Today’s bombing of two synagogues in Istanbul recalls the bombing of the Jewish community building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, almost ten years ago (July 18, 1994). At the time, I wrote a background article (for Commentary) entitled The Jihad Against the Jews. Back then, many analysts thought the attack was the work of right-wing antisemites. I argued otherwise, and concluded with these words:
The greatest threat today comes not from neo-Nazis but from those fundamentalists of Islam who see in every Jew a political target in their war against Israel. Much more must be done by Jews to thwart them, including in-depth research, defensive measures, close cooperation with law-enforcement agencies, and dialogue with responsible Arab and Muslim organizations. If such activity is not made a priority, Buenos Aires may turn out to be only the first strike in a global jihad against the Jews.
Read the piece; it explains the mindset behind that bombing, and probably this one too.
Back then, I suggested that the jihadists chose Argentina because the authorities were unlikely to solve the case. That impression was reinforced a year or so later, when I visited Argentina as an official guest, and lectured their law-enforcement agencies on Islamist terror. They were hopelessly out of the loop. What’s worrisome this time is the possibility that the jihadists chose Turkey because it has an Islamist-led government. There may be a hope among the killers that the authorities won’t roll them up quite as relentlessly as they should. In the current issue of the Middle East Quarterly, which I edit, Gregory Burris has an article on the current state of Israeli-Turkish relations, entitled “Turkey and Israel: Speed Bumps.” The main speed bump, he argues, is the new ascendancy of the Islamists, which has made Turkish politics much less predictable.
The solving of this bombing case will be a major test of Turkish democracy’s accommodation of Islamists—a test Turkey can’t afford to fail.