Watching on TV as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas marching in Paris “against terrorism,” I wished that the commentators had split screened to West Bank street maps. The names of several West Bank streets and squares on those maps might have provoked some uncomfortable questions: was anyone marching against terror down Yihye Ayyash Street in Ramallah, right near Abbas’s Presidential Palace? What about in Dalal Mughrabi Square in al-Bireh? Or in Yabad on Saddam Hussein Street?
Such protests would of course be as awkward as they would be ironic. In 1978, Dalal Mughrabi participated in the murder of 38 civilians – 13 of them children – and one Israeli soldier, wounding 71. Yihye Ayyash, better known by his alias, “The Engineer,” built bombs for Hamas. Several exploded on packed city buses. Proof of his success can be found in graveyards and rehab clinics: 48 civilians and 27 Israeli soldiers killed and more than 380 people wounded. Saddam Hussein, of course, requires no introduction. In the gruesome butcher’s bill comparison of terror, the murderers in Paris are amateurs.
It seems at times that our politics swims in insincerity and petty duplicity. We forgive these hypocrisies believing that such is the dross of our politics. In the fight against terror, however, hypocrisy is not merely embarrassing – it is self-defeating. Ending terrorism demands that terrorists, as well as their funders and apologists, must be called to account. We cannot excuse the ordinary polite duplicity: turning a blind eye towards those who support terror anywhere, ensures that terror’s tentacles will in time reach everywhere.
Consider the Middle East. When suicide bombers were plaguing Israel, bathing almost exclusively in Jewish blood, they earned praise throughout the Arab world. Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, the head of Egypt’s Al Azhar University, described these murderers as engaged in “the highest form of jihad.” Saudi Arabia held telethons raising hundreds of millions of dollars for these “martyrs.” State run newspapers lionized them. Poets competed in the production of flowery praise. Of course such bombings looked very different when jihadists began murdering in Sinai, and Jeddah, and Baghdad. Murder once praiseworthy abroad came home to pay bloody dividends.
What should the world to do? First and foremost, civilization must speak in one clear voice: intentionally murdering civilians cannot be tolerated. Targeting civilians is evil. Those who abet such actions, by word, deed, or indifference, collude with evil. They too are guilty. Their actions provide the medium which grows this cancer. We must likewise affirm that in terror, all victims are equal. “Je Suis Charlie Hebdo” makes a fine slogan. So does “Je Suis Juif.” But we must be just as willing to declare to declare in the face of terror that “I am a Jerusalemite.” That “I am a Yazidis.” That “I am a Hazzarah.” That “I am Mumbaikar.” Be the victim white, brown, or black, be they Christian or Jew, Muslim or Hindu, Atheist or Believer, we must stand beside them and call them our own.
Funders of terror must likewise be called to account. Money that funds murderers – whether it flows from Riyadh, or Islamabad, or Washington – must be dammed. No longer should states be allowed to deflect condemnation for funding terror abroad by pointing to the terror they suffer at home. As we cannot grant terrorists shelter, we cannot allow their backers the shelter of excuses.
Can we stop terrorism? Social media and street marches will never end this scourge. Some argue, “terrorism is but a tactic” and that “one cannot fight a tactic.” However history teaches a different lesson. Civilization has more than once declared some once common tactic as beyond the pale. Piracy was long practiced on every ocean and sea. Children once marched on as fodder on near every battlefield. Poison gas once was deployed in every arsenal.
Those who want to argue that fighting terrorism is futile, will point out that piracy continues to exist. Child soldiers still fight and die. Chlorine gas still claims lives. Yet that which was ubiquitous survives only in a few places. Granting them no succor made them putrid; it drove them to the periphery. If these practices have not gone the way of small pox, they continue in a state akin to polio. They hold on in a few places and could be finally ended if we possessed the will. Terrorism is a disease. It deserves just such a treatment. We must allow it no quarter.
None of this will perfect the world. But anywhere that claims membership in civilization, should neither honor nor fund murderers who blows up buses. Nor murderers who dash a baby’s head against a wall. Nor murderers who fling bombs into crowded hotel lobbies. No sign should rise declaring an Amedy Coulibaly Street. Saïd and Chérif Kouachi Boulevard should grace no map. We must not sit idle. And we cannot march with those who honor terrorists. We must not tolerate such hypocrisy. Claims of civilization demands at least that much.