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London Calling

London Calling

Europeans are not about to start singing, "We are all Israelis now," any time soon.


Horrific as the death toll was from the terrorist attacks on London's transportation system, it does not begin to measure the impact of those attacks on Londoners and indeed all of Europe. Though memories are generally short-lived, it will never again be possible to descend into an Underground station or get on one of London's famous double-deckered buses without surveying one's fellow passengers and considering whether they are likely candidates to be carrying sophisticated explosives.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to what Mark Steyn calls the Israelification of European life. By Israeli standards, the scale of Thursday's simultaneous attacks was hardly unprecedented. With a population about one-tenth of that of Great Britain, Israel has had months in which more than twice as many citizens were killed as the announced death toll from last Thursday's bombings.

Not surprisingly, then, one of the many reactions of Israelis upon hearing the breaking news from London was that perhaps now Europeans would begin to understand what we live with in Israel. And indeed Israeli security experts were in hot demand by the British media in the aftermath of the terrorist strike. The BBC even discovered the word "terrorist" in its dictionary. Briefly. Within 24 hours, the Beeb was busy rewriting its webpages to remove the offending word.

Hopes of a new understanding of what Israelis face on a daily basis were temporarily dashed when A.P. reported that Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a BBC interview, listed easing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as a crucial step towards eliminating the causes of terror. As it turned out, the A.P. quote was almost entirely a figment of the reporter's imagination. (It will be interesting to see if a reporter who cannot accurately report a radio interview heard by millions of people can retain his job.) The A.P. also reported (falsely) that the Israeli consulate and Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was in London at the time, had received advanced warning of the attacks. (Shades of the urban legend that 3,000 Israelis in New York stayed home from work on 9/11, which still gets a lot of play among Moslem conspiracy theorists.)

Though false, the A.P.'s quotations from Prime Minister Blair were entirely believable. After all, did not Blair proclaim last November that finding a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict must be the world's top diplomatic priority? The fact that the A.P. report seemed plausible enough for a host of Israeli politicians to respond suggests that Europeans are not about to start singing, "We are all Israelis now," any time soon.

Europeans still seek to place Islamic terror into some rational framework, as if that will make it less frightening. The attempt to fit the terrorists into the categories of the Western mind, and to attribute to them rational goals is laughable. Amir Taheri acidly commented in the Times that all the interviewers who asked him, "What do the terrorists really want?", reminded him of nothing so much as Dutch filmmaker Theodore Van Gogh imploring his assailant, "Surely we can discuss this," even as the assailant emptied his gun into Van Gogh's body.

The effort to "understand" the Islamic terrorists' goals only arouses their scorn and encourages them in the view that the West is clueless. As Taheri, a fugitive from Iran puts it, what they want is "to take full control of your lives, dictate every move you make around the clock, and if you dare resist…kill you."

A post-Christian Europe cannot comprehend religious warfare, and certainly not the Moslem view (once shared by Christians) that conquest can vindicate belief. Moslem extremists hate the West (the Crusaders), as the great Orientalist Bernard Lewis points out, because in "the millennial rivalry between two world religions, the wrong one seems to be winning." Modern communications rubs their noses in the failure of Islamic society everywhere. They cannot hide from the fact that wherever a Moslem state and a non-Moslem state exist side by side - e.g., India and Pakistan, Israel and any of her neighbors - the Moslem state pales in comparison. Driven to frenzied rage by the failures of their own societies, the Islamists seek to crush the West by, as Osama bin Laden puts it, bleeding it to death - i.e., destroying the sources of its economic wealth.

Whether the realization of the extent and nature of the threat faced will now dawn on British and European policymakers remains an open question. The Spanish response to the Madrid bombings is not exactly encouraging. The Spanish withdrawal from Iraq in response to the Madrid bombings proved that terrorism works. And the haste with which the G8 nations hastened to shower the Palestinian Authority with another 3 billion dollars the day after the London bombings will convey a similar message. Just last week, a leading World Bank official said that given the current chaos in the Palestinian Authority, any large scale aid to the Palestinians will be tantamount to pouring money down the drain.

The West persists in believing that the terrorists can be placated by showing solicitude for their concerns or bought off.

Yet the West persists in believing that the terrorists can be placated by showing solicitude for their concerns or bought off. In fact, Britain has been attempting to buy off the terrorists for some time. By allowing jihadists to roam freely and plot their attacks on targets outside Britain, the government sought to achieve immunity from attacks on British soil, just as the Saudi royal family has attempted to buy peace for itself at home by exporting Wahibbi fanaticism around the world.

Counterterrorism specialists, writes Daniel Pipes, disdain the British for having allowed London to become the most important jihadist hub in Western Europe. The list of nations infuriated by British refusals to extradite suspected terrorists is a long one indeed, and includes many Western European states.

