When Professor Luc Montagnier received the Nobel Prize for the discovery and identification of the HIV virus, the world was shocked to discover that the virus has the ability to constantly change itself, hindering the possibility of combating it.

The AIDs virus presented a challenge to the world, different than any before it. Through global collaboration, the world did not succeed in defeating the AIDs virus, but has provided solutions for dealing with the virus, as people can now live with HIV, as opposed to dying from AIDs. Concerns regarding the frequent variability of the virus forced scientists to formulate new solutions to this horrid disease, which still endangers significant populations around the world.

There is much in common between viral outbreak of AIDs and the outbreak of the various waves of terror throughout the world. Terrorism in the 21st century is characterized by its frequent variation, and the fact that it constantly changes its shape. Unfortunately, the world often deals with terrorism through the lens of the last war without the ability to assess and predict the next war. Many around the world deal with terror as it was in the past, without an awareness of the variant nature of terrorism and its goals around the world. The new terrorism attacks in a different way, aims its attacks at new targets and populations.

In the past, terrorism was characterized by specific attacks. Today it is a global threat. In the past, terrorism was a mere nuisance, and today it is an existential threat. The world has yet to internalize the fact that yesterday’s terrorist is attempting to be tomorrow’s ruler.  The terrorists, who acted in the name of the Ayatollahs in Iran, are today heads of state, and wield authority over various branches of governments. Some say Iran’s former president was part of a group of terrorists who seized the U.S. embassy in 1979, while others argue that the current president of Iran was one of the planners of the terrorist attack against the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in 1994.

Taliban terrorists took over rule of Afghanistan in 1996 and there can be no doubt that Al-Qaeda terrorists are currently leading the violent factions in Libya, Syria and elsewhere. Sadat’s assassins and the murderers of tourists in Aswan are the heroes of the Muslim Brotherhood-led regime in Egypt. Hezbollah terrorists are taking a leading role in the governing apparatus in Lebanon and have a deep involvement in the Syrian Civil War.

Indeed, terrorism has mutated, and today it is not only a local threat, but an existential threat to the entire world. The first to realize the danger to these fundamentalist organizations taking over their country were the citizens of Turkey and Egypt. The protests and riots in these countries, which in Egypt appear to be leading to a significant change, ought to set off an alarm to the world, warning of dangers that could occur at any place and at any time, if the world does not wake up soon.

The struggle of the citizens of Turkey and Egypt is heroic, as opposed to the capitulation of the West, which has a deep lack of understanding of the new emerging global strategic situation. The cries of Taksim Square and Tahrir Square ought to jolt the world awake. These are the most essential issues of the 21st century, a century very different from the previous one.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center
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