Israel Report

MarchApril 2004         

It's A World War

Jerusalem Post Editorial - March 14, 2004
From Bali, Casablanca, and Manhattan to Moscow, New Delhi, and Madrid, the evidence is too vast, clear, and appalling to ignore: The world is at war.

Having been in the thick of this mayhem longer than others, Israel is routinely asked by states victimized by terrorism to help in a variety of aspects, from intelligence gathering and targeted killings to bomb detection and corpse identification. The victims are, of course, doing well to seek such assistance in Israel, and Israel is right in offering it. However, besides such technical aid there is a mental syndrome that frequently afflicts new terrorism targets, and which Israel can help combat: it's called denial.

The haste with which Spanish officials blamed Thursday's atrocities on an organization that insisted it did not perpetrate them, ETA, while stubbornly denying reports that the ones responsible for the Madrid Massacre are those who indeed soon assumed responsibility for it – al-Qaida – reflected a mental refusal to join the list of the fundamentalist scourge's victims.

We in Israel have undergone three different stages of denial before finally realizing that, whether or not we like it, we have got business with the Islamist beast, and that dealing with it must involve less talk and more action.

Some of us may still recall how in the mid-'90s cops, politicians, and the press reflexively attributed several terrorist attacks to regular rather than politically motivated criminals, or how Yitzhak Rabin himself – after the first bus bombings – still insisted that terrorism did not pose a strategic threat. That stage of denial ended as the frequency and magnitude of the terrorist attacks left no room for doubts concerning their origins, resources, and determination.

The next stage of denial was about the cause. For a while, many here thought the terrorists could be either manipulated by Western negotiators or persuaded by Arab leaders to lay down their arms, provided their grievances were heard and some of their demands heeded.

Israel has since learned that terrorism cannot be beaten by satisfying "grievances." America, which until 9/11 was also plagued by the denial syndrome, has since launched a global war on fundamentalist terrorism and Middle East autocracy. Europe, however, has not joined America's ideological cause, and that goes even for Britain, which is Washington's closest EU ally.

Now, some Spaniards can be expected to blame themselves for their own victimization. If Spain had not joined the war on Iraq, they will say, it would not have been attacked. We cannot but implore Spain to avoid that kind of thinking; we've been through all that and can now confidently say that Spain was targeted not for anything it did or failed to do, but for what it is, namely a country that embraces and offers all the freedoms that Muslim fundamentalism detests.

Lastly, even when it finally understands its situation, Spain might still resort to denial when it will come to identifying its enemies. Israel, and the US, initially assumed that most Middle East governments are their partners in the war on terrorism. That was the rationale behind Bill Clinton's gathering of the Sharm e-Sheikh summit in the spring of '96. Sadly, as violence accelerated it emerged that most Middle East regimes are not prepared to actively fight terrorism, and that some are not only not prepared to be part of terrorism's solution but are actually part of its problem.

Spain has been a close friend of most Arab regimes since the days of Franco's rule. While the country's subsequent transition to democracy has fortunately generated formal and healthy ties with Israel, Madrid remained a pillar of Western acquiescence with Arab dictatorship. Last week's carnage should change this.

Spain and the rest of Europe must understand that, just like last century's threat to their future was fascism, this century it is the militant form of Islam, and that just like Nazism's in its time, the jihad's excuses for its mass-murders are not even worth a hearing. Europe must concede it is at war, and has no choice but to fight it until it is won.

The jihadis see Europe and America as a common enemy against which they hope to play divide and conquer. The longer Europe waits to join with America in common cause, the more the war will escalate and spread, including within Europe. The sooner Europe joins the fight, the sooner these massacres will end and the cause of freedom and human rights will prosper.

©2004 - Jerusalem Post

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