For anyone who may have needed more proof, the terror attacks that terror war is well under way.
It may not involve the kinds of massive armies and casualty figures that characterized the first two world wars, or the massive nuclear arsenals that marked the Cold War. Of these global conflicts, what the civilized world faces now is morally, intellectually, and strategically most like the challenge it faced 66 years ago.
Morally, the people who in recent years attacked thousands of innocent people from New York, Moscow and Bombay to Madrid, Nairobi and Jerusalem, can claim as much as they want that they are merely out to further this or that particular cause; the fact is that theirs is not a response to any human being’s actions or inactions, but an urge to eradicate God’s most essential command to the crown of His creation: Thou shalt not murder.
Back when Nazism first voiced its ideas many in the international community also scoffed, whether out of astonishment at the Nazis’ intellectual absurdity or out of the delusion that they were confined to a distant land.
Ultimately, it became universally understood that at stake was an attack on the rest of mankind’s pretension to be better than animals.
Intellectually, the world must now overcome what it initially failed to overcome back in the 1930s, namely the denial that it is actually under attack. We in Israel know how difficult it is for peace-seeking people to internalize that someone not only hates them, but will deliberately target the weakest and most vulnerable in their midst.
But as former Mossad head Efraim Halevy argues in this newspaper, the world’s leaders will have to make millions understand they are in a war, even though it is one that is not waged continuously or in conventional battlefields. Here, too, Israel can offer some valuable experience: The more the public understands what it is facing, the more efficiently it will handle the terror challenge, beginning with security checks in public places and culminating in treatment of victims at bombing sites.
In this regard, Britain’s poised, orderly and disciplined handling of Thursday’s attacks was reminiscent of the way it handled World War II’s air raids, and should serve as an example to others, including Israelis.
Yet the most practical analogy to World War II is neither moral nor psychological but strategic, in terms of both the threat and its remedy.
The threat posed by Islamist fanaticism is to the very fabric that keeps the international system together. If it is up to the terrorists, incumbent governments will cease to rule, secular laws will cease to be obeyed, and trade and dialogue will grind to a halt. There is no way the international community can, or will, agree to any of this.
The remedy must therefore constitute a long-term effort that only begins with the world’s leading secret services and armies.
Even more fundamentally, the peoples who languish under the thumb of dictators who support terrorism must see that they are not alone, and they are backed unequivocally by those who deeply believe in the two values that author Amos Oz once said are the only ones worth killing and dying for: life and freedom.
The barbaric attacks on London came a day after Prime Minister Tony Blair, in celebrating the British capital’s selection as host of the 2012 Olympics, hailed its multiculturalism. The timing helped illustrate that London’s exemplary reconciliation of myriad cultures, races and faiths, is just what terrorists felt compelled to destroy.
The attackers would, of course, like gullible Westerners to think that they struck because of Britain’s presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in both countries the people have been given a chance to express their own views, in the kind of free elections that the Islamists are fighting against. In turning out massively for both elections, Afghanis and Iraqis have effectively told the world that in the war between terror and life, they, the Muslim masses, are on the side of life.
Sooner or later they will be joined in that reckoning with those in the West who have yet to understand where history has now arrived. Only then will the end of this world war’s beginning have arrived.