Congress holds hearing on Islamic extremism’s threat to European Jews

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith. Credit: U.S. Congress.

( U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) chaired a Congressional hearing on Tuesday that explored the threat Islamic extremism poses to European Jewish communities. The hearing examined how European governments can do more to protect those communities by using policing models pioneered in America.

“There can be no European security without Jewish security. As we have seen so many times in so many places, violence against Jewish communities often foreshadows violence against other religious, ethnic, and national communities. ISIS (the Islamic State terror group) especially hates the Jewish people and has instructed its followers to prioritize killing them,” said Smith, who chairs the body that held Tuesday’s hearing, the U.S. Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

“[Islamic State’s] cronies targeted the Jewish Museum of Belgium in May 2014, the Paris kosher supermarket in January 2015, and the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen in February 2015, and murdered people in all of them,” Smith added.

Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of international Jewish affairs for the American Jewish Committee, thanked Smith for his “pioneering work” in identifying and addressing anti-Semitism in Europe. Baker said that European governments need to do more to confront anti-Semitism.

“One of the problems we have faced and we continue to face is that governments are slow to recognize the very problem itself, let alone to marshal the necessary resolve and expertise to confront it,” Baker testified.

Rutgers University professor John Farmer, who has led an initiative at Rutgers designed to identify the best ways to protect vulnerable communities in light of the evolving threat of Islamic extremism, said he has “worked with U.S. communities to develop what FBI officials have called an ‘off-ramp’ to radicalization.”

“This is a time of particular peril for the Jewish future in Europe, and it is incumbent upon us to do what we can to assure that future,” Farmer said.

“The collaboration with law enforcement agencies has to be based on trust and confidence, in respect of international laws and rules protecting individual freedom, civil liberties, and privacy,” Jonathan Biermann, a Brussels-based attorney and an elected city councilman there, said during his testimony on Tuesday.

Paul Goldenberg, a senior adviser to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said he has observed from a number of his trips to European cities in recent years that more work “needs to be accomplished to move closer to a medium and standard of safety and security” for European Jewish communities.

Posted on April 19, 2016 .