September 26, 2001
The extremist Islamic suicide bombers have struck again. A building lies in
rubble and innocent people lie dead and dying. A democratic nation mourns,
crying tears of sorrow and anger.
Naturally there will have to be retaliation, for terrorism of this sort cannot go
unpunished. Training camps will have to be obliterated and terrorist leaders
eliminated. The action will be as careful as possible, but the reality is that more
innocent people will die.
Yet this democratic nation will not hear its national anthem played at
Buckingham Palace nor find the countries of Nato rallying to its flag. This nation
will be told by the world not to let itself be provoked and its military action will
be widely condemned. For this nation is not the United States of America, it is
the state of Israel.
Since the attacks on New York and Washington, a consensus has grown up
about the role of Israel in the war on terrorism. During his visit to recruit the
treasurers of Hezbollah into the fight against terrorism, Jack Straw has shown
that he accepts this consensus, or at least that he is utterly unprepared to
However, in most cases the consensus view is not only untrue, but the
exact opposite of the truth.
Take, for example, the idea that America was attacked largely because of its
support for Israel. The idea, in other words, is that America and Britain are
fighting Israel’s war. The truth is the exact opposite. It is Israel that for many
years now has been fighting America’s war, the democratic world’s war. For
many years Israel has faced almost daily attack from the same sort of people
who attacked the World Trade Centre, indeed perhaps from the hijackers
What these extremists hate about Israel is not its appropriation of a tiny sliver
of Arab land, it is the siting of a Western style, non-Islamic democracy in the
Middle East. As the Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Akhbar put it:
“The conflict that we call the Arab-Israeli conflict is, in truth, an Arab
conflict with Western, and particularly American, colonialism.”
In school textbooks published by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of
Education young children are told that Islam
“will defeat all other religions and it will be disseminated, by Allah’s will,
through the jihad fighters”.
In such a war American liberalism and Israeli Judaism are equal enemies.
The refusal to acknowledge the desperately awkward fact that Israel is fighting
the same war as the democratic world, on the same side, helps to shore up
another wrongheaded notion. As part of the effort to assemble the broadest
possible coalition, it is hoped that Yassir Arafat and the Palestinian people will
form part of the front against terrorism. Yet Arafat is the father of modern Arab
terrorism and the Palestinian people its enthusiastic supporters.
The response to the New York attack from Al hayat al Jadida, a newspaper
funded by the Palestinian Authority, was that
“the suicide bombers of today are the noble successors of their
predecessors. These suicide bombers are the salt of the earth, the engines of
history . . . they are the most honourable among us”.
Last November polls showed 73 per cent of Palestinians in support of suicide
missions against American interests in the Middle East.
On hearing news of the American deaths, thousands of Palestinians in
Nablus ran into the street chanting, “God is great”.
Associated Press Television News filmed the demonstration, but the film
was never shown. The cameraman was told by Arafat’s Cabinet secretary that
if it was shown his life could not be guaranteed.
The Palestinian Authority need not have bothered issuing this threat. Few
people in the West want to hear about Palestinian support for Islamic
extremism. Few want to be forced to answer difficult questions about whether
it makes sense for the West to help to create another left-wing terrorist state in
the heart of the Middle East.
Most people simply want a peace of some kind since they share the conviction
that victory in the war against terrorism is possible only if, first, there is peace
in the Middle East. And here they make the final big mistake, for once again the
truth is quite the opposite. There will be peace in the Middle East only if, first,
there is victory in the war against terrorism.