Friday, November 28, 2008
Mumbai Terror: In cold blood
THE JERUSALEM POST
The dreadful images coming out of Mumbai since late Wednesday night have stunned Israelis - and not just because the city's Chabad House was targeted along with a hospital, open market, the main train station, a popular restaurant and two posh landmark hotels. At least 125 people are known killed and some 327 wounded. The bloodbath reminds us that, though Muslim extremism is often traceable to some local grievance, it's in essence part of a larger conflict between civilizations. Islamists are violently affronted when Hindus, Jews, Buddhist or Christians are sovereign over a Muslim minority.
AS WE try to make sense of the mayhem unleashed on Mumbai, a city of some 13 million souls, our thoughts naturally are with the family of Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg. We are anxious, too, for the dozen or so other Israeli hostages. And we express our condolences to the people of Mumbai who have lost loved ones in this reprehensible assault.
Mumbai has been attacked six times since 1993, most recently in 2006 when 200 people were killed in a train-bombing. The nature of the latest attacks, however, with multiple terror teams hitting some 10 targets with explosives, automatic rifle-fire and grenades - in an operation that carried on from one day into the next - suggests a far higher level of coordination and training than anything seen before. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the attacks were launched from outside India "with the single-minded determination to create havoc in the commercial capital of the country." Plainly, the terrorists are connected to elements in the failed state of Pakistan. At least some of them may have arrived by sea, landing across from the Taj Mahal hotel.
They hunted-down guests with US, British and Israeli passports to take as hostages. At the Chabad House, Indian neighbors nobly tried to fend off the attackers until they themselves were driven back by terrorists' bullets.
Israelis feel at one with the people of India, especially at times like these. Both countries are modern incarnations of ancient civilizations. We share common political values, overlapping security concerns and a growing commerce.
India was established in 1947; Israel in 1948. Both peoples rejected British rule, both faced Muslim opposition to their independence. The subcontinent was divided into the secular state of India and the Muslim state of Pakistan. In the Mideast, the Palestinian Arabs rejected the idea of two states for two peoples. Substantially, they still do.
Though much still needs to be done to draw India and Israel closer, enormous steps have been taken since New Delhi first recognized Israel in 1950 and finally established an embassy in 1992. Israel has actually maintained a consular presence in Mumbai, formerly Bombay, since 1952.
India is a genuine multicultural democracy. Among its 1.1 billion people are 150 million Muslims. Its former president, and father of New Delhi's nuclear program, is a Muslim.
NO ONE yet knows who carried out these attacks and speculation is rampant. Pakistan has in the past encouraged terrorism in Kashmir. Its doubtful India's unstable neighbor is explicitly responsible for the aggression (the government there denounced it), but Pakistan has multiple power centers and its intelligence service has previously been linked to the Taliban. Both they and al-Qaida have an interest in diverting attention away from the Pakistan-Afghan border. And coincidentally, Pakistani troops reportedly opened fire on Indian positions along their joint border on Thursday. Still, al-Qaida specializes in mega-attacks using suicide bombers, which was not the case here. Even if it turns out that this outrage was the handiwork of Lashkar-e-Toiba - or one of its front-groups - which wants to turn India into a Muslim state, that still doesn't unveil the real masterminds.
Whoever did this wanted to create panic, scare off foreigners, undermine India's economy and turn the country's people against one another.
ISRAELIS have long argued that no political grievance, no perceived injustice and no religious creed can ever justify waging war against civilians. Others have sometimes made excuses for "resistance" movements.
If any consolation can be derived out of the heartbreak in Mumbai, perhaps it will be that India will work ever more vigorously in international forums to isolate terrorists and the state's that sponsor them.
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