Don't Panic, It's Only Al-Qaida

There was not a single Arab commentator on Wednesday night who failed to point out who was primarily "culpable" for the terror attacks in Amman: George W. Bush.

There was not a single Arab commentator on Wednesday night who failed to point out who was primarily "culpable" for the terror attacks in Amman: George W. Bush. Similarly, every commentator knew who carried out the attack because of this "culpable" person: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The symbiosis between terrorism and Washington has become so ingrained in the Middle East during the past two years that even the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has merited a separate status: The U.S. is "responsible" for terrorism in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan, while a tiny piece of the front - Hamas, Islamic Jihad and various minor organizations - is left for Israel.

Interviewers on Arab networks almost had to force their commentators to mention Israel in the context of the attacks in Jordan. In Israel, as usual, a mirror image was presented: No Israeli station interrupted its broadcasts because of the attacks in Jordan. After all, it was only Al-Qaida, or Zarqawi, or some other international terrorist. It does not concern us.

Each of the sides, the terrorists and those fighting against them, prefer a single clear address: The U.S. as a global criminal or Al-Qaida as a global terrorist. This is a convenient way to attach labels, but it is misleading and unsuccessful, because those who carried out the attacks in Sinai in July have a different agenda than those who executed the attacks in Jordan, and they have a different agenda than those who perpetrate attacks in Israel. In fact, the difference is even deeper: Today, one can also speak about the difference between the attacks directly aimed against the U.S. as the occupier of Iraq and the threatener of Syria, versus the attacks carried out by the direct agents of Osama bin Laden on September 11, which were aimed against the superpower that represents a detested culture.

But this distinction between the motives for terrorism is like a thorn in the side of someone seeking to distance himself from dealing with "his terrorism" and conveniently attaching it to the amorphous network of global terror, which is perceived as a disease for which no medicine exists, or at least as a phenomenon that cannot be attributed to local circumstances. Thus, Egypt and Jordan prefer to attribute the terrorism in their countries to foreign agents or at least to motives that are not local. In Iraq, the U.S. attributes the terrorism to "opponents of democracy" rather than to opponents of the occupation. Israel emphasizes that Hezbollah or Syria or Iran is orchestrating the terror directed against it, as if local organizations have no motives. Russia speaks about the terrorism in Chechnya as a by-product of Al-Qaida and Islamic fanaticism.

This artificial distancing of terror from local motives assists, perhaps, in shirking responsibility and inflating the fear of supranational terror organizations, but it does not help in combating terror. The slogan that says "terror is terror is terror" has still not resolved any motive for local terrorism. On the other hand, when regimes have decided to seriously address the local reasons for terrorism, it has been possible to reduce the number of terror attacks or forestall many of them. Thus, the attacks by Hamas against Israel quieted after the organization reached an agreement with the Palestinian Authority on a number of political issues. The acts of terror conducted by Sunni organizations in Iraq (as opposed to those of Zarqawi) significantly decreased after the government in Iraq extended a hand to them. The attacks by some of the radical organizations in Egypt came to a halt not only because of the strong arm wielded by the regime, but also because an opportunity for partial reconciliation was created. The same occurred in Algeria, which voted this year for reconciliation with many of the terror organizations. Even the U.S. realized recently that it would be best to allow Iraqi soldiers and officers identified with the Baath party to join the Iraqi Army in order to create a chance for some sort of reconciliation that could diminish the attacks.

This is the distinction that must be made in face of the tendency to cultivate concepts like "global terror" or "globalization of terror," which sound bombastic but cannot be treated. It is also worthwhile to teach this lesson to those who seek to combine Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and anyone who shoots or attacks, under a single headline.