A world path not followed

By Gideon Levy

Haaretz

Tamuz 3, 5765

The world is treating the wave of terror attacks in London as a deterministic event, a necessary product of absolute evil, an act of Satan's emissaries.

The world's media were immediately inundated with countless "terrorism experts," who self-assuredly explained how to combat the scourge: "Dry the swamp," "destroy the infrastructure," raise the efficiency of intelligence organizations and reinforce security arrangements.

The world will now upgrade its means of combating terrorism: Security on subways will be increased. Victoria Station in London will look like Heathrow Airport, like barracks. And, ultimately, there will be another war to overcome the affliction.

Our foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, who never misses an opportunity to appear on screen, added his own assessment. "This is a war between the children of darkness and the children of light - groups of lunatics, whose only goal is to prevent the dissemination of the values of democracy and freedom in the world," explained the person responsible for disseminating freedom in Palestine.

Black and white, bad guys and good guys. Everything is perfectly clear to us, the children of light, the seekers of freedom and progress.

Nonetheless, a certain doubt arises. Perhaps it is not just pure evil? Perhaps we should ask what the "children of darkness" want? What impels them to commit such cruel acts? How is it that so many people lend a hand to such acts? Is it really true that the only way to combat them is through exerting more and more force?

The undeniable fact that after two cruel and unnecessary wars - in Afghanistan and Iraq, which were ostensibly designed to combat terror - and after installing the strictest security measures, the world has not become a safer place, should raise doubts about the validity of those unchanging mantras.

Everyone talks about the global connections behind terrorism, linking the attacks in Moscow, Madrid, Istanbul, Mombassa and Jerusalem. In this way, the West can exempt itself from any responsibility for the terror attacks, attributing it all to a grand plot of Muslim "children of darkness," who declared war against the children of light, the defenders of freedom and democracy.

The truth is that the picture is much more complex. Even if there is absolute agreement about the cruelty of the means used by global terrorism, we must ask what really drives it and whether the West is truly free of any responsibility for its eruption.

The terror attacks in London occurred one day after the city was informed that it would host the Olympics in 2012. Some 12-17 billion pounds will be invested in the British capital for the Games. No one imagined investing such a gigantic sum in Third World countries.

The attacks also occurred against the background of the ostentatious concert for Africa and the G8 summit, which will not significantly reduce the continent's distress. It is impossible to ignore the fact that Islamic terrorism, which carries the banner of an uncompromising religious war, has succeeded in cultivating its wild weeds in the soil of the impoverished, infirm, deprived and oppressed Third World. Its soldiers come from occupied Afghanistan, from Pakistan, which is ruled by a Western-backed leader, from backward Arab countries and from poor neighborhoods of Muslims in Europe.

George Bush is no less responsible for the bloodshed than Osama bin Laden. He declared an unnecessary, wicked war on Iraq that has only managed to sow massive killing and destruction. There are no authoritative figures on the number of innocent Iraqi civilians killed by the U.S. army, in addition to the 1,700 American soldiers killed for naught, but their number is very large.

But the wars the West wages are not called terrorism, and their casualties are not labeled as terror victims. The West provides fundamentalist terrorism quite a few justifications. Therefore, the correct way to fight this terrorism should be first of all to reduce these justifications in order to diminish support for it.

Perhaps it is impossible to wipe out this terrorism completely, but it is impossible to deny that its source and support are found in impoverished and oppressed settings. There is no doubt, for example, that ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories would weaken the motivation or at least the excuse for terror. As long as the terrible gap between the affluent West and impoverished, backward Third World is not narrowed, as long as ostentatious Olympic Games continue to be held in London while millions die of AIDS in Africa due to a lack of medication, as long as the West continues to wage superfluous wars on false pretenses and Muslims throughout the world feel deprived and persecuted, as long as the economic exploitation and occupation continue in several of the world's countries, terrorism will also continue.

True, groups of fanatics may remain in the world even after these problems are resolved, but they would no long enjoy the broad sympathy they receive today. Neither an armed guard for every passenger on the London underground, nor another war of choice in Syria or Chechnya would put an end to the phenomenon that former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy, another renowned expert on terrorism, called "a world war."

If there is one way to insure that it will be impossible to put an end to terrorism, it is the way of force and exploitation. And this is the path the world has followed so far.