Terror in the Streets
The bombing of the World Trade Center in New York did more than shake the skyline of the teeming metropolis. Americans were rudely awakened to the fact that terrorism is not a phenomenon confined to regions remote from the day-to-day life of average U.S. citizens. And while other terrorist acts in the United States have been quickly run through the sound-bite media grid with little analysis and bland assurances that they are random acts of lone perpetrators, the magnitude of the disaster in Manhattan reverberated across the face of the nation.
In the immediate aftermath of the tragic event, many in the media seemed to hold their collective breath, hoping they could reassure citizens that one loose-cannon-type malcontent had loaded a vehicle with enough explosives to blow a five-story crater in a symbolic center of American life. Such was not the case, and the suspects subsequently arrested were reported to have ties to Jihad Organization, an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical fundamentalist organization in Egypt that is dedicated to the overthrow of the Mubarak government. The group has been implicated in the assassination of Anwar Sadat, the murder of scores of Egyptians (targeting especially Coptic Christians), and attacks on tourists. Jihad is also believed to be linked to the slaying of Rabbi Meir Kahane.
Although at this writing many of the details of the plot and plotters have yet to be gathered, enough is known to raise genuine concerns about where we will go from here and just how much terror we will eventually see in the streets of America. There is an increasing sense of alarm among U.S. authorities who believe America is becoming a new base for radical terrorist organizations that will bring more European and Middle Eastern-style violence to our shores.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal (“A Snake of Terror in our Garden,” March 5, 1993), in addition to the presence of Jihad and its leader, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Iranian-sponsored Lebanese Party of God are among the terrorist groups that have established bases of operation in the United States. Hezbollah was responsible for the 1983 bombing that killed more than 200 American Marines in Beruit and is known to be sponsoring conferences here. Algerian fundamentalist activists are also using the United States as a haven.
The presence of these groups suggests that America is assuming a role once held by Europe. France, for example, was the host country for Ayatollah Khomeini as he pursued his successful bid to oust the Shah of Iran. But as has been true in Israel, Egypt, and less militant Arab regimes, Europe is sick of being bloodied by terrorist attacks and has clamped down on such groups. As a result, terrorists have moved to sectors deemed better suited for their operations.
Reasons for the move across the Atlantic are obvious. Freedom of speech, religion, and movement are part and parcel of life in the United States. Radical political leaders here can fax instructions to operatives elsewhere with relative ease. Raising and distributing funds in the United States is another plus. Furthermore, entering and exiting the country appear to offer only minor obstacles. And once they are inside, expelling them becomes a laborious, time-consuming process. A deportation hearing was held for Sheik Omar in January 1992. Months later he was still moving about freely, exhorting his followers. A Muslim terrorist, in the country for only a few days, was responsible for the January shootings at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Virginia. He is believed to have left the country the day after the attack.
Americans may be forced to face up to the irritating necessity of alterations in lifestyle as security precautions become a daily reality. Americans often chaff at the meticulous checks made by Israeli security guards prior to boarding of all flights. We are not accustomed to that kind of inconvenience. It takes time, and people must think through responses to questions they would prefer not to answer. But for a nation constantly under siege, as Israel is, security is not something casually maintained or taken for granted. For this reason, El Al maintains a safety standard that is incomparable among the airlines of the world.
A Deadly Conclusion
Faced with personal inconvenience, many Americans insist on straight-line, simplistic, quick answers to the problems at hand. Unfortunately, secular media that are almost totally out of control often contribute wrong assumptions and conclusions that make matters worse and, in fact, obscure the underlying issues.
A disturbing illustration immediately comes to mind. After Mohammed Salameh was arrested following the bombing of the World Trade Center, TV camera crews invaded the Palestinian village on the West Bank of Israel where Salameh had been reared. They were looking for a sensational “grabber” to enliven sound bites on nightly news shows. Their quarry for one evening’s viewing were the mother and grandmother of the accused terrorist. As one would expect, both gave emotional expositions of the innocence and sincerity of the young man who was, in their eyes, pure to the core and incapable of the heinous act of which he was accused. The grandmother launched a tirade against those in America who would, with malicious intent, set Salameh up as the fall guy for the infamous atrocity. Any right-thinking parent or grandparent can understand their anguish, and few would fail to be deeply moved by their plight. Realizing the consequences faced by the young man would rend the heart of any caring loved one. The despicable thing in this case is the exploitation of two unfortunate women in the interest of maudlin sensationalism that has nothing to do with objective reporting of news. It is pure show business. The real impact, however, is not entertaining; it is loaded with potentially deadly consequences.
Beyond the tears is an implication that these people, as well as the accused and incarcerated bomber, are victims. Where, then, if they are victims, can the finger of accusation be leveled? We are all too familiar with the answer: Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people is the cause of such disastrous and disruptive episodes. In its March 28, 1993 edition, The New York Times reported receiving a letter from a group opposed to U.S. aid to Israel and claiming responsibility for the World Trade Center bombing. The letter said that “unless the United States severed relations with Israel and met other demands involving Middle East policy, additional attacks would be carried out by a group called the Liberation Army Fifth Battalion.” According to the letter, the group had “more than 150 suicidal soldiers” and would attack both military and civilian targets.
Israel, therefore, is the true guilty party. If Jerusalem would only give the Palestinians what they want, the problem would be solved—case closed. The appetite for violence of international fundamentalist terrorists would be sated, and we could all go back to business-as-usual living.
This devastatingly dangerous circle of reasoning is acceptable to masses of people who are deprived of information or are not interested in knowing what real issues must be faced. Americans should be warned that favorable responses to emotional orchestration of the public’s mind can only encourage more basement bombers. The net result will kill more Americans and exacerbate the problem.
The ugly fact is that neither Israelis nor fundamentalist Muslims are playing games. For Israel, peace will not come with territorial compromises that are not backed by a genuine commitment to peace by those sitting across the negotiating table. Israel’s daily struggle is the struggle to survive. Security is the imperative that cannot be compromised. Fundamentalist Islamic terrorists are on record as saying that they will never be satisfied with less than all of Israel. A central credo of the militant Hamas group is “working to unfurl the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” To “fight the Jews and kill them” is, to them, a legitimate means to that end.
Biblicists understand very well the magnitude of the problems underlying the controversies in the Middle East. One so informed must be frank and up front in saying that the only permanent answer will come with the appearance of the Messiah. In the interim, any semblance of tranquilly will be achieved only if and when moderate Arabs, the United States, and people sanely motivated in other parts of the world dare to say no to marauding fundamentalist terrorists. For the United States and the Western community of rations, the problem of Mideast terrorism is not Israel’s problem alone; it is our problem as well. Only an unswerving and emphatic commitment to the integrity of Israel’s legitimacy will serve to slow the tide of bloodletting in our streets.
For evangelical Christians, more is at stake than for the nation at large. Genuine evangelicals are unequivocally committed to the integrity of the Word of God, and the majority therefore accept and proclaim the proposition that Jewry holds the title deed to Palestine and has every right to occupy a national homeland within the sea of Arab and Islamic nations. This view is increasingly unwelcome among biblically illiterate groups and individuals for whom scriptural mandates carry little or no weight. This is, of course, nothing new. The thing we are hearing that is somewhat different is that we are people who are not only out of the mainstream but downright dangerous as well.
This allegation surfaced pointedly on a TV talk show on which writers with differing views were discussing matters related to the bombing in New York. Three assertions are worth mentioning. First, Israel is at fault. It’s a tired argument, to be sure, but salable to people with less than warm feelings for Jewry and their tiny homeland. Furthermore, their prejudice is compounded by personal revulsion at the thought of any moral or spiritual claim by Jewish people on the ancient land of their fathers. Next, any belief in the Bible as an authoritative source for asserting land rights in the Middle East is a monumental offense. The Bible records acts of war and is therefore a bloody chronicle unworthy of serious consideration by contemporary human beings. Finally, if one believes, as do evangelical Christians, that God gave the land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants through Isaac, he is actually a dangerous person—dangerous because, in the interest of assisting God, he would condone or conduct wars of religion.
This theme, heard too often these days to be ignored, lumps fundamental Christians with the likes of Ayatollah Khomeini and other dedicated destroyers from various political and religious arenas. These people are cut out of the same cloth as those who, during the last election campaign, warned that Christians with firm family values were likely to wage religious war on emerging, enlightened American culture.
Strangely missing from the TV discussion was any mention of the Koran or the commitment to Jihad (holy war) hotly pursued by militant fundamentalist Muslims. They openly commit atrocities in the name of their religion and comprise the core of global terrorists who are afflicting innocent people in many parts of the world, now including the United States of America. It is arresting and revealing to hear such blatant bias—bias that lays bare the fact that these people are engaged in an essentially militant rebellion against the Bible, its God, and anyone claiming to be a serious believer.
Let’s set the record straight about the dangers posed by evangelical Christians. As fervently as evangelicals believe that the Bible promises a homeland in the Middle East to the Jewish people, they also take literally and seriously the words of Jesus Christ. Evangelicals are His followers to the point of trusting Christ for their eternal salvation. The heart of Jesus and His Father can be adequately expressed through a passage of Scripture that almost every American, believer or not, is somewhat conversant with: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have ever lasting life” (Jn. 3:16). God so loved the world that He gave—that is the essence of the Christian message and commitment. Jesus was never in the business of taking life; He entered the world dedicated to giving life! I know of no contemporary evangelical Christian who is committed to killing Muslims or anyone else in the name of Christianity. To make such an assertion is so wildly bizarre that evangelicals find it difficult to take it seriously. The truly dangerous thing we must face is that some who choose to be our spiritual adversaries apparently do take this idea seriously.
But the same Christ who loved so much that He was willing to give His life as a sacrifice for sinners instructed His followers to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despise use you, and persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). If you fear being loved, even though you may not deserve it, then you have much to fear from dedicated Christians. What you need not fear is an evangelical’s bomb in your basement!