The Mumbai Attacks Wounded Us All

December 29, 2008 at 10:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We in Israel continue to mourn the attacks in Mumbai. The terrorists of “India’s 9/11” obliterated the relative peace in one of the world’s greatest cities, murdering hundreds of mothers and fathers, husbands and wives and sons and daughters. The attacks are tragic examples of the new age of global terror in which we live. The shadow of terrorism looms over the four corners of the Earth, from New York and Washington to Bali and Mumbai, from Madrid and London to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The globalization of terror is visible not only by geography, but by the diverse backgrounds of those who are killed. The terrorists of Mumbai sought out not only Indians, but also Americans and English, Jews and Israelis, and anyone else who could be mistaken for a Westerner. The terrorists targeted Mumbai’s Chabad center, the local branch of the Jewish outreach organization, and killed nine of its occupants. In the end, the citizens of 26 countries could be counted among the dead and wounded.

Terrorists do not care who they kill. During the 1990s, we in Israel were besieged by the homicide bombers of Hamas, Hezbollah and their fellow travelers. The bombers struck shopping malls, schools and buses in an attempt to target Jewish civilians. Many of the attacks took place in mixed Arab-Jewish cities. The terrorists were undeterred by demographics. They blew up restaurants filled with Jews and Muslims alike. Bombs exploded aboard buses filled with veiled Muslim women. In one case a Hezbollah missile landed off target, killing two young Arab brothers in the city of Nazareth. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, congratulated the boys’ mother and father for their sacrifice.

The present and brutal reality of globalized terrorism was first apparent 20 years ago when terrorists bombed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The victims were not just American, British or Israeli but were Jamaican, Filipino, Bolivian, Argentine and Trinidadian. The attacks over Lockerbie and in Mumbai, along with all those the world has sustained in between, prove that 21st-century terrorism isn’t localized in some remote hot spot or in countries militarily involved in Iraq. Today’s terrorism threatens everyone, regardless of faith, nationality or political beliefs.

Given the universality of the global terrorist threat and the extended reach of its murderous hand, the old semantic debate about the difference between “terrorists” and “freedom fighters” should be put to rest. Violence and evil should be called out for what they are, and 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, should be the time for the international community to assert its right to live free from terror and fight back.

Terrorists justify their violence by claiming its necessity in their struggle for political rights. This validation is a lie. Three great leaders of the 20th century prove the hollowness of the terrorists’ claim. The first was Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian who lead the subcontinent to independence and inspired countless true freedom fighters.  Gandhi wrote in his autobiography that “he who would be friends with God must be alone or make all humanity his friend.” In his quest for India’s freedom, Gandhi shunned violence and engaged Hindus and Muslims and Christians and Jews alike.

Gandhi lived a portion of his life in South Africa, where he came to inspire Nelson Mandela. Despite the hardships of abuse and imprisonment, Mandela embraced nonviolence and destroyed the racist system of apartheid. The future president of his country showed that the choices of forgiveness and moderation are far better tools for achieving equality than vengeance and extremism.

A portrait of Gandhi also hung in the office of a young Atlanta preacher working for racial equality, someone who believed that “God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men and brown men and yellow men. God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood that violence can contaminate a society for generations and that, in opposition, groups must struggle to build one common nation.

Gandhi and his disciples do not show an alternative path to equality and freedom from the one espoused by terrorism. They show the only path. The cold-blooded murder of innocents will never lead to more freedom. Terrorism’s blind rage inevitably turns others against murderers’ cause and only escalates the cycle of violence.

Over the next few decades, the competition between the false and heinous justifications of terrorism and the message of Gandhi, King and Mandela will be in full force. The hearts and minds of the world’s oppressed and marginalized are at stake. The truth must prevail, as countless lives hang in the balance. Terrorism is the challenge of our generation and entire international community must unite against the common threat.

Article appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on December 29, 2008 and in Charleston’s Post & Courier on December 18, 2008.

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