In the wake of the terrorist bombs, Londoners showed some of same stoic resolve for which they became justly famous during the Nazi aerial bombardment. But even if that resolve translates into bold action in the face of the terrorist threat, the task ahead remains a daunting one. British intelligence believes that those who executed last Thursday's attacks were likely born in Britain and fully able to blend into British society. It is known that Al Qaeda has been recruiting among Moslem students at British universities.

A recent study on terrorism prepared for Prime Minister Blair estimates that no more than 1% of British Moslems are potential terrorists. But that alone comes to 16,000 people -- far too many to keep under constant surveillance. Of those, 3,000 are estimated to have passed through one of Osama bin Laden's training camps.

As Al Qaeda ceases to be an organization and becomes something more akin to a brand name for a certain kind of terrorism, it becomes, if anything, harder to fight and contain. Experts expect future attacks to be increasingly the work of autonomous, decentralized cells, such as the recent London attacks. Of the eight previously planned terrorist attacks foiled by British security forces over the last five years, each one involved a different group. The lack of centralized direction makes it far harder to penetrate these cells.

Let us hope that the British public and policymakers have awakened to the menace confronting them and are prepared to act accordingly. But even if they do act with fortitude, the magnitude of the threat is such that only with a great deal of Heavenly assistance can we hope to avoid a repeat of last Thursday's terrorist bombings.

This article originally appeared in the London Jewish Tribune

July 16, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Charles B USHER, August 15, 2005 12:00 AM

Rachel, some terrorists do win.

Sorry Rachel but in every conflict there are some who win. In terrorist groups world wide there will be one or two or more who will be able to live in a better mud hut, a bigger house even a mansion or estate. They may or may not actually have their hands on the cash that they raise "for the cause" but "they" will benifit from it in various ways. Many will have the preverbial "Swiss bank account bulging to overflow. They will obtain positions that they would never have been able to work for. They will fly first class to be greeted by the rich and the famous who believe that they have a valid point. They will recieve kudos from many worldwide They will have willing helpers. servants, slaves and on occasions unwilling slaves. They will become lords, gods even, over many, granting people the right to marry to have a house to open a business even to live or die. Even at the lowest end of the food chain just holding their AK47s or hand grenades (the buying of which will have helped a non terrorist arms dealer to "win" )they become like gods deciding who will live or die. And even these will recieve adulation and applause for their actions and will know how good they are and realize that if they start their own organization they will be top of their pile and "win" if only for a short while.

(4) Enzo, July 26, 2005 12:00 AM

Muslim anaesthesia! They don't feel pain!

What an excellent article! I have spoken to many muslims after the terrorist attacks in London. Despite the fact that most of them were educated people, it seemed to me that they just didn't want to listen. They failed to understand the gravity of what had just happened. They seem anaesthetised in front of the pain that Londoners are experiencing. I give up. I just don't understand them. (But, like everybody else here in the UK, I thought I did!)

(3) Eugene W. Swim, July 21, 2005 12:00 AM

A sensible article that should be headlined!

How refreshing to hear comments of the true nature of Islam. Oh, for more reporters(or writers) to grace the pages of Americas newspapers. Give us more! EWS.

(2) Rachel, July 17, 2005 12:00 AM

tragedy of terrorism and war

I agree that there are things happening in politics that a person of my stature will not be familiar with; however, regardless, terrorism and war only breed more terrorism and war and nobody wins and everybody loses. Ironically, the majority of victims were Islamic, although there were Christian and Jewish victims. I cry for the victims families everywhere who lose somebody to violence. The way I see it we are all losers, including the terrorists. We won't win, until somebody says,'enough is enough.' We, I mean mankind.

(1) Annie, July 17, 2005 12:00 AM

Scary stuff

I agree; never again will people see the Tube in quite the same way. Remember when the IRA was holding London to ransom ? But at least they had the decency to let people know a bomb was there.

I hope that the 99% of Muslims who are going about their business & trying to earn a living don't suffer for the actions of the 1% who are either nutcases or fanatics. As a Christian, I cringe when people see the small number of Christians who are intolerant bigots and who seem to get more than their fair share of publicity !!!

I wonder why the attacks on Israelis that happen almost every day ( I see no reason to doubt the word of those who say this ) get nothing like the publicity that these terrible events have ? Well, obviously an ongoing situation will never get constant publicity; I was told by family members in Northern Ireland that there were almost daily violent events happening, the vast majority of which did not make the news.

It can't all be put down to anti-Semitism (I hope).The news has a finite amount of space, after all.

But it would be nice if the world's news could give a tiny bit more publicity to the fact that the situation in Israel is not all one-sided !!!

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