Our Sages compare Amalek to a man who jumps into a boiling bath. Even though he is scalded, he cools off the bath for others. When Klal Yisrael left Egypt, the nations were so awestruck by all the miracles that Hashem had wrought that it did not occur to them to go to battle against the Bnei Yisrael. Amalek removed the awe. He returned the Bnei Yisrael to the realm of history.
Once Amalek attacked the Bnei Yisrael, it was no longer unthinkable to do so. Subsequent attackers could study Amalek's defeat and conclude that with a change in tactics they would fare better.
In a similar fashion, the July 7 suicide bombings in London made the unthinkable thinkable. Once native-born Britons – lads who work in chippies and avidly follow cricket and football – decided to blow themselves up on the London tube, the only question was not whether, but when, the next attack would occur.
One had only to read the New York Times interviews with the friends of 7/7 suicide bomber Shehzak Tanweer to know that. Each of them was filled with "understanding" for the anger that had driven him to blow himself up. Yes, they admitted, Shezy's actions were a bit much, but "understandable" nevertheless. When killing oneself and dozens of others becomes an understandable response to anger, other angry young men are sure to follow suit.
Whether the cell that perpetrated the second round of terrorist bombings in London within a fortnight was connected to the first or only copycats, Britain is clearly teeming with angry young Muslims prepared to emulate their example. A YouGov survey for the Daily Telegraph of 526 British Muslims, a week after the 7/7 bombings, found that 6% thought the bombings "justified on balance," and 56% could understand "why some people behave in that way." A full 27% of British Muslims say they would not inform the police if they knew of the possible planning of another such terrorist attack.
Another survey by Communicate Research for Sky News found that 2% of British Muslims (or over 30,000 people) agree with what the London suicide bombers did, and twice that number see Koranic justification. Nearly half disagreed with the statement that Muslim clerics who preach violence against the West are out of touch with mainstream Muslim opinion.
Faced with these kinds of numbers what is Britain or any other Western European country to do? Britain cannot even shut its borders to further Moslem immigration. Moslem labor is too needed to prop up the social security systems for an aging population. Nor can Moslems be chucked out anymore than Israel can expel all the Palestinians from their midst. England is home to nearly two million Moslem citizens. They cannot be sent back to wherever they came from without destroying British democracy.
Still less can the Islamists be appeased. Britain has already tried that. London was cheerfully referred to by jihadists as Londonistan because of the freedom that it afforded them to print their papers and to call for Holy War against the West in their mosques. July 7 was the response.
In the 1980's, the Mitterand government in France followed a similar policy of appeasement allowing Islamists free run of Paris, feting Yasir Arafat, releasing convicted terrorists from French prisons, and courting Khomeini's Iran. As payback, France became the victim of a full-scale terror campaign. Ninety-three Frenchmen were killed and more than 800 wounded in terrorist attacks in France; another 17 anti-Khomeini Iranian dissidents were assassinated in France. And nearly 100 Frenchmen abroad were killed or held hostage abroad.
The crucial first step for Britain is to stop being so understanding. "Be done with the search for 'explanations' that dignify the hatred," writes Professor Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University. Even Thomas Friedman of the New York Times recognizes that the "excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists."
Yet that is just what's so hard for the chattering classes to do. After a recent speech about Islam in London, Irshad Manji found herself astounded by the eagerness of some Westerners to believe that terrorism can be explained. One sad-eyed Oxford student tried to make her understand the "relative economic deprivation" that drove the London suicide bombers – one of whose father drives a Mercedes. It would be pointless to try to explain to this student that there are millions of people in Britain far poorer than the bombers, but it is only Moslems and converts to Islam who are blowing themselves up.
To understand everything is to forgive everything, goes the old French saying. And that is precisely what is so dangerous about the excuse makers. In their easy forgiveness of the murder of others, they prevent taking the necessary steps. Great Britain cannot expel 1.6 million Moslems, or even prevent more from coming. But it can make sure that England does not become a haven for jihadists and their pernicious ideology.
