The Exasperating Logic Of ‘Terrorism’


Reading Michael Slackman’s Memo From Cairo in the New York Times today was an exercise in futility and despair for anyone who believes that morality and humanity should be a factor in international relations. (”Disentangling Layers of a Loaded Term in Search of a Thread of Peace,” Feb. 26)

The Times correspondent tackles the issue of what terrorism means to the Arab world, and finds that it is 180 degrees apart from those of us in the pro-Israel community.

To Egyptians, and other Arabs, the recent war in Gaza was Exhibit A in the case against Israel, with the Jewish State guilty of terrorism in its military conduct, which resulted in the deaths of civilians. And Hamas, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, are perceived as groups “trying to liberate their countries,” according to a former Egyptian ambassador to Britain.

Slackman mentions that Israelis argue that it is not their army’s intent to harm civilians. But he does not extend the point to say that while Israel pursues militants who place themselves among civilians, the goal of groups like Hamas is to kill any and all Israelis – and according to their truly frightening charter, to destroy all Jews, everywhere.

Hamas militants who hide behind their own civilians to kill Israel civilians are deemed heroes; Israeli soldiers who jeopardize their own lives to avoid killing Palestinian civilians are considered monsters.

The timely element of the Slackman piece is that the new Obama administration is hoping to improve its relations in the Arab world, but he concludes that as long as Washington backs Israel, it’s hopeless. He does not explore the counterview that as long as the Arab world endorses the notion that killing Jewish women and children is a noble form of liberation, peace is a fantasy. What’s more, there is no mention that most Arabs believe Israel was responsible for 9/11, or that if Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, what is left to liberate?

And most missing of all is the belief among so many Arabs that there simply is no place for a Jewish state in the region. Period.

Slackman quotes Arabs saying that the American application of terrorism is hypocrisy, and that Americans think all Muslims are terrorists. That is not the case, but it is true that the majority of terror attacks around the world in recent years, including 9/11, were perpetrated by Muslims, most of them Arabs. Unless you insist that 9/11 was not an act of terror, or that Israel was behind it, and then, indeed, there is little room for negotiation, or hope.

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