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Taba Attacks: Tragedy for Peace


The terror bombings in the Taba Hilton and Nueiba resort areas provoked a variety of comment in the Middle East. Many Muslim commentators and some official commentary attempted to link the bombings to Israeli actions against Palestinians in general or to the brutal Israeli "incursion" in Gaza. Surprisingly, some European heads of state tried to make the same link.

The Teheran Times stated:

Although all world religions prohibit the killing of non-combatants and innocent civilians, the Zionist regime has played a major role in the expansion of this evil phenomenon.

The author of that article tried to create a direct link to ongoing Israeli operations in Gaza, though the elaborate planning and coordination of the separate attacks indicates that this operation was planned months ago. The operation was timed to coincide with the Sukkoth holiday, when large numbers of Israelis would be visiting in Gaza.

Egyptian terror expert Dia Rashwan went further. He asserted that the Israelis had themselves carried out these attacks, since, in his view, only Israel had anything to gain from them. Egyptian President Mubarak declined to confirm this outrageous notion, but on, the other hand, he didn't refute it either:

It was very different from other attacks and at the moment we can't accuse anyone." "We can accuse neither Israel nor anyone else

Though many commentators did not try to blame the attacks directly on Israel, even moderate Palestinians like Daoud Kuttab insisted on linking these attacks in Egypt to Israeli actions and the current Israeli incursion in Gaza. Kuttab's article is titled "It is hard to be shocked by Taba." Of course, hard-hearted Israelis can say "It is hard to be shocked by Gaza," facilitating the continuation of the "cycle of violence" that Kuttab claims he opposes.

Likewise, somewhat surprising and disappointing were the reactions of certain European heads of state. It is quite true that it is urgent and pressing to find a way to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but it is not necessarily the case that the terror attacks in Sinai were the result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or that a settlement of that conflict in a way acceptable to European countries would also satisfy the perpetrators of those attacks. It was especially premature to conclude that there is a linkage between the attacks and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when we still are uncertain who carried out the attacks or why. The only thing that seems certain is that Palestinian groups have denied any role in the attacks. Yet German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was quick to conclude:

There is no other solution to peace in the Middle East than what is laid out in the roadmap for peace. Despite all this brutality we have to continue to pursue this goal...

What relation the roadmap might have to terrorism against tourists in Egypt is unclear. Clearly the bombings were aimed at Israelis, since they were timed for Israeli holidays and took place in vacation spots frequented by Israelis. However, so far only 13 of the 34 victims have been identified as Israelis. Two of the 13 are Israeli Arabs as it happens. If the attackers had only want to hurt Israelis, they would have attacked in Israel. These attacks in Egypt killed people of different nationalities and ruined tourism in the Sinai for the foreseeable future. The point of the attacks was not simply to hurt Israelis but to embarrass Egypt and to make a statement against the peace between Israel and Egypt that made it possible for Israelis to vacation in Egypt.

The people who perpetrated these attacks would not be satisfied by any peace agreement produced by the roadmap. If they are still around when and if there is ever peace between Israel and the Palestinians, these same people would attack Palestinians vacationing in Israel. and Israelis who came to visit the Palestinian areas. As one Web site put it, the purpose of the attacks was to punish the Jewish sons of dogs and pigs who are corrupting the Islamic land. This sort of complaint cannot be fixed by any roadmap peace agreement. The purpose of such attacks is to disrupt any possible agreement.

While the apologetics of the Europeans and justifications of some of the Muslims were par for the course, it was refreshing to see that another breeze is starting to blow ever so gently in parts of the Middle East and perhaps in Europe. A Palestinian opinion poll now shows that for the first time, only a minority of Palestinians now support suicide attacks against Israeli civilians.

In an article in the London daily As-Sharq Al-Awsat on October 9, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, director-general of the Al-Arabiya TV channel discussed the series of brutal attacks that have been made in the Middle East and came to a conclusion that should be self evident, but is nonetheless remarkable and apparently not evident at all to people like Gerhardt Schroder:

It is inconceivable for us to justify one terrorist bombing while denouncing another. [The terror attacks] are interconnected ideologically, if not by the affiliation of their perpetrators. A solution solely
concerned with security can never succeed in bringing terrorism to a halt. This sheds light once again on [the position of] the Arab intellectuals, who not only are silent but even justify terror, for they in reality supply terrorism with what it most needs - propaganda and legitimacy. Therefore they are embarrassed when [such an] incident takes place on their own land and they hasten to make distinctions and clarifications.

"The danger of extremism threatens almost all the Arab and Islamic societies. There is no difference between the suicide attacks in Kabul, Al-Anbar, Islamabad, Riyadh, Algiers, Paris, Damascus, Tripoli, or Taba. They all embody one reality: that their perpetrators hold extremist views."

