World-scale Al Qaeda and ISIS terrorism of a different nature from Israel/Palestine violence

David Horovitz, one of Israel’s and Jewish world’s and Israel-Palestine confict’s profoundest journalists, always makes me ponder deeply.

I hope he views my frequent use of his work as a sounding-board as the gesture of respect and the compliment I certainly intend it to be.

David inimitably opens with the latest horror:

“Dafna Meir and Shlomit Krigman. Two Israeli women — one a mother of six in her late 30s; the other about to turn 24, just setting out in life. Dafna, stabbed to death by a Palestinian teenager at her home in the settlement of Otniel on January 17. Shlomit, stabbed to death by two Palestinians near the grocery store at the settlement of Beit Horon, where she lived with her grandparents, on January 25. Dafna and Shlomit, now buried one next to the other at Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuhot cemetery.”But then David wisely calls his column: “Rather than Despair at the Awfulness of it All, and says, instead, Look for solutions, even if, as he adds, in “baby steps.”  (At )

As examples of Israeli baby steps toward peace, David says,

“Netanyahu could declare a freeze in building at settlements in areas that Israel would not retain under any permanent accord…. He could welcome wider Arab peace calls in principle, and offer to travel anywhere in the region to discuss possibilities for progress….Such moves may not have an immediate concrete benefit, but they might help gradually change tone and atmosphere. Baby steps.”

In view of the horrible murders, and David’s wisdom of looking for solutions, I hesitate to mention my minor quibbles. But reluctantly will.

David  retorts with angry sarcasm to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, about Ban’s sweeping criticisms of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians:

Rather than despicably legitimizing terrorism as an ostensibly natural response to occupation — thanks for that, Ban Ki-moon; …what’s your enlightened explanation for 9/11…?”

But no. Respectfully–  and in my personal opinion– : Wrong retort.

The same error as Netanyahu’s “terror is the same terror everywhere.”

And Netnayhu’s error : “Violence in Israel and the West Bank is the just same as the violence all over the world.”

And Netanyahu’s error:  “Terrorism against Israel = ISIS.”

Again: Wrong. Mistake. Error. 

Now let there first be no mistake or misunderstanding: The crimes, the murders, the horror, the unspeakable griefs, are just as demonically awful as human beings undergo the hell of them, wherever they occur.

But it is false that 9/11 – that perpetrators like Al Qaeda and ISIL– are ideologically comparable violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict. In suffering, yes– but not in ideology--and so not in the possibility of peace.

David himself implies this basic difference in suggesting “baby steps” toward peaceful solutions– such that there be no settlement expansion in land never earmarked for Israel in a peace deal. In other words violence in–and peace for–Israel-Palestine is connected to a conflict.

A conflict in which each side has wronged the other. The ghastly murders of Dafna Meir and Shlomit Krigman. Or the burnings alive of Mohammed Abu Khdeir and the slaughter of almost the entire Dawabsheh family at Duma, and the historical massacre at Lydda that Avi Shavit recounts extensively in “My Promised Land.”

And on and on.

And so in the cycle of violence in a conflict, insane extremist heartbreaking and unconscionable atrocities happen.

This is why, as David says, in his title, “Rather than Despair at the Awfulness of it All,” we need to come up with actions and solutions, to fundamentally change the background conditions in order to alleviate this conflict-driven cycle of violence.

So this is the absolute difference from Al Qaeda and ISIL terrorism.

Not in the horror, but, with Israel-Palestine as the backdrop, the possibility of a peaceful end to the horror – horror which goes both ways – in the cycle of violence in the generations of the intertwined Israeli-Palestinian and Jewish-Palestinian and Jewish-Arab conflict.

But for Al Qaeda’s and ISIL’s (and, say, Boko Harem’s) terror and murder and violence, there is no historical backdrop of conflict and a cycle of violence and mutuality of wrongdoing.

There are of course the Sunnis and Shias. But Al Qaeda and ISIL kill Sunnis by the thousands. And Christians. And ISIL attempts to exterminate the Yazidis. And what do Bali, Mumbai, and Burkino Faso and Christians and Yazidis have to do with anything, any conflict?

So there is no such historical backdrop. No cycle of violence and generations of conflict in which each side has harmed the other.

The fundamental difference in the kind of ideological terror – and therefore possibility that David is exploring about resolutions for Israel and Palestine, and not for Al Qaeda and ISIL– becomes even clearer when we enlarge the scope of Al Qaeda’s and ISIL’s terror beyond David’s riposte to Ban– “9/11.”

What did Bali ever do to anyone? In what conflict? In what long cycle of violence? In what mutuality of (even if unequal in extent) wrongdoings?

What did Nigeria do? In what conflict? In what long cycle of violence? In what mutuality of (even if unequal in extent) wrongdoings?

What did Beirut do? In what conflict? In what long cycle of violence? In what mutuality of (even if unequal in extent) wrongdoings?

What did Mumbai do? In what conflict? In what long cycle of violence? In what mutuality of (even if unequal in extent) wrongdoings?

What did the Yazidis do? In what conflict? In what long cycle of violence? In what mutuality of (even if unequal in extent) wrongdoings?

What did Burkina Faso do? In what conflict? In what long cycle of violence? In what mutuality of (even if unequal in extent) wrongdoings?


