Skip to comments.A View from the Eye of the Storm (Repeat Must Read)
Posted on 11/12/2005 9:20:33 AM PST by Hostage
Speech by Haim Harari on War on Terror HAIM HARARI, a theoretical physicist, is the Chair, Davidson Institute of Science Education, and Former President, from 1988 to 2001, of the Weizmann Institute of Science. During his years as President of the Institute, the Institute entered numerous new scientific fields and projects, built 47 new buildings, raised one Billion Dollars in philanthropic money, hired more than half of its current tenured Professors and became one of the highest royalty-earning academic organizations in the world.
Throughout all his adult life, Harari has made major contributions to three different fields: Particle Physics Research on the international scene, Science Education in the Israeli school system and Science Administration and Policy Making.
A View from the Eye of the Storm
Talk delivered by Haim Harari at a meeting of the International Advisory Board of a large multi-national corporation, April, 2004.
As you know, I usually provide the scientific and technological "entertainment" in our meetings, but, on this occasion, our Chairman suggested that I present my own personal view on events in the part of the world from which I come. I have never been and I will never be a Government official and I have no privileged information. My perspective is entirely based on what I see, on what I read and on the fact that my family has lived in this region for almost 200 years. You may regard my views as those of the proverbial taxi driver, which you are supposed to question, when you visit a country.
I could have shared with you some fascinating facts and some personal thoughts about the Israeli-Arab conflict. However, I will touch upon it only in passing. I prefer to devote most of my remarks to the broader picture of the region and its place in world events. I refer to the entire area between Pakistan and Morocco, which is predominantly Arab, predominantly Moslem, but includes many non-Arab and also significant non-Moslem minorities.
Why do I put aside Israel and its own immediate neighborhood? Because Israel and any problems related to it, in spite of what you might read or hear in the world media, is not the central issue, and has never been the central issue in the upheaval in the region. Yes, there is a 100 year-old Israeli-Arab conflict, but it is not where the main show is. The millions who died in the Iran-Iraq war had nothing to do with Israel. The mass murder happening right now in Sudan, where the Arab Moslem regime is massacring its black Christian citizens, has nothing to do with Israel. The frequent reports from Algeria about the murders of hundreds of civilian in one village or another by other Algerians have nothing to do with Israel. Saddam Hussein did not invade Kuwait, endangered Saudi Arabia and butchered his own people because of Israel. Egypt did not use poison gas against Yemen in the 60's because of Israel. Assad the Father did not kill tens of thousands of his own citizens in one week in El Hamma in Syria because of Israel. The
Taliban control of Afghanistan and the civil war there had nothing to do with Israel. The Libyan blowing up of the Pan-Am flight had nothing to do with Israel, and I could go on and on and on.
The root of the trouble is that this entire Moslem region is totally dysfunctional, by any standard of the word, and would have been so even if Israel would have joined the Arab league and an independent Palestine would have existed for 100 years. The 22 member countries of the Arab league, from Mauritania to the Gulf States, have a total population of 300 millions, larger than the US and almost as large as the EU before its expansion. They have a land area larger than either the US or all of Europe. These 22 countries, with all their oil and natural resources, have a combined GDP smaller than that of Netherlands plus Belgium and equal to half of the GDP of California alone. Within this meager GDP, the gaps between rich and poor are beyond belief and too many of the rich made their money not by succeeding in business, but by being corrupt rulers. The social status of women is far below what it was in the Western World 150 years ago. Human rights are below any reasonable standard, in spite of the grotesque fact that Libya was elected Chair of the UN Human Rights commission. According to a report prepared by a committee of Arab intellectuals and published under the auspices of the U.N., the number of books translated by the entire Arab world is much smaller than what little Greece alone translates. The total number of scientific publications of 300 million Arabs is less than that of 6 million Israelis. Birth rates in the region are very high, increasing the poverty, the social gaps and the cultural decline. And all of this is happening in a region, which only 30 years ago, was believed to be the next wealthy part of the world, and in a Moslem area, which developed, at some point in history, one of the most advanced cultures in the world.
It is fair to say that this creates an unprecedented breeding ground for cruel dictators, terror networks, fanaticism, incitement, suicide murders and general decline. It is also a fact that almost everybody in the region blames this situation on the United States, on Israel, on Western Civilization, on Judaism and Christianity, on anyone and anything, except themselves.
Do I say all of this with the satisfaction of someone discussing the failings of his enemies? On the contrary, I firmly believe that the world would have been a much better place and my own neighborhood would have been much more pleasant and peaceful, if things were different.
