Israel Report

November 2002         

Two Attacks on Freedom

by MARTIN SHERMAN - November 29, 2002
On the face of it, Thursday's murders of yet another nine Israelis including two children was just another day, albeit an exceptionally gruesome one, in the ongoing war of terror being waged against us.

In fact, the attacks in Mombasa, Kenya, and in Beit She'an represent a tactical escalation and a strategic turning point in this war. Tactically, the terrorists have taken their battle to the air, targeting a civilian aircraft laden with returning tourists. Strategically, these attacks have targeted not merely the State of Israel, but what it embodies and its enemies detest: freedom.

Firing missiles at a civilian aircraft, as the terrorists did unsuccessfully in Kenya, is not only an attack on Israelis, it is an attack on mankind's freedom of movement. And spraying bullets a line of voters, as terrorists did in Beit She'an, where members of the Likud were electing their prime-ministerial candidate, is an attack on the Western, democratic way of life.

Never mind that an attack such as that in Beit She'an is impossible to launch anywhere in the Arab world, where all leaders are self-appointed and all political leadership is authoritarian at best, totalitarian at worst. Ever since the current war erupted more than two years ago, a majority of Israelis have concluded that the Palestinian leadership never intended the kind of a deal that Oslo's architects had in mind. In a somber reminder of just how dramatically events have turned, three of those wounded in Beit She'an were sons of MK David Levy. Hard as it is to believe, it's been barely three years since Levy, then foreign minister in Ehud Barak's government, formally launched the final-status talks. How disillusioned we have become since then.

The more we have been attacked by suicide bombers and gunmen first with the Palestinian Authority's blessing, then with its sponsorship, and finally with its micro-management the more we have realized that the enemy's cause is neither about statehood nor about honor, but about upholding dictatorship. Peace, replete with open borders and free trade as the Oslo Accords envisioned, would inspire the Palestinians to demand Israeli-style freedom and empowerment. The Israeli voters' massive support for Barak and his concessionism in 1999 gave way last year to a massive vote of confidence in Sharon and his skepticism.

Now the average Israeli has been vindicated in his pessimism, as gunmen sponsored by Yasser Arafat's Fatah appeared in Beit She'an to demonstrate their idea of a political debate. Arafat is making no bones about his preferences in our upcoming election. Yet the attack serves as a reminder that Arafat has no clue not only about democracy itself, but also about democratic dynamics. The Israeli voter may have previously been manipulated by the Palestinian masterminds of a peace mirage. However, being bullied to vote one way or another is an entirely different thing and can be counted on to backfire on its perpetrators.

Moreover, the attack on our democratic process should further alert sensible people throughout the West to the universality of the terrorist threat to political freedom. On Thursday, the attackers targeted freedom of travel in Kenya and freedom of voting here, last week they attacked the freedom of expression in Nigeria, before that they attacked the freedom of travel in Indonesia, and last year they attacked the world's premier symbol of economic freedom in New York.

As it was while Nazism spread during the 1930s, the free world is slow to detect to the totalitarian threat which is challenging it. And just as the fascists of those days mistook the West's reluctance to join battle for irreversible degeneration, now too the Middle East's terror masters rapidly accelerate their violence and diversify their targets, assuming that ultimate victory is just around the corner.

In fact, what is around the corner is an all-out war that might involve millions of people across a politically shackled Arab world, whose chances of winning the confrontation it is slowly embracing are nil. Yet ordinary Arabs can still do what ordinary Germans, Italians,and Japanese grew to regret not having done in their time: confront the people who are leading them to catastrophe.

©2002 - Jerusalem Post


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