Wed, Jun. 18, 2003


Don't let terrorists kill peace

Once again the blood is flowing hot and sticky in the Middle East. One act of violence is responded to by another. It is a terrible, terrible time. Tragic.

But the Israeli government is being led down a very familiar path by the terrorists, with mass murder intended to incite violent reprisals. The terrorists are getting what they wanted.

To people who are committed to suicide, it does not really matter, deep down, if their leaders are killed. They already learned how to do what they do. They know how to recruit, how to make bombs and how to disguise themselves as Israelis. The cult of death is their only strategy, their only intention is to prove that they cannot be controlled.

The terrorists are in an exceedingly weak position. And they know it. Their only resort is murder. Shock and horror and outrage are what they want. Once that feeling is loosed among the Israelis, the murderers can be sure that, eventually, there'll be a reprisal and, in the process, the Palestinian citizenry will be angered and help the terrorists stop the peace process. Or so they assume.

That is why a grim decision faces Israel on a strategy that many would dismiss as rewarding the terrorists by not striking back at them or as proof that Israel has lost its nerve. In our country it took the lives of 600,000 people to bring about the end of slavery, a brutal institution that had existed for more than 200 years when it came crashing down in the spring of 1865.

But from the beginning of the civil-rights movement in 1954 until the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, 100 lives brought about the dismantling of a racist, terrorist regime below the Mason-Dixon Line. It was known as segregation.

Plenty of heckling black people had all kinds of critical statements to make about the nonviolent movement that King and others headed up. They were called cowards for not fighting back, for letting black women be beaten and children slain. They were proven wrong. That proof was costly, and it brought with it the tragic circumstances wrought by those who thought they could protect segregation by murdering people. They, too, were proven wrong.

Israel now faces that kind of grim choice and is being called upon to show another kind of courage. Its leadership should continue to negotiate and continue to work -- even harder! -- with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas toward the creation of a Palestinian state. It no longer has to prove to hecklers and hysterics that Israelis will fight and will not go quietly into the arms of death, as some claim those murdered by the Nazis did.

Removing itself from the bloody dance that the terrorists want to pull that nation into will be hard. But the Israelis are very strong people -- and they have sacrificed before. They can sacrifice again, if they are given a reason. That reason is the possibility of peace, something the terrorists can never offer.

©2003 New York Daily News