(Oriiginally published in Arab News 7 October 2003)
Israel?s attack on what it said was an Islamic Jihad military training camp in Syria sends two messages to the world. The first, on behalf of the United States, is the clear signal that the Bush administration will do everything it can to keep Syria and Iran in its sights as the so-called war on terror continues. It is a message that has been heard, loud and clear, in the Arab world. However, the second message, though indirect, should be taken on board with equal concern: That suicide attacks on Israeli civilian targets are politically and militarily counterproductive.
How much reflection has there been in the Arab media on the fact that three Israeli Arabs were among the 19 killed in the restaurant in Haifa on Saturday? How much acknowledgement has there been that the city targeted is one of the few in Israel where Arabs and Jews coexist peacefully? And where are the editorials asking what the three children and the baby who were blown to pieces there did to deserve such a terrible fate? Is there any reflection on the fact that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is now as a result of the bombing in a weaker position than ever, and that the sizeable minority of ordinary Americans who support Palestinian calls for a viable state are less likely than ever to raise their voices in support of the cause?
Arab News has said it before, but along with all decent-minded people we must continue to say it loudly and unambiguously: Suicide bombings are morally repugnant, are totally against Islam and all human decency.
The suicide bombings are part and parcel of the impotence and desperation that in so many ways characterizes the Arab condition. Many say that it is precisely because of this impotence that suicide bombers are forced to carry out their attacks. But the opposite is true: Each suicide bombing deals another blow to the already immeasurably weakened Arab position.
Let?s face it: The Palestinians and the wider Arab world have no meaningful strategy for dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that is why extremism fills the vacuum. If as much planning and effort had been put into forging a strategy for mass civil disobedience, for example, and promoting genuine internal reform and development as has been put into the recruitment, training and encouragement of suicide bombers, the Palestinians would not only be in a much stronger position at the negotiating table but would also have much more vocal and tangible support from the international community.
That Israel was able to attack a camp just a few miles outside Damascus, without having to worry about the risks involved or the possibility of reprisals, is a clear indication of Arab impotence.
Will the Arabs ever see the link between self-defeating act of suicide bombing and their self-destructive activities on the diplomatic level whenever they attempt to address the Middle East conflict?
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