Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of August 11, 1998
The monster of terrorism has struck again and in the most unexpected location and timing. Unexpected because we, the potential and actual victims of terrorism think and act along conventional lines, but terrorists don't. They always seem to be on top of us, catch us unprepared and then leave us with a string of painful questions, some of them with no immediate or simple answer.
Terrorists do not need, nor do they look for, any particular reason to justify their criminal actions. For them, terrorism is neither tactics nor strategy, it is simply a way of life and an expression of a long history of a political culture that views what we call terrorism in a totally different light.
They sanctify the killing of infidels and we all are infidels, Jews and Christian alike, not only "Israeli Zionists" or "American imperialists." Their war against us is as old as the history of Islam. As far as they are concerned, it could and should last as long as it takes for them to defeat us. I am not referring here to all Moslems, and clearly not to the religion of Islam as such. I'm talking about those fundamentalist Moslems who want to turn back the clock of history, return to the glory days of early Islam and try and succeed where their ancestors failed - to conquer the world and create the ideal, universal nation (Umma) of Islam.
This may seem somewhat exaggerated and almost apocalyptic but it is true, and therefore so troublesome. These people provide all sorts of pretexts for their criminal actions, sometimes talking of their jailed comrades as an excuse for their operations, but pretexts are only pretexts. The root cause of this form of terrorism is the fundamental grievance they have against the non-Islamic world. A grievance as profound as this cannot allow a basis for any dialogue, of any kind, between the fundamentalists and the West. On the contrary, any attempt at creating such a dialogue is conceived by the fundamentalists as a sign of weakness.
In today's world these are only two or three Moslem countries that adhere to the militant fundamentalist doctrine. The Taliban's Afghanistan, the Islamic republic of Iran and, to some extent, the military fundamentalist regime in Sudan.
This is both good and bad news. It's good because there are so many more Moslem countries in existence, ruled by governments that are opposed to terrorism and dedicated to the struggle against it. It's bad because two or three countries are two or three countries too many. The results of the bad news are written in much blood in East Africa, as well as in New York's World Trade Center and in the streets of Israel.
Let's look at Iran. This country makes no bones about its involvement in anti-Israel terrorism, but it still tries to downplay its involvement in anti-American and anti-European terrorism. But its money, envoys and, more importantly, its official ideology are behind many of the militia movements that operate in the West, and yet the Clinton administration is changing its long-term policy towards the terrorist regime in Iran, and is starting a flirt with the new president Khatami.
As if to reward America in style, the same "moderate" and pragmatic Khatami has taken personal charge over the Iranian missile project, designed officially to threaten Israel's existence. This too is terrorism, and far more dangerous than the type of terror witnessed in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. It is imperative that the Clinton administration, trapped in the shadow of the Lewinsky affair, change course immediately and declare an all-out, relentless struggle against the few remaining terror states in the world - with Iran at the forefront.
Otherwise, all the expression of shock and anger voiced these days over rivers of blood spilled in East Africa will become a routine ritual, to be repeated after the expected future terror horrors anywhere in the world.
(c) Jerusalem Post 1998
Yossi Olmert is a former head of the Government Press Office and an expert on Syria.