Al Rashed was not alone. An editorial in the Jordan Times opined:

It's been another horrific weekend. The multiple suicide bombings in Taba,
Egypt, are witnessing a rising death toll. A woman in Liverpool shudders as
she faces an unspeakable horror - the beheading of her husband by a
despicable group of men who have no regard for humanity, let alone the God
whose name they take in vain.

These most recent events add to the mounting list of acts of terrorism
being perpetrated around the world.

... the legitimate outrage at Israel's occupation, oppression and military onslaught against Palestinian civilians should not take the form of violence, particularly against innocent victims.

What differentiates Gerhard Schroeder from Al Rashed and the Jordan Times is clearly not the fact that Schroeder is not a Muslim, but perhaps it is rather the fact that Schroeder's country has thus far escaped major terror attacks, so he can afford to wax philosophical about roadmaps for peace.

Meanwhile, in New York, the UN Security Council, driven by outrage at the carnage in Beslan, was finally able to pass resolution 1566 that embodies, for the first time, an agreed-upon international defnition of terror. One would think that it would not be difficult for the peace-loving nations of the world to agree that killing children and innocent civilians intentionally is a crime, but this resolution represents quite an achievement. According to the resolution:

...criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, and all other acts which constitute offences within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature

In simpler English, the UN said, "Thou shalt not kill." As prodigious and noteworthy as this achievement is, the resolution does not specify any mechanism for enforcement, or any penalties against states that do not abide by the resolution. So, the UN has gotten around to outlawing murder finally, but it may be a very long time before they get around to making sure it is really punished. Still, these small signs of progress are indications that people are beginning to realize the obvious: terrorism is the number 1 obstacle to peace. Opposition to terrorism is not a "Zionist" cause or an "anti-Islam" cause, because the terrorists are out to hurt all of us, to deny freedom of conscience to all of us equally.

Ami Isseroff
[Updated October 13]

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Replies: 11 comments

Of course the UN's definition of terrorism clearly applies equally to Israel's actions in Gaza.

Posted by Chris @ 10/11/2004 02:59 PM CST

I always found it an interesting but disturbing characteristic that the supporters of terrorists find it possible to ignore the less pleasant truths about the groups they support. Years ago I used to get angry when USA'ns claiming allegiance to the notion of a unified Ireland were quite willing to ignore the fact that crime primarily funded the IRA and the principal victims of the IRA were the very Catholics that the IRA claimed to support and protect.
There is a difference between Israels violence against the Palestinians and that of Hamas against Israel. In the IDF there is a defined chain of command where culpability can be identified, by which the IDF is held accountable to the democratically elected government and by which the IDF can be stopped. No such structure exists for Hamas or the other terrorist organisations operating there.
A clear example being in N Ireland when the IRA declared a ceasefire as Sinn Fein started negotiations. Whilst the British Army could disengage in an oderly manner, the IRA split into various factions with some not accepting the ceasefire or the possibility of any settlement that might be acceptable to the Protestants. That lack of control has brought autonomy in NI to an end and currently the parliament there and talks are suspended.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 10/11/2004 10:02 PM CST

Message to BULLDOG, instead of foaming from the mouth, read the history. These terrorists are not wanting to immigrate to your country (wherever you might live)and become a productive and honorable citizen. They are fighting to regain what they
think is theirs. They conquered a big chunk of real estate back about six-7 hundred years ago and were "kicked out", by the rightful
citizens several years later.
They come and form sleeper cells, work, eat, get educated, run for public office and even marry your daughters, until the day they are called to destroy you.
They will not change, due to poison that has been fed into their minds since they were little babies.
WAKE UP! You and those allies we saved during WWI and WWII; we gave them their freedom and democracy.
Terrorism is a hydraheaded enemy!

Posted by Don Pepe @ 10/12/2004 08:00 PM CST

United Nations, HAH! a group of thugs. What have they done (other than fill not only their pockets but huge vaults). They allow killers to perform genocide in country after country, pledging support, financing and humanity/medical aide. After they have discussed it for years and all the affected are long dead and forgotten, they vote to investigate serious abuses.

Posted by Don Pepe @ 10/12/2004 08:09 PM CST

Jihad for Kids and Hatred Now are two poignant videos showing that the Palestinians are not working for peace. These are "must see" videos, which will help you understand why most Israelis don't see Arafat and his cronies as partners for peace. Other poignant videos are produced by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Posted by Don Pepe @ 10/12/2004 08:43 PM CST

Hello! can you read and smell
the stench coming from these

Posted by Don Pepe @ 10/12/2004 08:47 PM CST

Both Don Pepe & Bulldog inadvertently provide an interesting commentary from the US & European perspectives. Yet both omit to mention their own nation's culpability in the mess that is the Middle East. The continual war in the Middle East has created and maintained employment in the western arms industries. Both US & Europe have actively conspired to ensure that the oppressive dictatorships that abound in the region survive.

