Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Half a World Away, and Yet so Close to Home

I am consistently amazed by my personal experience of locations where events around the world take place. A suicide bomber murdered four people and wounded 90 others in the Israeli city of Netanya today. While it has been posted on various news web sites, America for the large part has ignored this type of attack since the war in Iraq began. While the Israeli peace process is still said to be important to this country, very often it is ignored and relegated to the back burner in the field of foreign policy. Of course it is true that a war that has American troops in harm's way should take precedence in our government over another country's security, but the security of Israel is and should be linked with the security of the United States.

Israel sits on one of the most inhospitable strips of land in the world, and has thrived in the region. It is a beautiful land, rich in history and culture. It is the center of the three great western religious movements, and, until the recent elections in Iraq, the only democracy in the Middle East. For nearly 60 years, Israel's single goal has been survival. Everything else has been secondary and subordinate to this one thing. To this end, Israel has pursued peace with its neighbors as well as with the Palestinians, and has offered everything that has ever been asked of it, only to have the offer thrown back in its face and rejected.

The bombing in Netanya today strikes especially close to home for me. Five years ago I spent six weeks in Israel, traveling around the country getting to know the culture and history personally. I spent a long weekend in Netanya, including a good amount of time at that same shopping mall, and am struck by the prospect that for at least the third time in my life, I have personal experience at a place that has seen an attack of one sort or another. Shortly after I returned home from Israel in August of 2000, the second major Palestinian uprising against Israel began. A news clip showed a group of youths throwing stones at Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem at an intersection that I recognized as being about a block from a hotel where I had spent over a week that summer. In June of 2001, I took a tour of the Pentagon, and walked around the hallways of the Department of Defense headquarters. We all remember what happened there less than three months later. Now I read about the bombing in Netanya at a place that I can picture with complete clarity in my mind.

Israel has been living with this kind of attack on almost a daily basis for close to its entire history. We in the west have only started to experience it on a larger scale for the last decade. The solution is to be vigilant, to watch for attacks, to be careful, but most importantly, to continue and maintain our way of life, and not to have the reaction that they are going for, namely to instill terror in all of us. We can find their leaders and freeze their funding, but in the last analysis the only way to end terrorism long-term is to capture the hearts and minds. The vast majority of Arabs want peace with Israel. The vast majority of Muslims want the United States as an ally. The vast majority of the followers of Islam in Great Britain just want to go about their daily lives. The few who actually want to conduct terrorism will die out. The hope is that we do not lose the next generation of minds to terrorism and extremism.

"Peace does not appear so distant as it did. I hope it will come soon, and come to stay; and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time. It will then have been proved that, among free men, there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and that they who take such appeal are sure to lose their case, and pay the cost." – Abraham Lincoln.