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Sunday, September 08, 2002
Eleventh of September

Like virtually everyone else, I was appalled by the events a year ago. I do not think that my sorrow and revulsion were any the greater for having been into both towers on many occasions, both on business and as a tourist. I was often in Washington, too. The enormity of these events are etched on my mind. I condemn terrorism unconditionally.

However, when desperate people, imagining they have justice on their side, do terrible things, they do it for many reasons. One reason is the hope that the victims will give in. Another is that any reaction will be disproportionate, thus gaining the desperate ones even more sympathy. People tend to forget root causes; factual explanations, never simple, become lost in time. These days, facts are also so 'spun' that getting the picture straight is very difficult. When overlaid with emotion, patriotism and ignorance, the result is predictable

Terrorism does not exist in isolation; it is used as a means, by people with an agenda; rarely is it used by someone 'evil', as an end in itself, so we must be careful with our rhetoric . If we give in or if we over-react, the terrorist has won. Here is an example of mid-20th century terrorism. In 1946, a group of men took many milk churns, packed with explosive into a hotel. The resulting explosion killed many tens of people. If you do not know what I am talking about, or if you have forgotten the event, I hope that you will be suitably horrified to learn that this event took place in a country called Palestine, in a town called Jerusalem, in the King David Hotel. Palestine - yes, Palestine - was then under a British mandate. The troops were subsequently withdrawn. (There are many sites with varying degrees of accuracy on this issue. Here and here are two, that may be helpful.)

Thus, the State of Israel was born out of terrorism. Several of the terrorists, including Menachem Begin, finished up in government. In this respect, the terrorists won, really. Doesn't it help to explain a great deal, though?

I do not have an answer to the current problem except to say 'If I were you, I wouldn't start from here'. Groups annexing another country using terrorism set a terrible precedent. (Now, if only the British had given the Jews the Falkland Islands, immediately after the Second World War instead of conniving at the Palestinian tragedy, wouldn't the result have been splendid?)

The Israelis achieved something by heinous means. Recognising this makes it easier not to over-react when others, following their example, resort to vile acts as they did a year ago.

Reiteration: terrorism is to be condemned utterly. There are no good terrorists.

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