Religious bigotry leads inevitably to violence

Care to go surfing on the Internet? If you do, you may come across the following interesting item: "The Terrorist's Handbook," followed by more than 50 pages on how to make bombs. It tells you what ingredients you need, where to buy them and how to put them together in order to achieve the end product, a terrorist bomb.

The product of a sick mind, you may say, and, of course you are quite right. The trouble is that there are at least 30 such sites on the Internet and, much more to the point, there are many sick minds out there in the world, planning and perpetrating terrorist acts.

Last week's bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which claimed more than 250 lives and injured nearly 5,000, remind us, all too graphically, that terrorism is one of the major scourges of the civilized world. It is a disease threatening the well-being of nations and societies. The shedding of innocent people's blood for the sake of a political objective, for a religious cause or for any reason whatsoever is a crime that epitomizes everything that is evil and demented.

In Israel, we are, quite naturally, focused on terrorist acts occurring in our own back yard, but violence for the sake of political causes, religion or nationalism, or because of bigoted beliefs, happens all the time.

In Algeria hundreds of villagers — old men, women, children, even babies — die horrible deaths; in Lahore, Pakistan, worshippers in a mosque are gunned down; in Rwanda refugees are massacred because they are of the wrong tribe; in Egypt religious fanatics kill in the name of a religion that teaches against killing; in Israel innocent people buying fruit and vegetables in their local market are blown to bits.

Terrorism has to be fought ruthlessly, without "ifs" and "buts," and the Palestinian Authority is making a terrible mistake by not understanding this basic rule. Indeed, when history judges Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian leadership, it will find that their present equivocations with regard to those who foster terrorist acts will have been no less damaging to the Palestinian cause than the mistaken policy they followed when they backed Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War.

Israel has been at the receiving end of more than its share of terrorist acts. Our intelligence and security services have, over the years, gained vast experience in dealing with terror organizations. This experience is now being put to use in a novel and commendable manner: an academic institute, called the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, has been established at the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Business, Law and Technology. The center, founded a few years ago by Professor Uriel Reichmann, is now flourishing in its campus in Herzliya.

The reasoning behind the establishment of the institute combines academic study with the experience Israel has gained in this field. One of the projects at the institute is an ambitious Internet site that may help counter all that pernicious pro-terrorist material now appearing there. It will contain the fullest documentation on terrorism ever to have been compiled, and the institute believes it will become a bible for organizations fighting terrorism all over the world. The site address is

Terrorism as a crime is in a class of its own. It has, however, some distant cousins that, in their own way, encourage terrorist acts. Racism, bigotry, hatred, the belief that whatever your own people do is right and whatever "the others" do is wrong all come under that category.

People who adulate or make shrines for those who have killed innocent people are not much better than the terrorist who pulls the trigger or throws the bomb. The mass demonstrations in memory of the "Engineer" in Gaza, and the shrine for Baruch Goldstein in Kiryat Arba both must be considered abhorrent by every decent human being, whether Arab or Jew.

Racism or religious bigotry inevitably lead to confrontation, violence and terrorism and, as such, must be fought with all the means at the disposal of a civilized society.

The problem lies principally in the societies surrounding us. It is no accident that much of the violence occurring in the world today — in Algeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon — is taking place in countries in which Muslim fundamentalist fanaticism is the prime cause. Compared to them, Israel is a haven of peace and quiet.

Yet we have our own "distant cousins." With the oncoming opening of the new school year, now is a good time for our Ministry of Education to show that it knows its priorities: High on its list must be education against racism and bigotry, two evils that must be eradicated from our society.