Contrary to common arguments that terrorism is closely connected to religious extremism, several types of racial terrorism targeting foreigners, and cultural and religious minorities have spread across a large number of countries. This is as a result of rising extremist rightist, nationalist and "Zionist" trends which, in terms of violent practices, contested traditional terrorist organizations.
FIRST: Types of Racial Terrorism
Racial terrorism is defined as types of armed and violent practices that are intended to terrorize the members of a certain race group, even if these members are foreigners or members of religious and ethnic groups themselves. The most notable types of racial terrorism are:
1. Right-wing Terrorism: The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in coordination with the FBI, released an Intelligence Assessment report in February 2015, emphasizing that right-wing attacks have become the greatest terrorist threat to US citizens, an assertion backed by the global security database of New America (formerly the New America Foundation). This Assessment is based on a large body of law enforcement and open source reporting from DHS, state and local law enforcement, the FBI, court documents and the media. International security databases reveal that between 2002 and June 2015, twice as many people were killed by right-wing extremists and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Islamists groups.
As part of the rising activity of right-wing extremists in Europe, German extremists launched 175 racially-motivated attacks on refugee shelters in Germany in 2014 alone. The number of right-wing attacks surged during this year and went up to 173 between January-June 2015, with the arson that engulfed a refugee shelter in the German town of Troeglitz in April being the most serious such attack ever against refugees and asylum seekers.
In the same context, Britain reported to the EU that in 2014, a large number of extremist rightist groups had renewed their activity to recruit youth through a variety of ways. Furthermore, in August 2014, France detected commando training camps run by extremist rightists in the Fontainebleau forest southeast of Paris. An online video posted by Prenons le maquis, a self-proclaimed "resistance group" showed military activities, including close combat, knife-fighting techniques and firearms training.
Italy, another EU member, reported the arrest of 14 right-wing extremists in December 2014. The suspects belonged to a clandestine extremist group named Avanguardia Ordinovista. This group is reported to have planned attacks on politicians, prosecutors and police in order to undermine social stability. Within the framework of this investigation, a total of 31 houses were searched nationwide. In February 2014 Bulgarian police arrested more than 120 people in Plovdiv, after hundreds of right-wing knife-wielding extremists tried to storm a mosque and kill worshippers.
2. Zionist Terrorism: In August 2015, Jewish settlers burned Palestinian toddler Ali Dawabshe when they set fire to his family house in the West Bank village of Duma, near Nablus. The crime of killing the 18-month-old Palestinian boy was only one in a series of terrorist acts perpetrated by both the State of Israel and Zionist settlers. "The Revolt", an extremist religious and right-wing Jewish group, threw firebombs on a number of Palestinian houses, including the Dawabshe's family home, and attacked Muslim mosques and Christian churches.
Zionist settlers also committed individual crimes that were maybe more atrocious than crimes perpetrated by extremist organizations. In July 2014, six Zionist settlers kidnapped Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir in East Jerusalem, and later three of them doused the 16 year old victim with petrol, burning him alive and even mutilating his body.
Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, stated that between 2004 and 2015, Zionist settlers carried out more than 11,000 attacks against Palestinians. The rights group also documented 15 arson attacks carried out since 2008 by settlers against Palestinian families while they were sleeping.
As for state terrorism, in its report titled ‘Black Friday’: Carnage in Rafah during 2014 Israel/Gaza conflict, published in July 2015, Amnesty International stated that Israeli forces killed 1,492 Palestinian civilians, including 551 children. Other Israeli crimes documented in the report include bombardment of Gaza's largest hospital by heavy artillery.
3. Nationalist Terrorism: The 2014 Global Terrorism Index 2014, released by the Sydney-based Institute for Economics and Peace, revealed that despite the fact that the number of religiously motivated terrorist groups has increased in the past 14 years, nationalist terrorist groups have been the most active in terms of the number of bombings and the ability to recruit new elements within their organizations.
