I was born and brought up in Britain, as a British citizen. I am not blind to its faults, nor do I deny its many virtues. But ask me how I identify myself and I will reply with a long list: I’m British, I’m European, I’m a Londoner, I’m a male, I’m a journalist, I’m a father and a husband. Less than two weeks before I acquired my German citizenship, a gunman in Pittsburgh murdered 11 Jews in a synagogue. The following day I received an email from a woman I met four years ago on a visit to Germany with my father. She wrote from Magdeburg, an ancient university town where some of my father’s family had lived, and from where three of his cousins were deported to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. This is what she said: “It is 80 years since the synagogues were attacked here, and we all know that it was the prelude to millions of murders. Since 1945, and every year since then, when we remember what happened, we realise how important it is to fight back from the beginning.”
Terrorism is a means to an end: that of coercive publicity. It will happen. It will happen especially where we polarise confrontations of race and religion round the world. It will happen when weak people cannot resort to armies or bombs or drones, to gain leverage in enforcing their ideas of how society should be run. There is no such thing as a terrorist state. There are just people who use terror as a means to an end.The only power that can be deployed against this curse is the power of perspective. It is to treat terror as a criminal means of making a point. This has not changed since Joseph Conrad described the terrorist as “terrible in the simplicity of calling madness and despair to the regeneration of the world … like a pest in the street full of men”. What cannot be prevented is best accommodated. It is the psychological price we pay to live in an open and liberal society.These dangers pale against those our grandparents and their forebears had to manage. We are incomparably safer than humanity has ever been before. A community that can devote so much attention to suppressing contentious gatherings, offensive remarks and “invalidations of my identity” is not a society under existential threat. As for how best to help the traumatised people of New York, the answer is to do the opposite of what Americans did to European cities hit by such killings, which was to boycott them. The answer is to book a New York holiday, now.
There is a solution here, and not only on the issue of Al-Aqsa and the metal detectors, which if reached with the Waqf and Jordanian authorities could calm things down very quickly. But that is only the beginning.The Israeli Right continues to make the argument that the occupation is something we can live with. (A situation in which two peoples share this land but one of them is superior and enjoys sovereignty and full civil and human rights, and the other is eternally subjugated and without full rights.) That is not a possibility.We cannot keep nearly two million people in Gaza under siege without water, electricity, or a functioning health system. We cannot keep more than two million people in the West Bank locked behind concrete walls and hi-tech fences while Israel continues to control every aspect of their daily lives — arresting elected officials and activists, deciding who can leave the country, which goods can be imported and exported, who can travel to work or to the hospital within the West Bank, which plots of land can be seized for settlement construction, and more.We cannot continue to insist on a united Jerusalem, which is actually divided between Jewish “citizens” and Palestinian “residents” (a status that can be revoked at any time), between those for whom authorities build homes and invest in education and infrastructure and social services, and those sentenced to poverty. We cannot allow a future in which discrimination between Jews and Arabs is an unquestioned characteristic of our country.None of that is sustainable. Or, to be more precise, we can’t expect a pastoral, quiet and peaceful future while those oppressive and discriminatory systems remain in place. We learn that painful lesson again and again, and yet — we refuse to learn it at all. There is another way. We can instead end the occupation and walk down a path of peace and full equality. Without that, our lives will be filled with the endless repetition akin to the terrifying reality of the past few days. Any discussion of the events of the past week that doesn’t address the broader context is disconnected from reality.
The audience, made up of national leaders, defence and foreign ministers and other senior government figures, who would normally, out of politeness, offer up a warm welcome for a senior US politician, greeted some of his comments with sparse applause.Pence, reiterating that the US remained committed to Nato, attempted to soothe concerns that Trump might deal directly with Putin, bypassing western Europe. The audience welcomed his promise that Russia will be held “accountable” for its actions in Ukraine, although he didn’t spell out how.But he lost them when he went further than US defence secretary James Mattis at Nato headquarters last week in rebuking Nato members such as Germany, France and Italy for failing to pay a fair share of its financial burden.Echoing Trump’s threat last year that he would not necessarily be bound by Nato’s article five, which commits every member to come to the aid of any that comes under attack, Pence reiterated the president’s warning that military help might depend on how much a country under attack had contributed to Nato.
As President Trump signs executive orders on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, suspending refugee admissions for 120 days, indefinitely blocking all Syrian refugees, blocking entry to the US from seven countries, and limiting the amount of refugees, the White House statement from earlier in the day rings hollow. The statement reads, “it is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror” of the Nazi regime and we know that the depravity and horror of war is still alive in Syria and other war-torn countries that carefully vetted refugees are escaping from. As an organization that cares about the most vulnerable in our society and believes in promoting nonviolent, peaceful resolutions to conflicts, we at the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center oppose any plan to reduce refugee admissions, especially a plan that explicitly targets and excludes Muslims from being resettled in the United States. We advocate strongly against policy changes that deny refugees access based on their religion or country of origin.As people of faith, we must welcome the stranger, welcome people who are suffering, and provide for those who are fleeing war, terror, and persecution. This is central to the message of the Gospel and a core Christian belief. Promoting racist and xenophobic messages, by equating all members of one religion to a radical sect, is dangerous and misguided.IJPC is proud to work in solidarity, peace, and justice alongside CAIR and with the Muslim community. We stand in resistance to President Trump’s executive orders and divisive rhetoric against refugees and their allies.Please call your Member of Congress and share your concerns with them. Tell them that we believe refugees and Muslims are welcome in our community.