June 22, 2007 - Earlier this week a coalition airstrike against al-Qaeda terrorists taking sanctuary in a religious compound in Afghanistan killed seven children.
Understandably, the people responded with outrage. Khalid Farouqi, a member of Parliament from Paktika province where the incident occurred, blasted the coalition. "Nobody can accept the killing of women and children" he said. "It is not acceptable in either Islam or international law." (Oddly, Islam is rarely invoked in this manner when the victims are Israeli or American.)
The outrage of the people was part of the plan.
Eyewitnesses said that the terrorists prevented the children from leaving the compound. When the children tried to escape, the terrorists pushed them away from the door and beat them.
The use of children as human shields seems to have become a trend. Three months ago, in Baghdad, American soldiers allowed a car to pass through a checkpoint after seeing two children in the back seat. Once on the other side, the adults ran out of the car and detonated a bomb hidden inside it, killing the two children and three other civilians.
Referring to the incident in Afghanistan, the American ambassador, William B. Wood, said the coalition does as much as it possibly can to avoid harming civilians. "Unfortunately," he said, "when the Taliban are using civilians in this tactical way, instances of civilian casualties, just like instances of casualties from friendly fire, cannot be completely avoided."
Sound familiar? Israel has repeatedly come up against the effective use of this barbarous tactic. Hezbollah used it in Lebanon, even shooting civilians attempting to flee areas of danger.
This is the real "asymmetric warfare." Israel, like America, fights with a sense of morality, trying to do what is necessary but exercising restraint to minimize civilian casualties. The other side - be it al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hamas, or Hezbollah - has no such restraint. These groups all go after civilians as prime targets, and even use their own civilians as decoys and shields. They are united by a demented distortion of religious values that inspires them to a frenzy and justifies the murder of innocents.
In their war with Fatah, members of Hamas kidnapped people, threw them off rooftops with their hands and legs tied, or shot them dead in the street in front of their wives and children. With cries of "Allahu akhbar" they proclaimed it "a victory of Islam over heresy." Why such scant protest from the international community?
Well, some people are displeased. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called this "the worst thing I've seen since 1967." Worse even than all of Israel's misdeeds? Perhaps so. Many Palestinians voiced comments like this one: "We've had enough, we should be so lucky as to see the return of the Israeli occupation." In fact, according to an opinion poll just released by Khalil Shikaki’s Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 56% of the Palestinians surveyed said the greatest threat to them was infighting and the lack of law and order. Only 12% said it was the Israeli occupation.
Make no mistake: the occupation has to end. But it cannot end when the other side is dominated by terrorists and anarchists. One can only hope that increasing numbers of Palestinians are beginning to realize that. The occupation is an albatross that most Israelis would love to get off their necks. It is not the primary threat to world peace.
The most potent threat to peace today is not Israelis. It is not Palestinians. It is a set of ideas spreading throughout the world, whose basis is an amoral God who would justify even the murder of children for the sake of spreading his rule. It is nihilism disguised as spirituality. It has no compassion. It knows no international boundaries. And it is on the threshold of acquiring nuclear weapons.
Incredibly, too many people seem not to know or not to care. Even in Britain, presumably an enlightened democracy, a number of academics, journalists, and now trade unionists have resolved to boycott Israel. Jews are no longer allowed to mention anti-Semitism, so I can't accuse them of that. I do wonder, however, what other conceivable explanation there could be for this consistent, repeated singling out of the Jewish state for punishment while completely ignoring not only the terrorism practiced against it but the real danger, which is an aggressive, expansionist terrorist movement global in scope and unlimited in ambition.
This is the real danger: a global movement that is fueled by religious fervor, yet essentially nihilistic. A movement that would rather destroy its own societes, whether in Iraq, Lebanon, or the Palestinian territories, than allow its rivals to build them up and live in peace and prosperity. A movement that has a devastating advantage over its enemies because it has no moral constraints, while those whom it attacks are shackled by world opinion and by their own consciences.
I am Jewish. I unequivocally disassociate myself from the misguided, anachronistic distortion of Judaism that seems to think the days of Joshua have returned and that God demands Jewish settlement of the Palestinian territories. But thankfully this form of Judaism is not dominant in Israel. Most Israelis want nothing to do with it. And it does not sacrifice children as martyrs to God, nor does it threaten the entire world.
If I were Muslim, I would be scandalized and ashamed at the movement of religious nihilism now advancing in Islam's name. I would rush to repudiate it, to disassociate myself from it. Why is this not happening? Why is it that, far too often, we hear Muslims protesting such excesses only when they themselves have become the victims of their own religious extremists? Islam claims to be a world religion. A true world religion must be universalistic, with compassion for all. With very few, barely audible exceptions, we are not hearing this from Muslim leaders today. Either they are extremists themselves, or are leaving a vacuum now being filled by an Islam that claims to be genuine and whose potential for destruction is incalculable.
With danger this great, silence is deadly.
Bearak, Barry and Taimoor Shah. "Seven Children Killed in Airstrike in Afghanistan." New York Times, June 19, 2007.
Erlanger, Steven. "Egypt Arranges Peace Summit in Support of Abbas." New York Times, June 21, 2007.
Koppel, Ted. "Facing an Enemy That Wields Kids As Weapons." National Public Radio, June 21, 2007.
Krieger, Matthew. "British Labor Union Okays Israel Boycott." Jerusalem Post, June 21, 2007.
Paul, Jonny. "UK Jews Slam Israel Boycott Move." Jerusalem Post, June 21, 2007.
"A President Guard Member Thrown from the Top of Al Ghefari Tower in Gaza." Palestinian Press Agency, June 11, 2007.
Rubinstein, Danny. "Analysis: Reoccupation of Gaza - Is It the Only Way Out?." Ha'aretz, June 13, 2007.
Semple, Kirk, Alissa J. Rubin. "Bombers Said to Blow Up 2 Children Used as Decoys." New York Times, March 21, 2007.
Soltis, Andy. "Death Squads Amok in Gaza: Victors Slay Foes in Front of Their Kids." New York Post, June 15, 2007.
Soltis, Andy. "Mask-Erade of the Barbarians." New York Post, June 16, 2007.
Peace with Realism