The Kurdistan Workers' Party, more commonly known as the PKK, is designated by a large number of countries, including EU members, as a terrorist organization after it expanded its activity to include Europe. According to the 2015 EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT 2015), produced by Europol, the PKK's active elements carried out activities to recruit Europe-based Kurds. In July 2015, the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party put an end to its truce with the Turkish government as it claimed responsibility for killing two Turkish police officers. The PKK was also suspected of being involved in bombing a Turkish army's convoy killing three soldiers and injuring six others on 16 August 2015.
In Iran, a number of nationalist groups are active in the border triangle in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, including Jundallah - God's Army, otherwise known as the People's Resistance Movement of Iran (PMRI) - a militant group that has its military bases inside Iran but uses Pakistani territory sometimes to capture Iranian soldiers for ransom.
Some regard this group as a resistance movement fighting the Iranian regime's persecution of the Sunnis despite its attacks against civilians. These attacks include a bombing of an October 2009 bomb attack in a marketplace in the city of Pishin in the Sistan and Baluchistan Province killing 40 civilians. The group also claimed responsibility for the 2010 suicide bomb attack inside the Iman Hussein Mosque in Chabahar, which killed an estimated 35 to 40 civilians, and attacked the Grand Mosque in Zahedan, killing approximately 30 and injuring an estimated 300.
SECOND: Explanations of the Racial Dimensions of Terrorism
Racially motivated terrorism differs from other types of terrorism in terms of targets, nature of perpetrators and is based on a number of social and cultural motivations the most important of which are the following:
1. Vicious Cycle of Violence: Some researchers addressing the issue argue that violence breeds violence, and even claim that the acts of racial terrorist groups are in fact their reproduction of the practices of states or some groups against them. For instance, some argue that terrorist acts perpetrated by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are a reproduction of discriminatory practices against them, including the Turkish state's use of armed forces against civilian Kurds.
This proposition holds true in the case of Iran where the state used violence against Sunni Muslims in Balochistan in a bid to obliterate their identity and eliminate the Baloch language and heritage. In the context of the Baloch minority's attempts to preserve its identity, the Jundallah group was established, but it resorted to armed violence only after Iranian authorities launched a crackdown on the Baloch activists and killed a member of the Rigi tribe, one of Sistan-Baluchistan’s largest tribes, in front of his family in 2002, which was one of a series of practices that prompted his brother Abdolmalek Rigi to recruit Baluch youth and declare their violent struggle against the Iranian government.
2. Dark Side of Social Capital: Although the common concept of social capital implies the strength of social ties and networks of trusts that ultimately result in continuous solidarity, some arguments note that dark social capital, which includes family relations and friendships within an organization, does increase terrorist organizations' ability to penetrate society and gain wide legitimacy.
This can be clearly seen in the case of racial terrorist organizations which most often have individuals with close social ties. An empirical study revealed that social links between the members of the Jewish Underground, a Jewish terrorist organization formed by prominent members of the Israeli political movement Gush Emunim, significantly facilitated the creation of this organization. The study also shows that the organization's most successful attacks were carried out by individuals whose bonds were quite strong. This holds true in the case of terrorist nationalist and rightist groups which have various ties and share a common identity.
On the other hand, the dark social capital itself thwarts any attempts to penetrate or break up these terrorist organizations because once their members sense any external threat, their internal solidarity becomes stronger.
3. Economic Competition: Anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe is closely correlated with austerity measures imposed by the governments of some of the most stable economies, and is further fueled by statements of officials stressing that immigrants are the main cause behind most of the economic and social problems facing their country. One of the most outspoken statements in this context was given by British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, who weighed in to the debate over migration claiming millions of "marauding" African migrants pose a threat to the EU’s standards of living and social infrastructure
Despite the fact that recipient counties do benefit from migrants with gains including cheap labor where their populations is aging rapidly, "brain gain" and increased tax revenue, immigration leads increased competition on resources. Migrants contribute more in taxes and social contributions than they receive in individual benefits, according to a report in 2014 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Migrants accounted for 47% of the increase in the workforce in the United States and70% in Europe over the past ten years.