I should also say a word about the millions of decent, honest, good people who are either devout Moslems or are not very religious but grew up in Moslem families. They are double victims of an outside world, which now develops Islamophobia and of their own environment, which breaks their heart by being totally dysfunctional. The problem is that the vast silent majority of these Moslems are not part of the terror and of the incitement but they also do not stand up against it. They become accomplices, by omission, and this applies to political leaders, intellectuals, business people and many others. Many of them can certainly tell right from wrong, but are afraid to express their views.
The events of the last few years have amplified four issues, which have always existed, but have never been as rampant as in the present upheaval in the region. These are the four main pillars of the current World Conflict, or perhaps we should already refer to it as "the undeclared World War III". I have no better name for the present situation. A few more years may pass before everybody acknowledges that it is a World War, but we are already well into it.
The first element is the suicide murder. Suicide murders are not a new invention but they have been made popular, if I may use this expression, only lately. Even after September 11, it seems that most of the Western World does not yet understand this weapon. It is a very potent psychological weapon. Its real direct impact is relatively minor. The total number of casualties from hundreds of suicide murders within Israel in the last three years is much smaller than those due to car accidents. September 11 was quantitatively much less lethal than many earthquakes. More people die from AIDS in one day in Africa than all the Russians who died in the hands of
Chechnya-based Moslem suicide murderers since that conflict started. Saddam killed every month more people than all those who died from suicide murders since the Coalition occupation of Iraq.
So what is all the fuss about suicide killings? It creates headlines. It is spectacular. It is frightening. It is a very cruel death with bodies dismembered and horrible severe lifelong injuries to many of the wounded. It is always shown on television in great detail. One such murder, with the help of hysterical media coverage, can destroy the tourism industry of a country for quite a while, as it did in Bali and in Turkey.
But the real fear comes from the undisputed fact that no defense and no preventive measures can succeed against a determined suicide murderer. This has not yet penetrated the thinking of the Western World. The U.S. and Europe are constantly improving their defense against the last murder, not the next one. We may arrange for the best airport security in the world. But if you want to murder by suicide, you do not have to board a plane in order to explode yourself and kill many people. Who could stop a suicide murder in the midst of the crowded line waiting to be checked by the airport metal detector? How about the lines to the check-in counters in a busy
travel period? Put a metal detector in front of every train station in Spain and the terrorists will get the buses. Protect the buses and they will explode in movie theaters, concert halls, supermarkets, shopping malls, schools and hospitals. Put guards in front of every concert hall and there will always be a line of people to be checked by the guards and this line will be the target, not to speak of killing the guards themselves. You can somewhat reduce your vulnerability by preventive and defensive measures and by strict border controls but not eliminate it and definitely not win the war in a defensive way. And it is a war!
What is behind the suicide murders? Money, power and cold-blooded murderous incitement, nothing else. It has nothing to do with true fanatic religious beliefs. No Moslem preacher has ever blown himself up. No son of an Arab politician or religious leader has ever blown himself. No relative of anyone influential has done it. Wouldn't you expect some of the religious leaders to do it themselves, or to talk their sons into doing it, if this is truly a supreme act of religious fervor? Aren't they interested in the benefits of going to Heaven? Instead, they send outcast women, naïve children, retarded people and young incited hotheads. They promise them the delights, mostly sexual, of the next world, and pay their families handsomely after the supreme act is performed and enough innocent people are dead.
Suicide murders also have nothing to do with poverty and despair. The poorest region in the world, by far, is Africa. It never happens there. There are numerous desperate people in the world, in different cultures, countries and continents. Desperation does not provide anyone with explosives, reconnaissance and transportation. There was certainly more despair in Saddam's Iraq then in Paul Bremmer's Iraq, and no one exploded himself. A suicide murder is simply a horrible, vicious weapon of cruel, inhuman, cynical, well-funded terrorists, with no regard to human life, including the life of their fellow countrymen, but with very high regard to their own affluent well-being and their hunger for power.
The only way to fight this new "popular" weapon is identical to the only way in which you fight organized crime or pirates on the high seas: the offensive way. Like in the case of organized crime, it is crucial that the forces on the offensive be united and it is crucial to reach the top of the crime pyramid. You cannot eliminate organized crime by arresting the little drug dealer in the street corner. You must go after the head of the "Family".
