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Jewish World Review Sept. 12, 2001 / 23 Elul 5761

Don Feder

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Sterner days are here again -- ON DEC. 7, 1941, Winston Churchill called President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. "What's all this about Pearl Harbor?" the prime minister asked. "It's quite true, they bombed us," FDR replied. "We're all in the same boat now."

Today, it's America and Israel that occupy the same small craft in a storm-tossed sea.

Sept. 11, 2001, was another day of infamy -- New York's World Trade Center demolished by two hijacked planes, while another crashed into the Pentagon -- with thousands dead.

Now, the American people know what Israel has endured for the past year -- cars exploding in residential neighborhoods, mortar rounds lobbed at apartment buildings, a sniper shooting a baby in its father's arms, a suicide bomber detonating a device packed with nails in a restaurant crowded with young families.

Since Arafat's make-believe peace at Oslo in 1993, 632 Israelis have died. Based on Israel's population, that's the equivalent of 34,600 dead Americans.

Israel is on the front lines, as England was in 1940. But the Jewish state is far from the only target.

Islamic militants hate America and everything it represents -- democracy, freedom of conscience and religious tolerance. The Palestinian Authority regularly calls on the Arab world to avenge itself on the Great Satan.

"Attack U.S. interests," urged Farouk Kaddoumi, chief of the PLO's political department. The Palestinian Authority's official newspaper declared, "Conflict with the U.S. is the only way to achieve our goals." In a sermon at the Al Aqsa Mosque, the PA-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem intoned: "Oh Allah, destroy America, her agents and her allies! Cast them into their own traps, and cover the White House with black." As news of New York and Washington filtered to the Middle East, Palestinians danced in the streets.

The festivities weren't confined to the West Bank. Reuters reported, "Ordinary Egyptians said Tuesday the United States deserved the wave of deadly attacks toward its cities, saying justice was being served for Washington's 'bias' toward Israel and against the Arabs."

Analogies have limits. Unlike Pearl Harbor, this time we were on notice. In 1993, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman's crew bombed the same World Trade Center, killing seven and wounding 500.

Americans were outraged. Americans were up in arms. And when the smoke had cleared, Americans went back to sleep. We were the last remaining superpower, secure in our invincibility.

Terrorism was something that happened elsewhere and to others. Why couldn't Israel just negotiate with those people? End the occupation. Give them the land.

Because human life means nothing to those people. Because their malice, their demonic hatred of all who aren't like them, is limitless. Because they recognize no differences between soldiers and civilians, combatants and office workers.

After Tuesday's dead are buried and the mourners comforted, what then? Alan Cohen, an Israeli psychologist who specializes in the emotional impact of terrorism, told me: "It's not just you (Americans) who are being attacked. It's an attack on the beliefs and values of America."

After the crippling blow they dealt the U.S. Seventh Fleet, the Japanese expected us to go into shock, allowing them to run rampant over the Pacific. Major miscalculation.

That's the impact the Osama bin Ladens, Yasser Arafats, and leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are hoping yesterday's atrocities will have.

They are looking for a white flag. They think that if they kill enough of us and strike fear in the hearts of the rest, we'll walk away from the Middle East, allow them to finish off Israel and our other allies in the region, and then come after America in their own good time.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Japanese naval chief of staff who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor, could have set them straight. After the raid, Yamamoto observed that Tokyo had "awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve."

A month before Pearl Harbor, when Britannia stood alone, Churchill told the boys at Harrow: "This is the great lesson: Never give in. ... Never yield to force ... Do not let us speak of darker days; let us rather speak of sterner days." Mettle is burnished in the fires of conflict.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate