TEL AVIV DIARIST: Impossible Routine

Peretz, Martin
September 2003
New Republic;9/29/2003, Vol. 229 Issue 13, p42
The author files a report for Tel Aviv, Israel. I came to this beautiful, tortured land because my friend Leon Botstein was conducting the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, freshly taken out of bankruptcy, in a performance of the Dvorak Requiem at the amphitheater on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. It was the night of September 11, 2003, a commemoration of the murdered men and women exactly two years ago. On my way here, I had just stepped onto an El Al flight to Ben Gurion Airport when a friend called from London to tell me there had been a bombing outside Tel Aviv. When I landed, I picked up a newspaper: a second bombing, this one in Jerusalem. It was here that I read a column datelined Tel Aviv, published in "The New York Times" on September 11, 2003 in which Thomas Friedman observed, "Suicide bombing is becoming so routine here that it risks becoming embedded in contemporary culture." They may be commonplace for the monstrous organizations that plan and perpetrate them, but for Israelis every bomb feels almost like the first bomb. And, if suicide-bombing risks becoming embedded in contemporary culture, it is the culture of one people, not two. After September 11, 2001, Friedman was among those sane enough to grasp that U.S. policy toward Israel was not the decisive factor in Al Qaeda's war against the United States. But he now seems to think otherwise. "A credible peace deal here," he writes, "is no longer a U.S. luxury -- it is essential to our own homeland security. Otherwise, this suicide madness will spread, and it will be Americans who will have to learn to live with it." Would the United States -- it too, after all, is culturally strong -- ever respond to terrorism with new peace initiatives? When terrorism hits us, we instinctively understand that it cannot be bargained with, talked to, or appeased. Why, two years and countless suicide bombings after September 11, 2001, is it so hard to understand that Israelis feel the same way?


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