The Banality of the Horror

This mixture of violence dulls the senses, making the horror banal and clouding the ability to distinguish between types of terror threatening the country and undermining the calm of its residents.

The reports coming out of Sinai about the attacks there were mixed over the weekend with what is by now well-known news of incidents in the Gaza Strip. Thus, a mega-terror attack, which aims to cause scores if not hundreds of casualties and instill extraordinary shock and panic, becomes just another violent incident that is equated in the subconscious with two new Qassam rockets landing in the western Negev, sniping by Palestinians against the Rafah Yam greenhouses, and the killing of eight Palestinians in a series of routine events.

This mixture of violence dulls the senses, making the horror banal and clouding the ability to distinguish between types of terror threatening the country and undermining the calm of its residents. It serves the interests of the extremists, on both the Israeli and the Arab side, who seek to perpetuate the whirlpool of blood and blind the eyes of its victims so that they will not see any opportunity to extricate themselves from it.

In the eyes of Ariel Sharon, Palestinian terrorism is one of the arms of an Islamic terrorist monster that is striking at the entire world. Ever since September 11, 2001, Israeli public relations officials don't miss a chance to tie up the violent Palestinian uprising with the war carried out against the Western world by radical Islam. Yasser Arafat is the local Bin Laden, and the Palestinian struggle for liberation against the Israeli occupation is the regional outburst of an international fundamentalist underground.

This view is manifested both in the way in which the prime minister responded to the attacks in Sinai on Friday, and also in the statements made by his adviser, Dov Weisglass, in an interview with Ari Shavit in the Haaretz Magazine: A part of the Palestinian terror is not national, but religious, and responding to the national aspirations of the Palestinians will not therefore do away with the violence.

It is still unclear who was behind the attacks in Sinai; the impression is that they were initiated and carried out by a radical Islamic organization. Even if it turns out that there was Palestinian involvement in the deadly attacks at the Taba Hilton and the resort at Ras al-Satan, it is in Israel's interest to distinguish as much as possible between extremist Islamic terrorists and Palestinian terror groups. The approach that regards Islamic terror - in Chechnya, Indonesia, in the Arab world, and in Israel - as a single volcano, randomly spewing murderous hatred, promises the residents of this country a terrible, dead-end future. It serves those who seek to preserve the situation as it is, and offers them an excuse for not seeking escape options.

The results of the attacks in Sinai could have been more bitter. They destroyed the lives of the families hurt in the attack, and were also intended to sow a mood of deep mourning and despair in Israel. For the first time, the country would have to experience the terrible results of a mega-terror attack. Therefore, the intentions of the terrorists and those who dispatched them should be examined closely and should serve as a guide in Israel's response.

The aim of the attack was to cause terrible horror, and raise an extreme response that would put an end to a chance for calm in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Israeli response was efficient on the operational level - the rescue teams functioned as they were supposed to - but has been lacking in terms of reaching the necessary political conclusions: If Israel is one of the victims of Islamic terrorism, it must neutralize the cause of Palestinian terror.

The role of the government is to minimize the threats facing the residents of this country. It does not fulfill its obligation by issuing terror alerts, by adopting security preparations, and by preparing efficient rescue services. Its task is to remove the elements from which the terror sprouts. The government must show that it is doing all it can to distinguish between Palestinian and Islamic terror. The Sharon government is not fulfilling this task. The citizens of the country, who on the holiday of Simhat Torah received a painful reminder from the Islamic snake's evil bite, are entitled to a leadership that does everything it can to drain the swamp from which Palestinian terror grows.