Six years after planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the
Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, a lot of Americans are getting
bored with the obsessive desire to commemorate the events of Sept. 11,
That was the essence of a front-page story in the Sunday New York Times
on Sept. 2 and, it must be admitted, reflects a growing tendency to
downplay both 9/11 and the need to mourn its victims. After all, we are
told, more than sixty years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans
no longer obsess about Dec. 7.
In that light, some believe it is time to start ratcheting down the
hype about 9/11 and placing in its proper historical perspective as a
national tragedy but not one that that should dominate our thinking or
the way we live our lives.
But the problem with this line of thought is that, as grievous as the
murder of the nearly 3,000 souls who perished on that day was, the
horror of the events of 9/11 went deeper than the loss of those persons.
NATION AT WAR
On 9/11, Americans understood that what had happened was not an
isolated criminal act but a direct assault on the symbols of American
sovereignty and commerce. Though it was not the first time Al Qaeda had
attacked us, it was the moment that most of us understood that there
was a war going on between Islamists and the West. We also knew that
the United States must start taking that war seriously. Implicit in
this understanding was the notion that our national apathy about
Islamic terrorism had to end.
And that brings up a major difference between 9/11 and Dec. 7. If we no
longer think much about the latter, it isn't only because of the
passage of time but because the war against Japanese imperialism that
it symbolized was won. Our battle against Islamism is not only not
over, it may well still be in its opening stages.
Another significant point is that because of 9/11, Americans also began
to comprehend that there was little difference between Al Qaeda and the
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah terrorists who were and are still
engaged in terror attacks on Israel.
While not all measures adopted by the U.S. government to fight back
against Al Qaeda have been universally popular, there has been little
question that aggressive counter-terrorist strategies were a must. But
little by little, support for this way of thinking about the misnamed
"war on terrorism" (it is not a war on terror but one against the
Islamists who have employed terrorist tactics against us) has eroded.
Part of the problem is that these efforts have, at least to date, been
successful and there has been no repeat of 9/11 or worse. That is
something few of us thought likely six years ago.
Obviously, the unpopular stalemated war in Iraq has also undermined the
national consensus as has the belief on the part of many administration
critics that this issue has been manipulated for political gain.
So it is little surprise that at this highly partisan moment in
American history many of us would start to think of 9/11 as just
another sad date on which a lot of people died and not a point around
which the nation needed to rally.
REFORM RED HERRING
This spirit has also affected our ability to think clearly about groups
that form the support system for terror. Indeed, organizations such as
the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of
North American, both named as unindicted co-conspirators in the
prosecution of those funding Hamas terrorists, are being treated as not
only legitimate but worthy of defense by both politicians and even some
That Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the leader of the Union of Reform Judaism, the
country's largest Jewish denomination, would not only speak to a
conference of the Islamic Society, as he did last week, but do so
specifically with the agenda of denouncing "Islamophobia" rather than
using it as an opportunity to denounce the rising tide of Jew-hatred in
the Muslim world, is a development that is as astonishing as it is
"Islamophobia" is a red herring, a false debating point which seeks to
change the subject from the very real threat of the infiltration of
Islamist extremism in the United States to a focus on the mythical
discrimination to which American Muslims are supposedly being subjected.
The truth is, despite the justified anger at 9/11 and the manifest
failure of "mainstream" Muslim groups such as the one Yoffie honored
with his presence to denounce terror, there has been little or no
backlash against American Muslims (in return for his visit, the Islamic
Society did finally explicitly condemn terror but the real test, as
with the Palestinians, will be what it says to its own constituents,
not statements aimed at gullible Jews).
Indeed, the government has forbidden common-sense profiling of likely
terror suspects at airports (i.e. young Muslim males, not the white
female octogenarians who are just as likely to be stopped by this
farcical security measure as Islamists) and President Bush has said
that Islam is a "religion of peace" so often that it has become
something of tired joke.
By reaching out to a group whose origins and present conduct place it
on the wrong side of the debate on terrorism, Yoffie has given them a
Reform kosher certificate which they will be able to brandish as they
seek to advance their anti-Israel as well as pro-Islamist agendas.
Unfortunately, this egregious misjudgment, which will have long-term
negative implications for the pro-Israel community's ability to combat
extremism, isn't an isolated example. It is part and parcel of the same
trend of 9/11 fatigue that the Times explored in an article that never
once mentioned the words terrorism or Islam.
If that is the direction in which our national conversation is heading,
we will be making a huge mistake. Though, thank heaven, Islamic
terrorists have not yet duplicated 9/11, they have not ceased their
efforts to do so. As Israelis have come to learn, the battle against
these terrorists cannot be won in a day or even a year but requires
both patience and perseverance.
Though some of us may be tired of remembering 9/11, a return to the
apathy of 9/10 is a luxury that no one in the West can afford.