If part of the public supports it, others tolerate it, many are afraid of it and some try to explain it away by poverty or by a miserable childhood, organized crime will thrive and so will terrorism. The United States understands this now, after September 11. Russia is beginning to understand it. Turkey understands it well. I am very much afraid that most of Europe still does not understand it. Unfortunately, it seems that Europe will understand it only after suicide murders will arrive in Europe in a big way. In my humble opinion, this will definitely happen. The Spanish trains and the Istanbul bombings are only the beginning. The unity of the Civilized World in fighting this horror is absolutely indispensable. Until Europe wakes up, this unity will not be achieved.
The second ingredient is words, more precisely lies. Words can be lethal. They kill people. It is often said that politicians, diplomats and perhaps also lawyers and business people must sometimes lie, as part of their professional life. But the norms of politics and diplomacy are childish, in comparison with the level of incitement and total absolute deliberate fabrications, which have reached new heights in the region we are talking about. An incredible number of people in the Arab world believe that September 11 never happened, or was an American provocation or, even better, a Jewish plot.
You all remember the Iraqi Minister of Information, Mr. Mouhamad Said al-Sahaf and his press conferences when the US forces were already inside Baghdad. Disinformation at time of war is an accepted tactic. But to stand, day after day, and to make such preposterous statements, known to everybody to be lies, without even being ridiculed in your own milieu, can only happen in this region. Mr. Sahaf eventually became a popular icon as a court jester, but this did not stop some allegedly respectable newspapers from giving him equal time. It also does not prevent the Western press from giving credence, every day, even now, to similar liars. After all, if you want to be an anti-Semite, there are subtle ways of doing it. You do not have to claim that the holocaust never happened and that the Jewish temple in Jerusalem never existed. But millions of Moslems are told by their leaders that this is the case. When these same leaders make other statements, the Western media report them as if they could be true.
It is a daily occurrence that the same people, who finance, arm and dispatch suicide murderers, condemn the act in English in front of western TV cameras, talking to a world audience, which even partly believes them. It is a daily routine to hear the same leader making opposite statements in Arabic to his people and in English to the rest of the world. Incitement by Arab TV, accompanied by horror pictures of mutilated bodies, has become a powerful weapon of those who lie, distort and want to destroy everything. Little children are raised on deep hatred and on admiration of so-called martyrs, and the Western World does not notice it because its own TV sets are mostly tuned to soap operas and game shows. I recommend to you, even though most of you do not understand Arabic, to watch Al Jazeera, from time to time. You will not believe your own eyes.
But words also work in other ways, more subtle. A demonstration in Berlin, carrying banners supporting Saddam's regime and featuring three-year old babies dressed as suicide murderers, is defined by the press and by political leaders as a "peace demonstration". You may support or oppose the Iraq war, but to refer to fans of Saddam, Arafat or Bin Laden as peace activists is a bit too much. A woman walks into an Israeli restaurant in mid-day, eats, observes families with old people and children eating their lunch in the adjacent tables and pays the bill. She then blows herself up, killing 20 people, including many children, with heads and arms rolling around in the restaurant. She is called "martyr" by several Arab leaders and "activist" by the European press. Dignitaries condemn the act but visit her bereaved family and the money flows.
There is a new game in town: The actual murderer is called "the military wing", the one who pays him, equips him and sends him is now called "the political wing" and the head of the operation is called the "spiritual leader". There are numerous other examples of such Orwellian nomenclature, used every day not only by terror chiefs but also by Western media. These words are much more dangerous than many people realize. They provide an emotional infrastructure for atrocities. It was Joseph Goebels who said that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. He is now being outperformed by his successors.
The third aspect is money. Huge amounts of money, which could have solved many social problems in this dysfunctional part of the world, are channeled into three concentric spheres supporting death and murder. In the inner circle are the terrorists themselves. The money funds their travel, explosives, hideouts and permanent search for soft vulnerable targets. They are surrounded by a second wider circle of direct supporters, planners, commanders, preachers, all of whom make a living, usually a very comfortable living, by serving as terror infrastructure. Finally, we find the third circle of so-called religious, educational and welfare organizations, which actually do some good, feed the hungry and provide some schooling, but brainwash a new generation with hatred, lies and ignorance. This circle operates mostly through mosques, madrasas and other religious establishments but also through inciting electronic and printed media. It is this circle that makes sure that women remain inferior, that democracy is unthinkable and that exposure to the outside world is minimal. It is also that circle that leads the way in blaming everybody outside the Moslem world, for the miseries of the region.
Figuratively speaking, this outer circle is the guardian, which makes sure that the people look and listen inwards to the inner circle of terror and incitement, rather than to the world outside. Some parts of this same outer circle actually operate as a result of fear from, or blackmail by, the inner circles. The horrifyin