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Behind the Mumbai Attacks

November 18th, 2009 at 9:00 am | 1 Comment |

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Fareed Zakaria’s GPS program on CNN this weekend had a chilling segment, drugstore with excerpts from a new film Terror in Mumbai, which will premier in the U.S. on HBO this Thursday and on Britain’s “More 4” Channel November 25th, on the eve of the first anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks.  The documentary film presents a moment-by-moment account of the horrific attacks through interviews with survivors and Indian police officials, archival news coverage, and extensive surveillance footage of the terrorists in action.

The ten young Pakistani terrorists responsible for the Mumbai attacks were members of Lakshar-e-Taiba, or the “Army of the Righteous”, which ostensibly aims to “liberate” Muslims living under Indian rule in Kashmir. Their targets — which included the city’s main railroad station, a popular café, two major hotels, and Nariman House a Jewish center operated by the Chabad Lubavitch movement, which provides kosher food and prayer services for Jews passing through the city – were carefully selected. Over the next 60 hours they would hold the city hostage, murdering at least 170 people and leaving another 300 injured. Zakaria showed some of the documentary’s most disturbing footage on GPS. Indian intelligence was able to intercept calls between the terrorist’s cell phones and their handlers in Pakistan. The viewers learn that as their handlers watched events unfold on live television, they directed the terrorists, telling them where the security forces were, and ordering which hostages were to be killed. We also know from the intercepts that the terrorists were all supposed to either commit suicide, or allow themselves to be killed by the authorities. All but one of the terrorists died.

But perhaps the most heart-wrenching, and politically significant, are the tapes of the telephone calls between the terrorists that seized Nariman House and their Pakistani superiors. For the purpose of background it is important to realize that Jews make up a microscopic fraction of Mumbai’s population. There are five thousand Jews in a city of twelve million people. That means the terrorists couldn’t have stumbled on the Chabad headquarters. They had to have been planning to capture it from the outset. Indeed, on Monday the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that an American of Pakistani origin, David Coleman Headly, had been arrested in Chicago for staking out in advance the Chabad headquarters and all of the targets of the attacks. At Nariman House he had posed as a Jew. The tapes that Zakaria played indicate that the original plans did not call for the murder of the six people inside the House. They were to be held as hostages to be traded later for concessions from the Indian authorities. Yet, at some point, the terrorists’ handler in Pakistan decided that Rabbi Gavriel Holzberg and his wife Rivka, who ran Nariman House, along with everyone who was there was to be killed. Viewers of the film hear the handler insist that he stay on the line while the murders were committed in order to ensure that the perpetrators carried out the acts. Six people died at the Chabad Headquarters. Only the Holzberg’s baby, who was hidden from the terrorists by the family maid, survived.

In what has become an infamous article, in which he was critical of Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and its refusal to dismantle Jewish settlements, Tony Judt, a Jew of British origin who is a professor at New York University, wrote, “non-Israeli Jews feel themselves exposed to criticism and vulnerable to attack for things they didn’t do. But this time it is a Jewish state, not a Christian one, which is holding them hostage for its own actions. The depressing truth is that Israel is bad for the Jews.” Someone with much closer ties to the Jewish establishment than Judt, Eric Yoffe , President of the Union for Reform Judaism, made essentially the same point in a speech last month. “Too many American Jewish groups have their heads in the sand [with regards to the issue of settlements]. They talk to each other or to themselves, but not to their own children on campus.” Anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activism is rampant on American college campuses. Yoffe clearly implied that these activists are right. Earlier this month, Denis MacShane, a British Labor MP wrote in Canada’s National Post, “Many European countries are reporting spikes in anti-Semitic incidents in which Jewish cemeteries and synagogues are defaced, Jewish students are threatened on their way to school, Rabbis and Chassidic Jews are being attacked physically.” Last month the Institute for Jewish & Community Research released The Uncivil University: Revised Edition. Author Aryeh Weinberg, a Research Associate with the Institute, wrote that Arab-propagandists continue to target universities, and the intimidation of Jewish students and faculty goes unaddressed. He says, “Jewish and other students remain embattled and the university remains incapable of responding.” If Israel’s policies make all of this understandable, if not justifiable, as both Judt and Yoffe strongly suggested, then what could be wrong with the Mumbai attacks?

It is less warped to regard Muslim hostility toward Israel and Jews as the cause rather than the consequence of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. The Mumbai attacks add to the mountain of evidence of Islamic hatred of not only the Jewish state but also of democracies like India. Until the Islamic world abandons these hatreds, true reconciliation with Israel and other democracies is impossible.

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