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SECURITY

Nice was an attack on France, not on Germany

German political leaders were quick to say the Nice rampage was an attack on us as well. This plays into fears about refugees and justifies clampdowns on individual liberty, argues Jörg Luyken.

Nice was an attack on France, not on Germany
A mourner in Nice. Photo: DPA

The truck rampage which killed at least 84 people in Nice on Thursday evening was a shocking act of barbarity. The driver spared no thought for age, sex or nationality as he ploughed through crowds, killing 84 people, including three Germans.

But it would be a mistake to jump to the conclusion that this was an attack “on the entire free world”, as German President Joachim Gauck put it on Friday.

To suggest that “there but for the grace for God go I” robs reality of its complexity.

The idea that the threat level in Germany is comparable to that in France is something xenophobes also want us to believe.

It was only a matter of hours after the attack that Frauke Petry, leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), tweeted that the only choice available was between closing borders to refugees and terrorism.

Conservative Interior Minister Thomas de Meziere is also constantly reminding us how high the risk of attack is here in Germany. In fact he is so concerned that last year he pushed through a law loosening data protection rights, claiming it was necessary in the fight against terror.

This law led Reporters Without Borders to demote Germany on its press freedom index, saying it had left reporters and their sources within government vulnerable to prosecution.

A war on France, not Germany

If the Nice attacker was indeed radicalized, it means France has been hit by three major terrorist attacks since the start of 2015, as well as several more minor incidents.

In the same time period, Germany has cancelled two major public events due to tip offs about a imminent attacks.

But, despite nightmarish stories of ambulances packed with explosives, not a single arrest has been made, either after a football match was cancelled in Hanover in November or New Year’s celebrations were called off in Munich.

In June, three arrests were made in connection to an alleged Isis plot against Düsseldorf. But revelations that the man who handed himself in to French police had prior connections to Germany’s foreign intelligence agency have raised questions about the credibility of this story.

Look back in German history and you will find only one incident which could plausibly be described as an act of Islamist terrorism.

In 2011 a Kosovan man shot and killed two US airmen at Frankfurt airport. Witnesses said he cried ‘Allahu Akbar’ before firing his weapon. But, as foreign military personnel were the targets, it is questionable whether it could be defined as terrorism, let alone an attack on Germany.

This is not to say that Germany does not face an Islamist threat.

In 2010 and 2014, German courts found two groups of men guilty of plotting terror attacks. The 2010 court case found the men had been scouting out targets inside the Bundesrepublik.

At the same time though, it bends credulity to say that Germany has simply been lucky, or that its security services are so good that it has been able to thwart the terrorists before they could realize their deadly fantasies.

If jihadists were determined to have struck Germany by now, they would have done so. The Nice rampage proves how horrifyingly easy it is to turn the most everyday of objects into a weapon of mass murder.

Why Germany is less of a target for Islamist fundamentalists than France is not easy to answer.

Berlin’s relatively pacifistic foreign policy and France’s long, and sometimes brutal, colonial history in North Africa are likely factors.

Germany’s historically low levels of unemployment no doubt facilitate smoother integration of minorities. In a recent study of Turkish Germans, 90 percent said they were happy or very happy in the Bundesrepublik.

Arguably Muslim migrants to Germany come from regions where a more peaceable form of Islam is practiced, in contrast to the radicalism of many mosques in Tunisia – homeland of Nice attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel.

It may seem like tempting fate to say so, but while European borders have disappeared for us they don’t seem to have done so for Isis or its supporters. We should keep this in mind when we react to terrorist atrocities.

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TERRORISM

Anti-Semitism ‘massive problem’ in Germany, says Jewish leader on terror attack anniversary

On the second anniversary of a far-right terror attack at a German synagogue, the German Jewish Council has warned that the government needs to make more efforts to stop the spread of anti-Semitism online.

Anti-Semitism 'massive problem' in Germany, says Jewish leader on terror attack anniversary
A star of David on the roof of the Halle synagogue. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

Two years after a terrorist attack in the east German town of Halle that left two people dead, Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews, said that more needed to be done in the fight against anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism.

“The spread and incitement of hate, for example in the form of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories via social media, is a massive problem,” Schuster told DPA.

On October 9th 2019, a heavily armed right-wing extremist called Stephan Balliet tried to enter the Halle city synagogue on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

When he failed to do so, he shot a 40-year-old passerby. He later killed a 20-year-old man at a kebab shop. While trying to escape, the 28-year-old injured several people before he was caught by the police.

The city of Halle is commemorating the event on Saturday, with wreaths to be laid at the scene of the crime. Reiner Haseloff, state leader of Saxony-Anhalt, is expected to attend.

Balliet was sentenced to life in prison in 2020 by the Naumburg Higher Regional Court. His sentence will be followed by preventive detention.

Funs for synagogue security

While praising the German government for introducing a law that makes social media companies responsible for hateful content posted on their sites, Schuster said that the legislation needed to be extended to messenger services such as Telegram.

“We must do everything we can to ensure that the internet is not a lawless space,” he said.

According to Schuster, the German government reacted quickly after the Halle attack by providing money to improve security at Jewish institutions.

This was an important step, he said. “However, there is still much to be done at the political and social level to combat growing anti-Semitism.”

SEE ALSO: Four held over foiled ‘Islamist’ attack on German synagogue

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