Don Pepe is deluding himself if he thinks that the US gave Europe democracy via WW1 & WW2. The USA lent billions to the UK to enable it to fight the war. UK repaid the WW1 debts in 1968 and the WW2 debts in the mid '80's. Had the UK not continued the fight in WW2 it is highly questionable whether there would be any democracy in Europe as the US turned up late in both wars. The US also used the debt to dismantle the British Empire and to ensure that its own industry took over their markets. Whilst the US today takes a very strong line against terrorism, for years it allowed the IRA to fund-raise despite the fact that the IRA were killing the citizens of its closest ally. The US also enjoys the benefits of a corrupt and violent middle east. If the middle east were to develop rapidly into a coherent bloc of peaceful democracies, it is highly likely that the US would lose its dominant status in the world.
If one looks at the post WW2 era, it is notable that the US has frequently supported right-wing dictatorships in opposition to democratically elected left-wing governments. US paranoia about the spread of communism was the driver not some set of democratic values. Such was US paranoia that it was prepared to infiltrate and spy upon UK organisations - its closest ally in NATO. (Compare this with US outrage at alleged Israeli spying in US!)

Bulldog is also profoundly mistaken - the religious inheritance of the Middle East informs the very fabric of UK law and values. The Old Testament was the reference point for the social progression in UK from the 17th Century onwards. If some state were to "nuke" the middle east it would send Europe back into the middle ages without the means to power its industrial and commercial base.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 10/12/2004 09:48 PM CST

Regrettably, many of the comments on this article are horrifying. At least one will be removed because it advocates genocide.

Don Pepe writes:

I do not remember and could not find any such phrase in any materials at MidEastWeb, though it might appear in someone's comment. The phrase is not found by the site search or the log search.

Ami Isseroff

Posted by Ami Isseroff @ 10/13/2004 01:44 PM CST

Thanks a lot Chris you speak for my tongue....
Ami Israel should revise it's history and it's relationships with the both europe and it's nerighbors very soon, or else no one knows where this region is going to end up with

Posted by Ima @ 10/13/2004 06:44 PM CST

Ima's comment that Israel should revise its history is interesting and perhaps it would be better if we all "revised" our histories. The current conflict is repeatedly presented to us within a relatively narrow envelope from about 1890 to the present day. From that perspective we are asked to agree with a limited number of interpretations. If the envelope of acknowledged regional history, and its lateral scope, is expanded the range of interpretations changes, and many of the apparent current certainties lose their credibility.
It is very striking for instance that the "left-wing" in both Europe and US afford the Arab / Muslim political constituency a degree of credibility in relation to the historic treatment of Jews, Christians and other minority religions that it would not afford the dominant white political consituency in the Southern States in relation to the treatment of Afro-Americans. This stance fails to subject the dominant Muslim community to the same degree of objectivity in relation to its claims, and thereby encourages the Muslim world to develop false history as part of its communal / national mythologies. This fosters within the Muslim world an unwillingness to examine their own histories on a factual basis and learn from them. Thus they find themselves in situations where they fail to progress from their failed strategies. Equally this failure prevents inter-communal engagement to the point where peace can be established. This site some years ago tried to start a grassroots initiative between Israelis & Palestinians where atrocities were admitted to, in an incremental progression. Sadly only the Israelis owned up to the first of their atrocities - Deir Yassin. The Palestinians failed to reciprocate, and from my recollection it descended into an appalling anti-Israel and racist / sectarian diatribe.
If we were to compare Israeli actions with those of the Allies in WW2, it is far from certain that the Allies would appear favourably. Consider that the Allies took a positive decision to blanket bomb areas with high density of civilian habitation on the basis that it would break the Germans will to continue to fight. Israel has yet to attempt this in any of its war, even though it had the capacity to cause enormous damage. Had the Israelis sought to copy the Allies, it perhaps would have destroyed the Aswan Dam and ended Egypts capacity to prosecute war. Also that action would have killed tens if not hundreds of thousands of Egyptians.
If we are to judge Israel on historical terms then we have to be objective, and not to allow our prejudices to influence the interpretation.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 10/14/2004 02:57 PM CST

Fify nine years of war, hatred, killing in Palestine.

Next 59 years?

What a wonderful world for our kids and grandkids to look forward to living in!

Posted by Jerry @ 10/17/2004 02:12 PM CST

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