|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
20 - 26 September 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Twin towersAfter the smoke has cleared, the dust has settled and the initial fury blown over, humankind will wake up and realise something new, writes Uri Avnery*: there is no safe place on earth
A handful of suicide-bombers has brought the United States to a standstill, caused the president to hide in a bunker under a far-away mountain, dealt a terrible blow to the economy, grounded all aircraft, and emptied government offices throughout the country. This can happen in every country. The twin towers are everywhere.
Not only Israel, but the whole world is now full of gibberish about "fighting terrorism." Politicians, "experts on terrorism" and their likes propose to hit, destroy, annihilate, and allocate more billions to the "intelligence community." They make brilliant suggestions. But nothing of this kind will help the threatened nations, much as nothing of this kind has helped Israel.
There is no patent remedy for terrorism. The only remedy is to remove its causes. One can kill a million mosquitoes, and millions more will take their place. In order to get rid of them, one has to dry the swamp that breeds them. And the swamp is always political.
A person does not wake up one morning and tell himself: Today I shall hijack a plane and kill myself. Nor does a person wake up one morning and tell himself: Today I shall blow myself up in a Tel Aviv discotheque. Such a decision grows in a person's mind through a slow process, taking years. The background to the decision is either national or religious, social and spiritual.
No fighting underground can operate without popular roots and a supportive environment that is ready to supply new recruits, assistance, hiding places, money and means of propaganda. An underground organisation wants to gain popularity, not lose it. Therefore it commits attacks when it thinks that this is what the surrounding public wants. Terror attacks always testify to the public mood.
That is true in this case, too. The initiators of the attacks decided to implement their plan after America had provoked immense hatred throughout the world -- not because of its might, but because of the way it uses its might. It is hated by the enemies of globalisation, who blame it for the terrible gap between rich and poor in the world. It is hated by millions of Arabs, because of its support for the Israeli occupation and the suffering of the Palestinian people. It is hated by multitudes of Muslims, because of what looks like its support for the Jewish domination of the Islamic holy shrines in Jerusalem. And there are many more angry peoples who believe that America supports their tormentors.
Until 11 September -- a date to remember -- Americans could entertain the illusion that all this concerned only others, in far-away places beyond the seas, that it did not touch their sheltered lives at home. No more.
That is the other side of globalisation: all the world's problems concern everyone in the world: every case of injustice, every case of oppression. Terrorism, the weapon of the weak, can easily reach every spot on earth. Every society can easily be targetted, and the more developed a society is, the more danger it is in. Fewer and fewer people are needed to inflict pain on more and more people. Soon one single person will be able to carry a suitcase packed with a tiny atomic bomb and destroy a megalopolis of tens of millions.
This is the reality of the 21st century, and it started this week in earnest. It must lead to the globalisation of all problems and the globalisation of their solutions. Not in the abstract, by fatuous declarations in the UN, but by a global endeavour to resolve conflicts and establish peace, with the participation of all nations, with the US playing a central role.
Since the US became a world power, it has deviated from the path outlined by its founders. It was Thomas Jefferson who said no nation can behave without a decent respect for the opinion of mankind (I quote from memory). When the US delegation left the world conference in Durban to abort the debate about the evils of slavery and to court the Israeli right, Jefferson must have turned over in his grave.
If it is confirmed that Arabs perpetrated the attack on New York and Washington -- and even if not -- the world must at long last treat the festering wound of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is poisoning the whole body of humanity. One of the wise guys in the Bush administration said only a few weeks ago: "Let them bleed!" -- meaning the Palestinians and the Israelis. Now America is bleeding. He who runs away from the conflict is followed by it, even into his home. Americans, and Europeans too, should learn this lesson.
The distance from Jerusalem to New York is small, and so is the distance from New York to Paris, London and Berlin. Multinational corporations embrace the globe, but terror organisations do so too. In the same way, the instruments for the solution of conflicts must be global.
Instead of the destroyed New York edifices, the twin towers of peace and justice must be built.
* The writer is an Israeli author and activist, and the head of the Israeli peace movement, Gush Shalom.
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