Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Is all Islamic terror connected?

An Israeli father whose son was one of the victims of 9/11 is asking the Israeli government to recognize him as a victim of terror. The parents' interest, they insist, is not money, but a desire for recognition; the chance to erect an official memorial to which the families of other terror victims can be invited.
The government has refused, and the courts have backed them up:
According to Israeli law, the State recognizes a person as a victim of
terrorism only if the attack was perpetrated by a hostile group whose aim was to attack the State of Israel, whether directly or indirectly.
The State and the Shefi family had no argument over the fact that the attack was perpetrated by a group that was hostile to Israel. The State, however, contented that the attack was not aimed against Israel.
If you look at the broader picture, this argument is clearly wrong. Following the Beslan attack, many columnists have argued for the connection between Islamic terror organizations, across the world. As Zev Chafetz explains:
America's enemy is not "terrorism." It is international Islamist imperialism.
Chechnya, Israel, Indian [sic] The jihadists' dream is a return to empire Kashmir, the Balkans, parts of Spain — these are all lands claimed by Islam for reasons of history or theology. The Philippines, Nigeria, Thailand and a dozen other far-flung places are new fronts in the same expansionist war.
It is simpleminded to imagine the jihadists intend to conquer America or, in this generation, any other Western power. Their goal is to establish (they would say reestablish) a sphere of dominance — financed by oil, armed with nuclear weapons, governed under the laws of Islam — that includes as much of Ottoman Europe as possible, most of Africa and a good part of Asia. America has to be fought because it stands against this goal — a goal that unites Shiites and Sunnis, Wahhabis and Baathists, Nasserites and fundamentalists.
I am certainly convinced that Israel fits into the pattern; the Palestinians want nothing less than the destruction of the Jewish State because it interferes with this vision. The same goes for al Qaida in its war against the US. An attack against one, therefore, is an attack against the other.
I am not, however, certain how Chechnya fits into this pattern. Clearly, Islamic terrorists from outside the region are fermenting events out of 'imperialist' motives. But do the Chechen terrorists themselves share this ambition? Is the Chechnian terrorism "a specifically Russian phenomenon, inseparable from the subtext of a nationalist rebellion in Chechnya"? Or is all Islamic terror by definition 'imperialist' and connected? I'd like to hear your views.

UPDATE: The always-excellent Michael Gove writes in the London Times:
To believe that current Chechen terrorism is simply a fight for national self-determination, which can be ended by granting proper autonomy, is to ignore blindly the nature of what happened in Beslan. The people responsible for the atrocity are no more likely to settle for national independence than the Nazis were ever going to accept the Sudetenland as the last of their territorial demands. The indiscrimate means used by the Nazis and the Beslan terrorists are so incommensurate with their professed political ends as to place them in a realm apart from those groups with which any democracy can negotiate. In both cases, the world has to deal with people whose national aspirations form only one part of a totalitarian ideology which finds its fullest satisfaction in slaughter.
When Russia did grant Chechnya greater autonomy in the 1990s, it was only to find that territory become a launchpad for fundamentalist groups intent on exporting slaughter well beyond their borders. In the circumstances, the Russians could no more accept the requirement to respect self-determination than you or I could accept the need to respect property rights when our neighbour’s house has become a crack den.

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