After over a million and a half demonstrators in Paris expressed their solidarity against radical Islamic terrorism one might ask: So, who has the upper hand now, the Jihadist fanatics, with their insane need to take over the world, or most ordinary people who have a more basic need to just live their own lives?
If we go according to the principle that the terror dynamic feeds off of popular support, then the recent mass demonstrations in Paris produced a fresh wind of counter-terrorism. Taking into account the many French Moslems who joined the “Je suis Charlie” placard bearers, we can rest assured that most followers of one of the world’s largest religions are against terrorism triggered by radical Islam. For this reason the so-called Islamic State (aka ISIS) venture will ultimately fail, as Moslems all over the Middle East have good cause to feel threatened and resist its advance. While certain members of the anti-ISIS coalition are themselves radical Islamic states (e.g. Iran) or terrorist organizations (e.g. Hizbollah), it is encouraging to note that moderate Moslem voices from underground student factions in Teheran to cosmopolitan circles in Beirut stand in the way of their Jihadist agenda.
The anti-terror rally in Paris and its aftermath also had a few disturbing signs: US President Barak Obama’s blaring no-show at a protest rally attended by forty world leaders was a sad indication that the front runner of the free world remains spineless on the issue of terrorism. Moreover, Obama’s refusal to call the Paris attacks a case of “radical Islamic terrorism” showed untimely political correctness. This begs for a comparison with a subsequent development: Charlie Hebdo magazine editors published a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed on the cover of their “survivors’ edition.” The provocative and politically incorrect cartoon, which helped increase sales of the magazine, also took the wind out of the counter-terror dynamic by offending those very same Moslems who had just condemned the terror attacks. Many such moderates expressed fears that the Mohammed caricature would stir up more terrorism. Anyone who knows anything about Moslem society should be aware that even the moderates among them are not ready for the type of religious satire that is more acceptable in the Western world. Conversely, Obama’s weak attempt at political correctness was even less sophisticated then the French magazine’s disregard for Moslem sensitivities. The interests of true counter-terrorism will not be served until a US President can look his Moslem constituents in the eye and plainly say: “We ask all moderate Moslems to join us in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism.”
The Paris demonstration had its moment of bad theater when Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu elbowed his way to the front row of world leaders, as if to show that he stands on the front line of counter-terrorism. Nothing can be further from the truth. Anyone who follows Israeli politics knows that after a terrorist attack Bibi can always do what he does best, dance on the blood of the victims and say “I told you so.” But when it comes to doing something of real counter-terror consequence, like showing some diplomatic resolve to reverse the tide of the Palestinian uprising, Bibi and his old and tired political party have nothing to offer. Half of Israel understands this, and will accordingly support Yitzhak “Buji” Herzog and Tzippi Livni of the Zionist Camp in the coming elections. Hopefully, there will be enough swing voters to bring about the desired change in leadership that can achieve a political settlement.
The Israeli occupation of the West Bank does not justify the murder of innocent people. But in this volatile part of the world and post-colonial age the occupation does provide a convenient pretext for terrorism. Not that terrorism started with the occupation, or will end along with the occupation. Once a settlement is reached, some Palestinians, Arabs from neighboring states and Israelis with personal vendettas may still resort to violence, and the aftershocks of the conflict may last generations before it dies out. There are no guarantees. But one thing is clear: Nothing can deliver a bigger blow to radical Islam and its popular support in the Arab world than a political settlement calling for the creation of a Palestinian State in exchange for recognition of the State of Israel.