Everyday I live side by side with arabs, on the bus, in line, at work, in class… Human beings just like me…a person is a person is a person. A person is not politics, but created in the “Image of God”. But the latest wave of terrorist attacks have placed me in a very difficult moral dilemma. Terrorism is terrifying because you don’t know when it will happen, it springs up randomly, and it seeks to kill without discretion…its possibility looms over every moment. Terror terrorizes, its casualties are usually relatively few, but its ripples spread out to every corner of society, causing mass fear and panic. You don’t know when it will happen. And you have no defense. Terrorism opens an abyss of doubt and suspicion of the other. The fact is that while I know that my arab neighbors are human beings just like me, I can’t deny the haunting political reality that we both live in. I know, that in a war, chances are high that we would stand on opposite sides. I know that there is a chance, no matter how large or small, that at any moment, “they” could become my enemy, and attack. This situation creates moral agony. How do I relate to each individual as a world in themselves and at the same time not close my eyes to the larger context of our interaction? How do I not deteriorate into indiscriminate fear of the other without risking my own safety? How do I retain my humanity without putting my physical/spiritual life in danger? Every interaction is an opportunity to make peace, but the scary thing about terrorism is that you don’t know if your neighbor will take the same opportunity to instead make war. And the not knowing, the doubt, is the most crippling part. I don’t want to doubt my neighbor, I want to love them as unique revelations of God, but to love my neighbor as myself, I must first love myself, and to do this I must be alive. How do I stay alive without losing every reason to live? How, in this situation, can one truly serve God?
- Thoughts on Terror from Jerusalem - 11/11/2014
This is the success of terrorism. Relatively small attacks, or attacks that affect a relatively small number within the population, have psychological effects that affect most of the population. The goal is to instill fear, cause discord and disruption and to occupy mind-space. The collateral effects are to ensure greater division among the non-extremists of both sides of the conflict. You can no longer sit on the bus with Arabs without being afraid, and they, in turn, are afraid of you or resentful of your distrust.
Divide and conquer….this was the strategy that served Julius Caesar well in his campaigns in Ancient Rome, and it is what terrorists are still using to this day.
They instill fear in the general populace, Jew and Arab alike, further sowing the seeds of mistrust between the two peoples. The more fear and mistrust that exist between the two sides, the more difficult it becomes for either side to try to reach out to the other to find common ground for peaceful coexistence.