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A dreadful precedent was set recently by Spain. Recoiling in understandable horror from the March 11th Islamist terror attacks on commuter trains in Madrid, the voters in that country promptly ousted a courageous prime minister who had stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States in Iraq. His replacement by a Socialist who promises to withdraw Spanish forces from Iraq now represents nothing less than a stunning and potentially escalating victory for Arab/Islamic terrorism.

For al-Qaida and its sister Palestinian groups, the message from post-attack Spain is obvious: callously murder defenseless Spaniards and the Spanish nation will yield without shame. It is also likely that other European countries would respond in a similarly craven fashion, an expectation that is surely apparent to the Islamist terror groups. This expectation will certainly be tested soon, probably in London. There would, of course, be little point to testing it anywhere in France, where prevailing sentiments are already anti-Semitic and anti-American, and where the people and government are always unambiguously comfortable with immediate surrender.

How little has been learned in civilized Europe! Yesterday, appeasement was that continent’s naive and unforgivable response to Nazism. Today, for the most part, it is Europe’s ironically resuscitated method of dealing with a surging Arab/Islamic war against the West. The war in Iraq is not merely an American war; it is the regrettable but unavoidable reaction to an authentic worldwide threat. The danger to America and Europe is not only al-Qaida; it is also a determined, organized and resolute movement of millions to convert the “world of war” (the non-Islamic democratic West) into the “world of Islam.”


Arab/Islamic terror organizations, well-funded and already backed by tens of millions of Muslims, are now quickly transforming world politics into a global protection racket. For the moment, these groups are trying to convince fearful Europeans and Americans alike that it is always better to pay the extortionist. Over time, however, when more and more Western surrenders fail to buy this illusory “peace,” the terrorists plan to close in for a choreographed kill with an unimaginable spasm of fiendish assaults.

Here, possibly using chemical, biological and perhaps even nuclear technologies, the forces of a resurgent medievalism could bring fear, paralysis and death to whole nations of “unbelievers.”

In these still unfathomable circumstances, there could be entire cities in which certain survivors would conspicuously envy the dead. In this coming war against the West, there will no longer be any safety by arms, no help from global authority, no remedies in science. If not stopped in time, it will rage until every flower of culture is trampled and till all that has been built up so painstakingly will be leveled in a vast chaos.

An overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the world would probably remain uninvolved in this assault, and most might even strenuously oppose it. But if even a tiny fraction of the world’s more than one billion Muslims were willing to enter Paradise by becoming “martyrs,” or at least be willing to support and sustain the “martyrdom” of others, the danger posed could be staggering. At the moment, such ominous demographic assumptions are patently correct and unassailable.

For now, the war of Islamic fanaticism is being waged openly against Israel and the United States. Less visibly, perhaps, but just as systematically, this war is being accelerated amid the Western democracies of Europe. It is in Europe’s immediate interest to recognize that Israel’s fight to remain alive and America’s coincident fight to remain secure are its fight as well. We are all on the same side. To deny this with a wry sneer of academic sophistication may still be intellectually stylish in some quarters, but it is also entirely mistaken.

“First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.” This is the undisguised refrain of fanatical Islam in present-day Europe. Now Islam is being reinvigorated by expedient international law, a law that does not condemn Arab terrorism against Israel, but rails furiously against an Israeli fence designed to prevent terrorism. Islamists know full well that the world will always forgive any form of atrocity committed upon Jews or the Jewish State.

Today, an exploded Israeli bus packed with Jewish schoolchildren is hardly even newsworthy. After all, it seems the Palestinian “freedom-fighters” must surely have had some codified right to fill their lovingly-fashioned bombs with nails and razor-blades dipped in rat poison – but a commuter train packed with Spaniards is something else altogether.

The current Islamic population in countries of the European Union is somewhere between 12 to 22 million. This means that there are more Muslims in Europe than there are Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Greeks, Czechs and Hungarians. In Great Britain, there are now more Muslims than Catholics, and the former now comprise the second largest religious community in the country. In France, which has something like 1200 mosques – all funded by foreign moneys and all staffed with imams from other places – the Islamic population totals six to eight million people. One sixteenth of the people now living in The Netherlands are Muslim immigrants.

Taken by themselves, these statistics are unimportant. Taken by themselves, they would conceivably even smack of racism. What makes them important and urgent is that a significant proportion of these Muslim populations now live, teach or preach the most virulent, anti-Jewish, anti-American, anti-Christian Wahabi branch of Islamist radicalism. This fact is incontestable.

For those millions presently engaged in an Islamist war against the West, a fevered civilizational struggle seeking dominance in Europe and elsewhere, terrorism and the sacred are always intertwined. To understand those who blow up buses in Israel, buildings and aircraft in the United States and trains in Spain, one must first recognize these interrelated acts of terror as fiery expressions of “G-d’s will.” At its heart, Arab/Islamic terror is always a distinct form of religious worship. It is invariably a manifestation of religious “sacrifice.”

The Islamic zealots who most recently murdered and maimed over a thousand Madrid commuters did not intend to do evil. On the contrary, they decided to mete out death to innocent travelers for the sake of an imagined divine expectation. Though mired in blood, these sanctified killers went about their grisly work with utter tranquility and self-assurance, born of the conviction that what we in the Western democracies call “terrorism” is actually the highest form of goodness.


It is through the glorious murder of Americans, Jews and “Crusaders” that the Islamic Holy Warrior embarked upon Jihad seeks desperately to buy himself free from the penalty of dying. If he should unwittingly kill other Muslims in the course of his “sacrifice,” this is not a problem at all. It has been ruled authoritatively that these other Muslims will themselves become “Shahids,” those who blessedly bring the word of Allah to unbelievers by self-sacrifice – and be catapulted immediately into Paradise.

Spain’s undisguised surrender to terrorism has wide implications for all of us, as Jews and as Americans. Unless it is recognized and reversed, and unless the stakes are finally understood in Europe as well as in Israel and the United States, we may soon face a choice between WMD destruction in our major cities or a complete capitulation on absolutely all that WE hold sacred. It goes without saying that neither choice would ever be acceptable.

Copyright(c) 2004 The Jewish Press. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many books and articles on terrorism and international law.He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for THE JEWISH PRESS.


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Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue and the author of twelve books and several hundred articles on nuclear strategy and nuclear war. He was Chair of Project Daniel, which submitted its special report on Israel’s Strategic Future to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, on January 16, 2003.