Lessons from the New Day of Infamy

By Haber, Leo | Midstream, September-October 2001 | Go to article overview

Lessons from the New Day of Infamy


Haber, Leo, Midstream


The terrorist destruction of the giant twin towers in New York on September 11 that has resulted in the murder of up to six thousand innocent human beings staggers the imagination of men and women of good will. The bombing of the Pentagon in Washington and the suspicion that other centers of American power and prestige were intended targets are equally frightening. The president of the United States referred to these horrendous acts as acts of war. On the morning after the attack, William Satire's Op-Ed article in The Times appeared with the headline, "New Day of Infamy." The title was eminently appropriate, for it recalled President Roosevelt's characterization of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that forced the United States into the Second World War.

No newspaper, no magazine can publish an issue, however ready for the printer, without addressing this sudden tragedy of unimaginable dimension. Even at the risk of delaying dissemination of our current issue, we must pause just a few days before the Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur period of introspection to confront the figure of evil in our unredeemed world and ask ourselves pertinent questions.

First, immediate questions: How do we mitigate the agony of our neighbors whose families have suffered the ultimate sacrifice -- the sudden snuffing out of the lives of mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons, of working men and women, firefighters, police officers, Port Authority officers, EMS personnel, and countess others representing a racial and religious cross section of the gorgeous world that is New York? Next, how do we contribute to the rebuilding of New York, the greatest city in the world, the center of business, fashion, art, literature, music, even sports -- in sum, every facet of culture, freedom, and multiethnic living?

Then the other questions that cannot be set aside or disregarded: How do we respond to this barbaric act perpetrated by those who put little or no value on human life, their own included? How do we deter future fanatics from repeating such terrorist acts? How do we restore American prestige and power? In the final analysis, what do we learn from this unprecedented assault in peacetime upon millions of innocent human beings and upon the honor and soul of America? Millions, sadly enough, not thousands, because every such murder -- and victims of terrorism are victims of murder -- affects family and friends forever, and, in the final analysis, a whole grieving nation.

The terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, began with the hijacking of four jet airplanes and culminated in the suicide destruction of the jets with all their passengers and crew aboard as two of them were piloted mercilessly into the twin towers that graced New York so majestically and one into the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania, short of its probable target in Washington, apparently because of heroic action undertaken by passengers.

We at Midstream cannot help noting the following. Hijacking of airplanes, suicide bombings -- don't these two terrorist methodologies ring a bell? Airplane hijacking was one of the earliest atrocities carried out by terrorism against Israel and against Jews; vide Entebbe of 1976. Suicide bombings have been the latest barbaric enterprise visited upon Jewish men, women, and children in discos and pizza restaurants in Israel -- at least two dozen such barbarisms in the last year alone. Hijacking of airplanes, suicide bombings -- the alpha and omega of evil terrorist techniques, and let us not be coy in naming them Arab terrorist techniques. Let us also add immediately that making such an identification does not in the least justify antipathy against all Arabs or Muslims. We ought to be beyond ascribing the sins of some to all members of a group. And anyone who resorts to physical violence, God forbid, against Arab or Muslim residents of our country is himself a criminal worthy of prosecution to the full extent of the law. …

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