A first person account from Brussels

A friend of mine, Arielle Goldfarb, is a graduate student in counter-terrorism at the IDC school outside of Tel Aviv. Goldfarb grew up in Israel and then moved to Toronto for several years, before going back to Israel to finish her studies. She found herself last week in Brussels. This is her story.

First, realize that I speak from my own personal experience and my own opinions. As part of my master’s program, we were offered to be part of an Israeli delegation to visit NATO and that is why I was there in Brussels. After the attacks, one of the immediate feelings I had was that I wanted to go home, home being Israel. It was such a strange thing to say, considering that Israel faces terrorism every single day. Somehow, being in Israel felt safer than staying in Europe. When we learned that El Al was sending a jumbo jet, I cannot say I was surprised, but I was relieved. Being on that plane, especially on Purim, was a very meaningful experience. I felt at that moment that all the passengers on the plane (over 400 of us) were grateful to be able to fly back to Israel. Without this flight, who knows how long we would have been stuck in Brussels?

Going through this experience has somewhat shifted my attention and interests. I would like to take steps to learn more about Europe’s security outlook, not only in relation to terror, but also as a doctrine as a whole.

It is somewhat ironic but the Brussels trip also strengthened my understanding of the reality of terrorism in the world today. That was an important learning experience. To me, it became clear through this trip that there is a requirement for international cooperation when it comes to fighting terror and that it is imperative for every country to think ahead and prepare, instead of acting to increase security only after being personally affected by terror.

I also learned that there are serious shortcomings in security in Europe that should be addressed. One of the recurring themes of the trip was that Europe does not view terrorism as an existential threat. With this outlook on the security situation, it is hard to believe that Europe is taking sufficient and drastic enough measures to increase their intelligence sharing among the various countries and agencies. What I do think is that unfortunately, with every attack, Europe’s outlook changes coming one step closer each time to viewing terrorism as a threat to its existence.

Another thing that I learned – which was somewhat surprising for me — has been the method in which terrorist organizations are funded. I had previous knowledge of the need to fight terrorism from its root, that is to follow the money trail, but I was not aware of the extent and the creativity of terror fundraising. I learned that charities are probably the main way that terrorists funnel money, and that ISIL has come up with new tactics for funding, such as selling antiquities that they pillage on the black market.

Thanks for the report Arielle. I am glad that you are safe and back in school.

One thought on “A first person account from Brussels

  1. Terrorism is meant to get our attention. It is meant to terrorize people. And, that attention and fear it generates don’t necessarily translate to good decision making.

    Death by terrorism is extremely rare. I’m not saying we should not pay attention to combatting terrorism. We should. We will never “win” a war on a noun like poverty, crime, drugs, or terrorism and elevating the discussion to such a level hasn’t been all that useful to us in the US.

    Instead, we need to look at all the risks involved and try to mitigate them. If we make it harder for this type of criminal, the terrorist, to do what they want, we will gain traction in a reasonable way. Cutting off their funding sources by shutting down fake charities, making drug sales less lucrative, and hindering the sale of plundered antiquities would be a good way to start.

    But….we also need to think more about what terrorism is about. It is meant to make us doubt and distrust our safe environment. I submit that this is epidemic on the Internet and that the cyber crimes committed there can well be used to enable terrorism in the real world. Current stats will show that people are much more likely to be victimized on line than off and law enforcement isn’t able to do much about many of these crimes.

    We want “someone else” to make us secure. We want to do things ourselves. Security is a pain. Yada-yada. I’ve written articles about this on my web site at http://www.ih-online.com. We do cyber and real world security wrong. We talk about security. Instead, we should talk about safety. Unlike security, safety is something involves us personally. We cooperate to be safe. We share information and resources to improve safety.

    Terrorism will not go away. There will always be angry people who justify themselves via commands from a diety, allegiance to an ideal or a country, etc. Emphasizing safety and working together with others to resolve issues and combat crime that might lead to helping terrorists is one of the best ways I can think of to slow up even the scary crime of terrorism. We cannot win against the noun of terrorism, but we can work with others to make it much less of an issue.

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