Just one day after Israelis gathered on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl Military Cemetery to mark a year since Operation Protective Edge, Britons held their own memorial service in London on Tuesday to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of a series of terrorist attacks on London’s Tube and bus networks.
These two seemingly arbitrary dates help to illustrate the common threat Israel and other Western states such as Britain face today as they come under attack by radical Islamists. France, Australia, Canada and Belgium have all seen acts of extreme violence that were directly or indirectly inspired by the ideology and aims of a violently reactionary stream of Islam.
A cult of death, a racist hatred of Jews, Hindus, Christians and “unbelievers” and the desire to restore a long-vanished, despotic empire ruled by a medieval Muslim jurisprudence are the common features of the groups that carry out these attacks. In this sense, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are no different than Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra or other al-Qaida-affiliated organizations in the Middle East, Europe or elsewhere.
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Indeed, the two anniversaries come less than a fortnight after a deadly terrorist attack on mostly British vacationers in Sousse, Tunisia, and amid increasing tension on Israel’s borders – particularly in the Sinai Peninsula, and in the North as a result of spillover from the Syrian civil war, alongside a series of attacks in Israel in recent days including two that killed Danny Gonen and Moshe Rosenfeld.
It is common for the news media, foreign political leaders and other shapers of world opinion to attempt to “contextualize” the terrorist attacks directed at Israelis by Islamist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. When Palestinians target civilians in driveby shootings or ambushes and when they fire rockets and mortar shells at residents of the South, the aggression is framed within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For instance, an Agence France-Presse story on the Rosenfeld murder opined that “West Bank settlements are considered illegal under international law and Israelis have been attacked previously in and around them, as well as in annexed east Jerusalem,” as though this somehow explained the reasoning behind it.
Operation Protective Edge
But this is a slippery slope. For if we are to buy in to the view that Jewish settlements are the root cause of Palestinian terrorism, or that the creation of a Jewish national homeland on “Muslim land” in the wake of the Holocaust is the Jews’ original sin that justifies Palestinian retaliation, what is to prevent us from making similar causal relations between 7/7 and former British prime minister Tony Blair’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan or between 9/11 and US imperialism or between the 2004 Madrid train bombings and Spain’s foreign policies? From the point of view of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, the dismantling of settlements in Judea and Samaria and the expulsion of Jews from the West Bank will not resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Only the eradication of the Jewish state will. And even this will not bring about a change in Hamas’s charter, which includes The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Similarly, there is nothing short of a complete capitulation to Islamists’ dictates – the transformation of Europe into a caliphate, mass conversion, application of Shari’a law – that will appease the terrorists who carried out the attacks in London in 2005 and in Sousse less than two weeks ago.
The only reasonable option is to stand and fight for Western values, whether you find yourself in Jerusalem or London, Paris or Brussels. Those who look for “root causes,” in contrast, will be doomed to make increasingly shameful capitulations.
At the same time, every effort should made to search out and forge ties with any moderate elements in Palestinian society and in Israel’s Arab neighbors who realize the grave threat that Islamic State poses for them. A unified front against extremism is the only way to keep this side of the world safe and minimize the chances of another war in Gaza or another terrorist atrocity abroad.