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Why Brussels Attacks Happened: A View From Israel

Police forces in Europe are restricted by legislation introduced by left parties. We face another kind of enemy that you cannot fight with the legislation you have now in Europe.

Last week’s terrorist attacks in Brussels came as a shock to the western world, but also raised the question of why Belgian security services had failed to prevent them even though they knew the country’s capital might be a likely target of terrorists. In an interview with Valdaiclub.com, Shalom Harari, senior research fellow at the International Institute of Counter Terrorism, indicated the reasons that could lead to this failure.

The key to preventing terrorist attacks in places like Brussels is intelligence collection, Harari, a retired brigadier general of the Israeli Defense Forces, believes. In Belgium, “the way of collecting information – or, put simply, espionage - is very different from what should be done on a daily basis in such urban areas,” he said in a telephone interview.

For adequate data collection in a populated area “you put someone who is the best in the knowledge of what is going on there, including who married, who got divorced, who moved into, or left the area”, Harari explained. According to him, in the districts of Brussels, where the Paris attackers come from, this way of collecting data did not exist even in a rudimentary form.

Another reason, according to Harari, is the lack of daily presence of security forces in sensitive areas. “They simply do not enter many suburbs of [European] capitals,” he said. “That means that [Islamists] are building ‘state-inside-state systems’ there. And this is the best place to develop radicalized young people. Because no one knows what is actually going on inside the mosques, for example”, he explained.

When asked if Europe underestimates the threat of radical Islamism, Harari said that this is certainly not true for the security services. The problem is political, he believes, because police forces in Europe are restricted by legislation introduced by left parties, which “does not let them do almost anything.”

If people who are known to have fought in Syria for any Islamist organization, not necessarily ISIS, return to countries like Morocco, they are immediately arrested and sent to prison, Harari said quoting the head of the Moroccan intelligence. “When they come to Brussels or other European cities, no one touches them, they simply go home”, Harari said.

People in Europe “have to […] understand that we face another kind of enemy that you cannot fight with the legislation that you have now in Europe,” Harari said. To fight this enemy, governments should make the lives of their citizens the main priority, as Israel does, he believes.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.