Another rude awakening

The war on terror is long and tiresome, but if we act together it can ultimately be won.

French police officers [Illustrative] (photo credit: REUTERS)
French police officers [Illustrative]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The appalling attacks in Paris on Friday, November 13 were not unprecedented. Similar attacks were carried out a few days earlier on the streets of Beirut and a few years earlier in Bombay.
The premeditated mass murder of civilians has been carried out on a daily basis for the past four years in Syria and for over a decade in parts of Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Nigeria, Kenya and Iraq. More than 10 terrorist attacks causing over 100 civilian casualties in each attack have occurred in these locations in the past year alone. Now it was Paris’ turn. True, simultaneous attacks in six different quarters of a central European capital, facilitated by homegrown terrorist cells, is a sign of operational sophistication, but this should not come as a surprise to anyone.
They have been at it for decades.
Who are “they” and what is “it”? “It” is terrorism – the deliberate targeting of civilians for ideological, religious and or politically motivated objectives. “They” are extreme Islamists, in their different forms of incorporation, who see no room for other beliefs and who have been steadily growing in numbers and influence in almost every country in the world.
The first thing that came to my mind after hearing of the tragic attacks in Paris was a closed meeting I once sat in on years ago, between a widely heralded French philosopher and an Israeli leader. The French philosopher, who was visiting Israel during one of its escalated rounds of violence with Hamas in Gaza, told the Israeli leader that he had just returned from an Arab village in Northern Israel and described the discontent there and the problem Israel faces regarding much of its Muslim minority population. Many Israeli Muslims identify with your enemy, he said, more than they do with the state they live in. The Israeli leader acknowledged the problem and pointed out that France faces a similar predicament. The open-minded Frenchman brushed that observation aside and said that the situation in France was completely different because in France, young Muslims do not consider themselves Muslims, “they consider themselves Frenchmen.”
The forward-looking yet realistic Israeli leader simply nodded his head and said, “We’ll see.”
The attacks in Paris are a reminder that terrorism is terrorism, regardless who the civilian target is, and should be uprooted accordingly. The free world too often disregards terrorism carried out by extreme Islamists against other extreme or even moderate Muslims, not to mention Jews living in Judea or Samaria. On the other hand, those same Westerners are outraged when the slain victims are in European or American constituencies.
Islamic fundamentalists do not often make that distinction.
In the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks, US President Barack Obama duly declared: “This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.” He continued by pointing out that, “The American people draw strength from the French people’s commitment to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Similar humbling words should have been delivered after the slaughter of Rabbi Ya’akov Litman and his teenage son Netanel, who were shot dead by a Palestinian terrorist while peacefully driving with family on that same November 13. The same or similar words could have been said after any one of the stabbings or shootings that Islamic terrorists carried out against Israeli citizens over the past few weeks.
They could have also been said after the attacks in Kenya or in different corners of the world.
The almost universal show of solidarity with France’s sorrow is heartwarming, but will all be for naught if it is not backed by substance. The first step is to face the unpleasant fact that extreme Islam is not limited to an insignificant number of disgruntled juvenile delinquents or misinformed demonstrators against the only democracy in the Middle East. It has a stranglehold on a large section of the populations of many countries, including in the West.
Applying the measures we have become accustomed to, such as surveillance, limitation on immigration, border control and monitoring incitement are essential. But more importantly we need to acknowledge the magnitude of the problem and align our common interest. When a true and consistent policy of zero tolerance for terrorism is adopted by all Western powers, regardless of the target – victory will be in sight.
The war on terror is long and tiresome, but if we act together it can ultimately be won. A key principle of the march to victory was emphasized yesterday by the above-mentioned French philosopher: “No boots on their ground means more blood on ours.”