It is more than a bit naive to believe a simple war is being played out in the Middle East: the terrorists versus Israel. An act of terror, whether it takes place by smashing jet airplanes into temples of commerce at the foot of the cement canyons of Manhattan island, immolating thousands who did nothing more provocative than starting their days work, or by a desperate and deluded teenager with a belt of C4 military explosives around her waist, detonating it in a crowded pizzeria, killing women and children on a cobbled street in Jerusalem, where once the men of the Bible walked, is essentially the same.
An act of terrorism is an act not against a single person or country, but rather it is an outrage perpetrated against civilization itself, and all the institutions and values it has constructed in 2000 years. If a man is a murderer in Ohio, he is no less a murderer if he travels to the furthest, most inaccessible and unpopulated part of the Zambian jungle. In the worst of the Second World War, in the most extreme analogous situation (if the Palestinians’ position that they are an occupied people is to be accepted), the French Maquis or Yugoslav Partisans did not send children to blow themselves up in the hope that, by so doing, they would murder German women and children.
The battle between terrorism and civilization is not a new thing. The landscape of history is cluttered with the failed remnants of this evil. Terrorists have worn many hats, have spoken many languages and hail from diverse places. The Roman emperors Tiberius and Caligula were terrorists, as was Robespierre who presided over the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. Events in France were described by a contemporary, Jacques-Pierre Brissot as “crimes unpunished, property attacked, the safety of the individual violated, the morality of the people corrupted, no constitution … no justice…” And he never even met Yasser Arafat.
In our time we have seen terror in Ireland, the Philippines, Iran, and El Salvador. Even we, having spawned the Ku Klux Klan, cannot claim immunity from the virus. Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia have practiced terrorism, as opposed to it being a state policy — which may be a distinction without a difference.
It says in the Talmud that every person who steals is not a thief, but a thief steals. The parallel is that every Arab who believes that he is without a country, not because of poor decisions by his leaders or because of lack of offers of support and a place to live by his very-rich fellow Arabs, but rather finds himself in this predicament because of Israeli imperialism and military might, is not a terrorist even though he may demonstrate against and curse Israel. That is OK and something Jews have lived with during their entire existence. Many other Palestinians believe in a negotiated political resolution, the power of education and free enterprise and a better future that a participatory, honest elective process offers. However, Hamas, the Tanzim and al-Aqsa, and sad little angry individuals squatting in hovels, who view a better future through a prism that shows death in Israeli supermarkets, have been subsumed by, and inextricably interwoven with, the Arafat regime that speaks for them.
President Bush was both correct and courageous when he presented a picture of the world as us and them, good and evil, and then named the states that are on the other side of the line from us. Correct, because he presented a picture of evil as it actually exists, and courageous because the easier course for him would have been simply to bring our troops home after the successful Afghanistan mission. He would have met much acclaim — but all the world would wait in ignorance for the next shoe to fall.
Terror is a commodity that knows no national boundaries. If the terrorists are successful in Israel why, logically, would the terror stop there? There would now be a group of people empowered with the belief that terror works and can be ultimately successful. There would be no reason to believe that they would not bring this thinking to any international exchange. Any perceived dispute with this country or another would bring out this deadly methodology of resolving differences, real or imagined, or in order to make some religious statement. We have already seen how by some twisted terrorist logic, differences with our policy in one part of the world resulted in thousands of deaths in another part of the world, New York City. Modern technology means that a terrorist one place is a terrorist in every place, and puts every place and people at risk.
It is in the interests of all of us, Gentile and Jew, to destroy this virus of terrorism now, decisively and definitively. If we do not, future generations will pay the price of our timidity.
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