Even though most migration is not directly driven by workforce needs, immigrants play a significant role in the most dynamic sectors of the economy. Migrants fill important niches both in fast-growing and declining sectors of the economies of recipient countries. New immigrants represented 22% of entries into strongly growing occupations in the United States and 15% in Europe, which fuels anti-foreigner sentiment.
4. Identity Struggle: Violence can be a tool to eliminate the identity of a certain group and a reaction by some groups defending their identity. A good instance here is the Palestinian village of Khirbat Sousia, which is under frequent Zionist terrorist attacks aimed at eliminating its identity.
As part of the Israeli campaign, extremist Zionist settlers built a settlement with the same name in the south of Khirbat Sousia and turned the northern side of the village to an Israeli archeological site. To add to the plight of the village, an Israeli high court backed the extremist Zionists with a ruling that legalized the demolishment of the Palestinian village and the expulsion of its residents.
THIRD: Mechanisms of Confrontation
Mechanisms of confronting racial terrorism vary from one country to another. In addition to conventional security strategies of combating terrorism that include the breaking up of groups and the arrest of perpetrators of terrorist acts. States have adopted legal mechanisms such as anti-hate laws where hate crime is legally defined in several European states as an assault prejudice-motivated crime that occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group, race or faith, using degrading utterances or words that may incite to violence or fights between two or more persons or groups of persons.
Varying forms of these laws are adopted by 14 European states, 5 states in Northern American, 3 Asian states as well as 3 Arab states including the UAE. The UAE's Anti-Discriminatory Law enacted in July 2015 criminalizes all forms of discrimination on the grounds of religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, color or ethnic origin. The Anti-Discriminatory Law states that “strict action will be taken against any form of expressions of hatred or incitement to hate crimes spread in the form of speech and published media”. It condemns actions that would comprise hate speech or the promotion of discrimination or violence against individuals or groups using any form of media, including online, print, radio or visual media.
Other relevant efforts include the establishment of organizations to combat this phenomenon and reduce its effects. These include the US-based Southern Poverty Law Center whose main objective is to fight hate and bigotry. The SPLC monitors hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States and exposes their activities to the public, the media and law enforcement. The SPLC tracks more than 1,600 extremist groups operating across the country and publishes investigative reports, trains law enforcement officers and shares key intelligence, and offers expert analysis to the media and public.
As early as 1995, the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) recognized this phenomenon and issued the Declaration of the Principles of Tolerance to fight extremism and related crimes. The declaration emphasizes “the responsibilities of Member States to develop and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all”, as well as the need to combat intolerance and discrimination against minorities, enable all to file complaints and have their complaints investigated. The declaration also emphasizes the need to promote education, raise awareness against intolerance and ensure free access to information.
Some approaches relied on economic tools to confront the rise of racial terrorism. For instance, after Zionist extremists burned Palestinian toddler Ali Dawabshe, local, regional and international campaigns were launched to boycott the Israeli economy. A number of churches, including the United Church of Christ, a large mainline Protestant denomination in the US, voted to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and to boycott goods made in Israeli settlements, as support for increased action against the country's policies grew in momentum. The Chilean parliament also decided to boycott products of Israeli settlements. In addition, several European human rights organizations launched a campaign showing that buying or drinking beverages produced in settlements is equal to taking part in extremists' terrorist attacks.
In general, it is safe to say that terrorist attacks motivated by racism will increase in the West because governments are focused on using security approaches that cannot alone address this complex and intricate phenomenon. In addition, their policies may very well lead to increased marginalization and alienation as a result of discrimination between their citizens and therefore lead to the eruption of violence between members of society. The main factor in a successful strategy for countering racial terrorism is represented by adopting a mixture of security and legislative approaches and economic, social security policies to cover all aspects without any discrimination, and producers to promote confidence-building and spreading the culture of co-existence and collective solidarity.