Crime And Fear, Peru's "New Terrorism"

Amid the seeming complacency or incompetence of the government, drug-related violence and criminals acting with impunity are creating an all-too-familiar atmosphere of fear.

Policemen at work after the July 22 explosion in a Lima circus
Policemen at work after the July 22 explosion in a Lima circus
Carlos Escaffi


SANTIAGO DE CHILE â€" Those of us who lived in Peru during the 1980s have macabre memories of terrorism in our midst. We can recall the sensations we felt on hearing a nearby explosion, immediately followed by a power outage, or the fear that kept us in even blacker darkness. It was during the virtual civil war between the state and Maoist Shining Path guerrillas, and for civilians it was an era of helplessness and constant concern for the safety of loved ones.

A similar sense of absolute defenselessness is increasingly being felt there today. It's not just a matter of mild concern or analysis. We've reached a crisis point in which parents fear that taking their children to dinner or to the circus might endanger their lives (Criminals used grenades and other explosives at a Lima circus in late July, injuring 11 people). Drug cartels and other organized crime engaging in extortion and other violence have driven murder rates in some of Peru's cities to levels similar to the most violent countries in Central America.

These aren't just isolated incidents, and the fear isn't just a perception. Peruvians are living with violence on a daily basis, with increasing frequency â€" and worse, amid increasing indifference. When murder becomes commonplace, there is the danger of our senses being dulled. In addition, we have to listen to the excuses that make the public seem like idiots, from officials who may well see insecurity as a matter of perception, sitting as they do in highly secured offices.

I'm not speaking of pseudo-political terrorism. Peru is suffering from terrorism that wants â€" precisely as the word implies â€" to dominate us through fear being spread by a relentless series of violent acts, followed by chilling and sickening impunity. A bomb attack in a circus one day, and gunmen entering a well-known restaurant in Lima to kill a customer in full view of everyone eating there on another. Gang members recently tried to kill senior staff at a high school, successfully murdering the principal. The students had no idea what had happened, but they were aware there was violence because the pool of blood at the school entrance left little to the imagination.

Then there are the threats commonly delivered by mail, ranging from sending someone a few bullets in an envelope to leaving explosives cartridges at someone's doorstep as reminders of some pending debt or in acts of extortion cooked up inside one of the country's prisons â€" perhaps that high-security installation where inmates recently enjoyed a tranquil weekend swimming, with barbecued chicken and beer.

And yet the current government insists the raging violence is all mistakenly "fixed" in our minds. What should be done? Bring out the army again, as some suggest? Do people even trust the government to protect their interests? Ordinary Peruvians wonder these days who will defend them, given that state institutions and officialdom seem either incompetent or untrustworthy, or both. The response right now, frankly, is the press. If we don't report crimes and demand solutions, nobody will do anything about the culture of violence.

The aim here is not to be alarmist. The intention is to generate awareness about the public's lamentable vulnerability and the fear that is metastasizing like a vile tumor on society. As the public are kept distracted with gossip and scandals affecting the rich and powerful, the specter of terrorism is once more creeping up around us.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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