The news is as I feared. After finally clearing Mumbai’s Chabad House of terrorists, Indian commandos discovered that six hostages had been killed, among them Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka. Haaretz reports that the others killed were Bentzion Chroman and Leibish Teitlebaum, an American from Brooklyn.
It is without question deeply disturbing that terrorists based in the Indian Muslim community would adopt a new strategy of targeting Jews and Israelis for attack, whereas before their targets were purely Indian. It is surely a ratcheting up of the conflict between India and Pakistan, since it appears that all or some of the militants were motivated by the Kashmir conflict between those two countries.
The militants cleary wanted to make a theatrical statement of hate and succeeded “admirably” in just the way that the PLO did when they first began hijacking and blowing up airliners in the 1970s.
Who was the intended audience? Of course, India. The terrorists were reminding the Indians of the continued cost of stalemate in Kashmir. The message too was to Pakistan saying that the group behind the attack was not willing to give up on the Kashmir struggle. That it wouldn’t give up on the “brothers” living under Indian occupation there. Of course, there was a message to the U.S. which, as the Times pointed out in a story yesterday, has been cajoling the Pakistani military to “pivot” away from India as its major foe and turn instead to the Taliban in the NW Provinces. If Pakistani elements were involved in the Mumbai attack, as India’s prime minister has alluded, then this would be a message from either the Pakistani ISI or the Pakistani Taliban that they refuse to allow such a change in Pakistani interests.
The Times quotes Tzipi Livni saying:
“We know that the targets there that were sought out by the terrorists were Jewish and Israeli targets as well as targets that are perceived as Western targets — American and British.”
She added: “We need to understand that there’s a world here, our world, that has been attacked. And it doesn’t matter if it’s happened in India or somewhere else. We have here radical Islamic elements who do not accept either our existence or the values of the Western world. And only when incidents of this sort occur is it suddenly understood from conversations with leaders from around the entire world that we are actually party to the same battle.”
Actually, this is completely the WRONG lesson to learn. Despite the fact that Jews were attacked, the fundamental conflict appears to involve Kashmir, and by extension Indian and Pakistan. In other words, this is a regional conflict. Not an Armageddon conflict between the forces of evil and good represented by the “western world” and “radical Islam.” This is precisely how the extremists on both sides, both Jewish and Muslim, would like the world to see the conflict since it confirms their apocalyptic, blood-soaked world-view. But if we are to maintain any semblance of balance and reason in viewing incidents like this one, we must understand where the real cause of conflict lies.
At worst, the attackers are cynically exploiting anti-Semitism in order to further inflame world opinion and curry favor with the Muslim jihadi set.
As for Livini’s bogus rhetoric in which she insinuates the Israeli-Arab conflict into a world death struggle between Islam and the west, it’s cheap and misleading. Israel’s ultimate conflict has nothing to do with radical Islam and everything to do with its Occupation and oppression of the Palestinians. The solution to this conflict has nothing to do with eliminating radical Islam, jihad or Muslim terror. It has everything to do with resolving a political and national conflict.
Livni, just like Sharon after 9/11, falsely wishes to hitch Israel’s wagon to a cause everyone in the west understands.
My reference to the Occupation above started me thinking about Pakistani Muslims’ resentment against India regarding the Kashmir conflict. Here too, Muslims believe that India is occupying land that should be Pakistani. In effect, the Kashmir conflict may be the last vestige of the 1948 events leading to the independence of India and Pakistan. Kashmir festers like a 60 year old wound untended and unhealed.
In just the same way that Palestinian terrorists, when they mount their deadly attacks against Israelis, warn Israel that there can never be peace until their greivances are addressed and resolved, so the Indian or Kashmiri terrorists were broadcasting a message that Indian must address this issue or forever face the menace of domestic terror.
I want to make clear that I am not making any judgments about which side in the conflict over this territory is in the right and which in the wrong. I’m not well-versed enough to do that. I’m merely commenting on the similarity of the grievances between Kashmiris and Palestinians.
Returning to the assault on Chabad House, it is of course difficult to speculate on lots of questions that we might have about the attack. But I thought I’d ask some questions and then see what we find out at a later point.
The Indians have announced that only two militants were killed in the attack on Chabad House. If this is so, why did it take the Indians so many hours to clear the building? I read another earlier report that said a neighbor called the police repeatedly to report the first militant assault and they arrived only 30 minutes later. I also read that an effective Indian response to the attacks wasn’t mounted until authorities discovered that the local police were entirely unprepared for the fight and were replaced by army and National Guard units. Why was the response by India so ineffective, at least initially?
Chabad has 3,500 facilities throughout the world like Mumbai’s. What is their level of security? Did the Mumbai location have a security system? Clearly, either it did not or whatever system it had didn’t work. How could Chabad maintain a facility in a city where there had been previous Muslim terror attacks and not provide ironclad security for it?
In spite of the fact that we express our deep solidarity with Chabad for their terrible loss, these questions must be asked and answered if Chabad and other Jewish organizations are to avoid future attacks.
That being said, the lion’s share of blame aside from the terrorists themselves belongs to the Indian federal and state governments and the city of Mumbai for doing such an abysmal job of policing their jurisdicitions for such a terrorist menace. The idea that bands of armed men would hijack & kill the crew of a fishing boat, then land multiple boats at local docks filled with men carrying rucksacks filled with guns and ammo and that they would then meet accomplices who’d been casing out the hotels and other terror targets for days on end without being detected is simply unbelievable. It’s beyond a horror story of abject failure. Other cities like New York, London, etc. should learn lessons from these failures. And if India doesn’t learn the lessons of this disaster it will be doomed to repeat it I’m afraid.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.