Nick Cohen

We’re just waiting for the terrorists to strike us again

Violence in the UK feels inevitable, and we know that when it happens Jews will be blamed


LONDON - JULY 07: Flowers are laid in order to remember the victims of 7/7 bombings at Russell Square underground station on July 7, 2006 in London, England. On July 7, 2005 three London Underground trains and the number 30 bus in Tavistock Square were targeted by suicide bombers, killing 52 people. (Photo by Dave Etheridge-Barnes/Getty Images)

March 13, 2024 11:04

We are waiting for bombs to detonate. We pretend we are not. No one goes on the BBC to discuss how rage about Gaza may translate into murder in the UK.

We do not like to talk about the possibility of terrorist attacks in case we are found guilty of tempting providence. It’s a possibility we do our best to block out.

But the fear is still there. It drones in the background like a low, discordant hum. Try as we might, we cannot shut it out. We wait in silence and in a kind of denial.

The people who are paid to think about terrorism, however, cannot afford to be evasive. When I spoke to them for the JC, they emphasised how hard it is to counter modern terror.

I said that I was genuinely surprised there had not been more violence since the October 7 attacks.

They weren’t shocked because they are working on a theoretical timeline developed from the Al-Qaeda attacks at the turn of the century.

Terrorism has time lags, they told me. There’s a gap between cause and effect. It took almost three years from the destruction of the Twin Towers in September 2001 and the start of the US war in Afghanistan, for Islamists to bomb Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005.

Attacks take time to organise, the thinking goes. It also takes time for young men to descend down the radicalisation spiral.

So maybe we will see terror attacks from the war that began in October 2023 in 2027. Or maybe there will be a two-year gap this time and Europe should brace itself in 2025.

In truth no one knows.

The people who receive intelligence are reassuring in a limited way. We are very good at monitoring terrorist threats, they say. The police and intelligence services have trigger warnings that move potential criminals on to watch lists. Every week files arrive on new suspects worthy of being monitored, and everyone who sees them admires the efficiency of the system. And yet everyone involved also has a horrible suspicion that when the terrorist attacks come, the attacker will be a stranger unknown to the authorities.

“Life isn’t like the movies, where the state can monitor everyone,” one senior figure, speaking on condition of anonymity, told me. “We are a free country.”

Modern terrorists can “educate themselves” as the woke say, online by following jihadis and by taking the chants on today’s pro-Palestinian demonstrations to “globalise the intifada” as a literal call to action.

Look at the likely background of a lone wolf terrorist, and you will see why the authorities face such formidable difficulties.

He will be a Muslin or white far-right extremist, under 35, who has lost contact with his family and friends. He will live by himself in a squalid rented room or flat watching porn and extremist rants online.

How are the authorities meant to monitor everyone who fits that profile? How are they even to know of their existence?

The old methods of anti-terrorist policing are becoming less relevant. This is not like fighting the IRA in the 1980s. There are no organised or state backed groups – as far as the authorities are aware even Iran is not sponsoring violence in the UK.

Instead of organisations British agents can penetrate, there are just guys online lapping up mad conspiracies about Zionist global power or the great replacement of the white race.

One day one of them will go to Sainsbury’s, as so many people do, and buy a kitchen knife, as so many people do, and just start stabbing as many passers-by as he can reach.

The odds of spotting him before he attacks are pretty slim, and so we need to prepare ourselves.

The UK is already experiencing extraordinary levels of hatred. The Community Security Trust has recorded an explosion of antisemitic abuse, and Tell Mama, which monitors anti-Muslim bigotry, tells a similar story. These are largely cases of insults, however, not life-threatening violence.

When, and the optimist in me wants to add if, terrorism comes back Jews will be blamed, even if they are the victims.

We have already learned that the early 21st century liberal mind cannot handle extremism. It fails to understand that radical Islam has a dark logic of its own.

One of the lowest points in the modern history of the BBC showed us as much in 2015. Islamists had massacred the staff at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and then gone on to kill shoppers at a kosher supermarket.

The BBC accosted an elderly Jewish woman in Paris and tried to browbeat her into accepting that the murders of Jews were the fault of Jews because “Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands”.

The cocksure ignorance of extremism, that sees it solely as a result of Western provocation, will be on full boorish display again.

So too will be the danger to British Muslims, who always suffer violence after terrorist attacks.

I ought to end with some inspiring words. But they are hard to offer when everyone I have spoken to thinks that a return to terrorism is likely. They hope they are wrong, and the best we can do is hope that they are wrong too.

March 13, 2024 11:04

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