Islam in the seventh century between Muslims on the one side and Christians and Jews on the other. Together with other Islamist terrorist groups they believe that Jews, Christians and other "disbelievers" will ultimately be vanquished in a cataclysmic war or Jihad in which Muslim forces will triumph.


  5.1  It is not possible to separate Islamist or Palestinian terrorist groups from other terrorists. Terrorism threatens us all, and there is clear evidence to show that terrorist groups increasingly interact with one another, sharing resources and technology. A successful operation by, for example, a Palestinian terrorist group gives a green light to terrorist groups elsewhere.

  5.2  Terrorism per se is not caused by any single factor it is a complex phenomenon and the individual terrorist or terrorist group may be subject to a number of influences. Moreover the destruction of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan does not address the underlying causes of terrorism in the countries from which its members originate or which they have targeted.

  Police and judicial action against terrorism in these countries has caused many active members to flee abroad. While it is generally believed that they have come to regard Britain as a safe haven from which to plan action elsewhere with impunity, the recently published strategy documents mentioned above suggest that Britain in turn now may also be a target.

  5.2  Recent changes in the UK's anti-terrorism legislation, shifting the focus from Irish to international terrorism, have been important and welcome.

  However, gaps still remain in HMG's capacity to combat effectively and comprehensively the challenges described above. Terrorist groups, and their associated bodies, should not only be added to the list of proscribed organisations, but effective action should be taken to undermine their capacity to recruit, finance and communicate. States which support terrorist groups who threaten British interests should not only be warned, but effective measures should be taken to restrict their international trade.

  The UK has taken important steps to counter the terrorism. The campaign however will not be won in the short term and requires a consistent and continuing effort.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews

February 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 20 June 2002