Therefore Netanyahu’s – and, respectfully, our editor David’s — attempt to compare this violence to that in the Israeli-Palestine conflict and intergenerational cycle of violence and the mutuality of — even if unequal in extent – wrongdoings — does not make any sense.

Any more, alas, than does David Horovitz attempt, as in his sarcastic riposte to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

“What’s your enlightened explanation for 9/11, or London 7/7/2005, or the Paris bloodbath?”

When one adds Bali, and Mumbai and Beirut and Burkina Faso and the Yazidis, his “moral equivalence” especially makes no sense.

The terrorist murderous unconscionable suffering produced is the same. But the ideologies and motives are fundamental different.

Again, against what backdrop was Burkina Faso attacked? Mumbai? Bali? The Yazidis?

This is why a resolution – such as stopping settlement expansionism – makes no sense with ISIL and Al Qaeda and Boko Harem.

In those there a sheer pure evil ideology of unlimited and ahistorical hate– entirely disconnected with any conflict.

It is decisively instead– like Nazism. With Nazism the Jews hadn’t been been locked in a conflict or continuous cycle of mutual (even if unequal extent of a) cycle of violence against the other.

Nazism was by decisive contrast the unadulterated and unprovoked ideology of pure one-sided evil entirely disconnected from any “conflicts” or “cycles of violence” or history of any mutual wrongdoings.

So what Al Qaeda and ISIL or Boko Haram do to Nigerians and Mumbaians and Balinese and Yazidis and Burkina Fasoians, has an ideology behind it different in kind because entirely disconnected from conflicts and cycles of wrongdoing and violence and so instead like the Nazi ideology of pure and proactive and unprovoked hate.

To illustrate the difference, let us address another – and one of the worst — horrific massacres anywhere and at any time:

The massacre of the students at the Beslan School in Russia.

This had behind it a backdrop – the Chechnyan conflict. Again—the brutality is no worse — at Beslan  probably worse — than most in Israel-Palestine. But the horror, because it comes from a conflict, where Chechnyans have hurt Russians and Russians have used brutality in Chechnya – still leaves open the possibility of steps toward peace.

And this is the same as the backdrop of the years of terror in Northern Ireland—the backdrop of the conflict. Extremism, yes. Equal horror, yes. But because it involved the backdrop of a conflict of mutual wrong-doing between Catholics and Protestants, steps were at least in principle made possible for peace

And which indeed happened.

There is no solution when ISIL attacks the innocents of Burkina Faso, whose country has done nothing. Or when Boko Haram explodes bombs and abducts girls in Nigeria.

Or when Nazis attack Jews.

The Jews and Germans were not involved in a tit-for-tat (even if unequally bad on one side or the other) of conflict and mutual violence and wrongdoing against each other.

It was sheer Nazi proactive and unmotivated and unprovoked and conflict-free pure and unadulterated hatred.

This is the difference between, on the one hand Israeli-Palestinian, or Chechnyan, or Northern Ireland violence.

And on the other hand, that of Nazism, Al Qaeda, ISIL, Boko Harem, and also Pol Pot’s Cambodian Khmer Rouge Killing Fields.

On this second hand there was no conflict. No inter-generational history of conflict and mutual (even if unequal) wrongdoing.

Therefore, as with the Nazis, there can be no resolution with ISIL or Al Qaeda or Boko Harem, any more with the Khmer Rouge.

Bali and Mumbai and Burkina Faso and Nigeria and Beirut and the Yazidis and Christians have done nothing. Like the Jews did nothing.

So different from genuine conflicts. In that kind of violence, as in Northern Ireland or Israel and Palestine there hopefully and possibly can, as David Horovitz notes, eventuate peace.

With, as David notes, baby steps.

Such as no settlement expansion in land that will in an eventual peace deal go to Palestine. And why he calls his column, “Rather than despair at the awfulness of it all”… instead try baby steps as possible steps toward peace.

David is right.

But then why the riposte to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that Ban should try to make a comparison between, on the one hand, the awful and unspeakable murders of Dafna Meir and Shlomit Krigman (and also by implication the killings of Mohammed Abu Khdeir and the Dawabsheh family)–

and, on the other hand the killings by Al Qaeda on 9/11?

And by implication also, on this other hand, the killings by the Nazis?

Why does he say:

“Rather than despicably legitimizing terrorism as an ostensibly natural response to occupation — thanks for that, Ban Ki-moon; …what’s your enlightened explanation for 9/11?”

Respectfully–, there almost seem two David Horovitzs in the column.

I prefer the one that says that there not a decisive equivalence, but rather a decisive difference, between these two types of – to be sure equally painful — horror.

But one can, at least, in principle, as he emphasizes, lead to peace.

I prefer the David who says there is a fundamental difference for the case of Israel and Palestine. And Northern Ireland. And on and on.

Where we can try, “rather than despair at the awfulness of it all”–

to take “baby steps” forward toward — at least a possible — peace.

About the Author
James Adler was born in Kentucky, now works in university libraries, and feels especially and intensely bound up with the fate of the Jewish people in the last hundred years, especially the Shoah, the rise of Israel "out of the ashes," and the accidental and mutually tragic collision with the Palestinians in the early and middle of the 20th century, continuing through today. He is happily married and the father of two teenagers.