The day after 7/7, Dr. Hani al-Siba'i proclaimed the bombings a great victory for Al Qaeda, which "rubbed the noses of the world's eight most powerful countries in the mud," in an interview on al Jazeera. He went on to explain that as far as Islam is concerned there is no such thing as a civilian in territory not yet under Moslem rule. Needless to say, Dr. al-Siba'i was being interviewed from his office in London.
The jihadist ideology calls for nothing less than the unification of the entire world "under the banner of Islam," as in one Islamic video game cited by Thomas Friedman. The Al Qaeda maps discovered in Afghanistan showed all of Europe colored Islamic green. From the beginning, writes Professor Olivier Roy of the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, Al Qaeda's fighters were global jihadists. Their favored battlegrounds have always been outside the Middle East. And they were on the war path long before the Western "invasion" of Afghanistan or Iraq.
For millions of jihadist wannabees around the globe, the only compensation for the total failure of nearly every Moslem country lies in dreams of a new caliphate restoring the former glory of Moslem civilization (a civilization in which the jihadists, incidentally, would find themselves totally out of place.) Since there is no chance of Moslem countries catching up to their non-Moslem neighbors, their only recourse is to destroy the richer and freer West by attacking its economic infrastructure and taking advantage of its hated freedoms. With those who seek your destruction, there is no possibility of compromise and no need to worry about their list of grievances.
PERHAPS NOTHING BETTER SYMBOLIZES the intellectual sloth that brought Britain to its current pass than the passage by the Anglican Consultative Council of a resolution in support of divestment from companies doing business with Israel. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, might be the poster boy for the preference for pious platitudes over reality-based thinking that characterizes England's educated classes, and of which the BBC and Church of England are the standard-bearers.
There is more than a little irony in the Anglican resolution coming only a week before 7/7. For in its views on Israel, the Anglican Church demonstrates the intellectual confusion that set the stage for 7/7. The Church condemns every single thing that Israel does to defend itself from Palestinian terrorism – checkpoints, the security fence, elimination of terrorists. Indeed neither the Anglican Church nor Israel's other European critics have ever suggested even one step that Israel might take in response to Palestinian terror other than mourn its dead and give the Palestinians whatever they ask for. That is appeasement pure and simple.
The Anglican resolution is replete with the wrongs done by Israel. Israel's security fence, designed to keep terrorist out of Israel's cities, for instance, recalls for the Anglican divines nothing so much as "the barbed-wire fence of Buchenwald." All this is more of the infernal search for explanations and excuses. The "occupation" is the magic explanation for the horrors inflicted by Palestinians on Israeli civilians – horrors of which England is now experiencing just a taste. Do these churchmen realize that the Arabs went to war with Israel at its birth and again in 1967 long before there was an "occupation"? Or by occupation do they simply mean the existence of Israel.
The Anglican resolution and others like it have given encouragement to terrorists everywhere. The goal of Palestinian terrorism is demonstrably not to attain a state. At Camp David the Palestinians were offered a state. They chose a new war instead. Palestinian terrorism has only toughened the resolve of Israelis and strengthened their suspicions of Palestinian intentions.
Yet, as the inestimable Evelyn Gordon points out, Palestinian terrorism has been a major success. The last four years have witnessed a rapidly escalating delegitimization of Israel's very right to exist among European elites. If the Palestinians are so demented, the European thinking appears to run, then it must be because Israel is the devil. That international delegitimization undermines Israel's very existence.
All this encourages terrorism against the weak-kneed West. For if terrorism is proving successful in ridding the Middle East of the non-Islamic intruder, perhaps it can also destroy the West itself.
Martin Peretz relates an incident from forty years ago when he was driving the Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts to some anti-Vietnam War rally. The clever Jewish boy asked the Bishop what Anglicans believe. The Bishop replied, "We believe in civil rights for Negroes, the admission of Red China to the United Nations,and friendship with Castro's Cuba." It never occurred to him that Peretz was asking a theological question because even then theology was no more relevant to American Episcopalians than in it is to British Anglicans today.
When all the old religious beliefs have long been shed, one still remains: Jew hatred. The Anglican resolution is not the first time, and probably not the last, that Europeans have loosed the furies of anti-Semitism only to find those furies coming back to devour them as well.