The Woolwich Murder

23 May 2013 by CST

CST expresses its deepest sympathies to the family and colleagues of the British soldier who was murdered in Woolwich, South London on 22 May 2013. Our soldiers serve on behalf of Britain, its people and its values, making this an attack upon us all. That the victim was wearing a ‘Help for Heroes’ shirt is especially poignant.

The impact of the terrorist attack is magnified by the imagery: two Jihadists, not fleeing the scene, not attacking passers-by, and one of them standing with bloodied hands, bearing his meat cleaver and knife. His spoken words are clear and deliberate. They repeat the manner and message of the so-called ‘martyrdom’ videos that exemplify the importance of media for terrorism today.

Since the London Transport bombings of July 2005 we have almost become normalised to the high numbers of terrorist threats, arrests and prosecutions. We read the plotters' intentions, we see the numbers of people attracted to such hatreds, but the accumulative psychological impact of this is nothing compared to witnessing the reality and the imagery of a single actual successful attack.

From CST’s specific mission of Jewish communal security, we are keenly aware that the same Jihadists who want to kill soldiers may well also want to kill Jews. This happened in Toulouse, in March 2012, when Mohamed Merah’s murder of French soldiers was the prelude to his killing three Jewish children and a rabbi at the Ozer HaTorah school. That morning, Merah apparently set out to kill a policeman. He failed, so simply switched targets.

Terrorism seeks to provoke fear and hatred, to polarise society and cause a counter-reaction that the terrorists hope they can eventually exploit. Within hours of the Woolwich murder, the English Defence League was playing its predictable role, cynically hyping up the outrage. CST’s Muslim counterparts at the Tell MAMA anti-hate crime group are already reporting a wave of violence and intimidation against random Muslim targets throughout Britain. This racist violence is as stupid and counterproductive as those waves of antisemitism repeatedly suffered by Jews in Britain (and elsewhere) since the Year 2000.

Looking forward, the risk of actual far Right terrorism against a Muslim target is surely heightened; as is the danger of other Jihadists trying to copy the Woolwich murderers, using the most basic of easily available ‘cold weapons’.

For Jewish community security, the primary lessons remain unchanged. Anyone can see how many people are arrested for terrorism and incitement each year; and we see, and hear, the hatreds expressed by Jihadist groups on our streets, our campuses and elsewhere. Worse, these hatreds are not solely restricted to supporters of Al Qaeda. Those who support Hamas, Hizbollah and other such extremists are not exactly opposed to the threat or reality of anti-Jewish rhetoric and violence. CST is distributing a security notice across our community, stressing that security measures should continue to be fully implemented.

To conclude, rather than living in fear, we should be alert to the full picture of terrorist activities and rhetoric here in Britain, whether it be Jihadist, far Right or whatever; and we must keep on working with decent people of all faiths, and none, in opposition to extremism.


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“I never stop being amazed at the professional, selfless and totally dedicated commitment shown by the CST staff and volunteers. Our community is indebted to CST for the comprehensive protection the organisation provides, which sadly is so very necessary at this time.”

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth