The terrorist is history’s biggest coward. He does not wage war as a soldier but as a fanatic without conscience. His victims are always civilians, like those dying in Gaza and Israel, and shot down over Ukraine. According to a 2013 report by top terrorism-tracker, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), over 15,500 civilians were killed in 8,500 terrorist attacks across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. START has so far codified over 104,000 terrorist attacks. Six of the seven most virulent terror outfits are al-Qaeda’s stepchildren, and most deaths occurred in Muslim-majority countries. The real numbers would be much more.
The terrorist has no compunctions about killing innocents, either as suicide bombers, spraying bullets into crowds, or by slitting the throats of schoolchildren or shooting female students. He invites attention to his cause by making videos showing hostages being murdered by sawing off their heads with blunt knives. He blows up buildings and airplanes, attacks hotels, and butchers hundreds of innocents. He has done it, and will continue to do it—in India, Pakistan, Britain, America, Europe, Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Syria; a cartographer of blood, blinded by belief and rabid self-righteousness. His is the cunning of the fanatic; camouflaged by normalcy, bombmakers hide among civilians; safehouses for terrorists are established in peaceful neighbourhoods, and like in Gaza, rockets are hidden in civilian areas. The terrorist believes the civilian is the sacrifice mankind must make to establish a republic of horror.
Horror is the best PR for terrorism. The media feeds on photos of wounded orphans, lamenting widows and grieving fathers. The horrified world sits up in anguish. Opposition uproar disrupts Parliament over Israeli retaliation against rockets fired by Hamas, its avowed enemy. Protests erupt outside Israeli missions in India, by civil rights organisations, Islamic bodies and Kashmiri organisations against bombings that have killed hundreds of civilians in Gaza.
On June 12, three Israeli Jewish teenagers were kidnapped near Hebron city. Israel launched a massive search operation. On July 14, their bodies were found, hidden under rocks in a field near Hebron. Israel launched air raids against Hamas, which had taken refuge among Gaza’s civilian population, using it as a human shield. Israel’s fourth ground offensive against Hamas has started: in 2006, war broke out after an Israeli soldier was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists. Now, more children will die.
The tragedy of Palestine and Israel is their blood-soaked geography of faith. The Hamas doesn’t recognise Israel’s right to exist, like so many of its Arab neighbours, after its formation in 1948. The Arabesque of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq vowed to drive Israel into the sea, but they were militarily humiliated by their intended victim. Ever since, the Palestinian state has become an Arab jihadi cause célèbre, claiming thousands of lives since the 1960s.
Hamas is engaged in a struggle for survival. Its logistical and financial support has dried up after Israel blockaded Gaza in 2007. After its main sponsor, the Muslim Brotherhood, was overthrown by the Egyptian military, smuggling tunnels and the main supply lifeline of the crucial Rafah crossing have been blocked. Starved of funds and isolated, experts believe Hamas launched rocket attacks to force Egypt to act against Israel. It is unlikely that Egypt would help the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate in Gaza.
The Jew and the Hindu are the only two faiths—apart from the Buddhists who were massacred by Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193—to have faced savage persecution from zealots and survived. The Moghuls tortured Sikh gurus. If India’s conscience is to be awakened by the rhetoric of religious protest, let it indeed cry out for justice—not for the Jew, the Palestinian or the Kurd, but for the Unknown Civilian, whose bones litter the eternal graveyard of history.