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Speech by Haim Harari on War on Terror

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HAIM HARARI, a theoretical physicist, is the Chair, Davidson Institute of
Science Education, and Former President, from 1988 to 2001, of the Weizmann
Institute of Science. During his years as President of the Institute, the
Institute entered numerous new scientific fields and projects, built 47 new
buildings, raised one Billion Dollars in philanthropic money, hired more
than half of its current tenured Professors and became one of the highest
royalty-earning academic organizations in the world.

Throughout all his adult life, Harari has made major contributions to
three different fields: Particle Physics Research on the international
scene, Science Education in the Israeli school system and Science
Administration and Policy Making.

A View from the Eye of the Storm

Talk delivered by Haim Harari at a meeting of the International Advisory
Board of a large multi-national corporation, April, 2004.

As you know, I usually provide the scientific and technological
\"entertainment\" in our meetings, but, on this occasion, our Chairman
suggested that I present my own personal view on events in the part of the
world from which I come. I have never been and I will never be a Government
official and I have no privileged information. My perspective is entirely
based on what I see, on what I read and on the fact that my family has
lived in this region for almost 200 years. You may regard my views as those
of the proverbial taxi driver, which you are supposed to question, when you
visit a country.

I could have shared with you some fascinating facts and some personal
thoughts about the Israeli-Arab conflict. However, I will touch upon it
only in passing. I prefer to devote most of my remarks to the broader
picture of the region and its place in world events. I refer to the entire
area between Pakistan and Morocco, which is predominantly Arab,
predominantly Moslem, but includes many non-Arab and also significant
non-Moslem minorities.

Why do I put aside Israel and its own immediate neighborhood? Because
Israel and any problems related to it, in spite of what you might read or
hear in the world media, is not the central issue, and has never been the
central issue in the upheaval in the region. Yes, there is a 100 year-old
Israeli-Arab conflict, but it is not where the main show is. The millions
who died in the Iran-Iraq war had nothing to do with Israel. The mass
murder happening right now in Sudan, where the Arab Moslem regime is
massacring its black Christian citizens, has nothing to do with Israel. The
frequent reports from Algeria about the murders of hundreds of civilian in
one village or another by other Algerians have nothing to do with Israel.
Saddam Hussein did not invade Kuwait, endangered Saudi Arabia and butchered
his own people because of Israel. Egypt did not use poison gas against
Yemen in the 60\'s because of Israel. Assad the Father did not kill tens of
thousands of his own citizens in one week in El Hamma in Syria because of
Israel. The Taliban control of Afghanistan and the civil war there had
nothing to do with Israel. The Libyan blowing up of the Pan-Am flight had
nothing to do with Israel, and I could go on and on and on.

The root of the trouble is that this entire Moslem region is totally
dysfunctional, by any standard of the word, and would have been so even if
Israel would have joined the Arab league and an independent Palestine would
have existed for 100 years. The 22 member countries of the Arab league,
from Mauritania to the Gulf States, have a total population of 300
millions, larger than the US and almost as large as the EU before its
expansion. They have a land area larger than either the US or all of
Europe. These 22 countries, with all their oil and natural resources, have
a combined GDP smaller than that of Netherlands plus Belgium and equal to
half of the GDP of California alone. Within this meager GDP, the gaps between rich and
poor are beyond belief and too many of the rich made their money not by
succeeding in business, but by being corrupt rulers. The social status of
women is far below what it was in the Western World 150 years ago. Human
rights are below any reasonable standard, in spite of the grotesque fact
that Libya was elected Chair of the UN Human Rights commission. According
to a report prepared by a committee of Arab intellectuals and published
under the auspices of the U.N., the number of books translated by the
entire Arab world is much smaller than what little Greece alone translates.
The total number of scientific publications of 300 million Arabs is less
than that of 6 million Israelis. Birth rates in the region are very high,
increasing the poverty, the social gaps and the cultural decline. And all
of this is happening in a region, which only 30 years ago, was believed to
be the next wealthy part of the world, and in a Moslem area, which
developed, at some point in history, one of the most advanced cultures in
the world.

It is fair to say that this creates an unprecedented breeding ground for
cruel dictators, terror networks, fanaticism, incitement, suicide murders
and general decline. It is also a fact that almost everybody in the region
blames this situation on the United States, on Israel, on Western
Civilization, on Judaism and Christianity, on anyone and anything, except

Do I say all of this with the satisfaction of someone discussing the
failings of his enemies? On the contrary, I firmly believe that the world
would have been a much better place and my own neighborhood would have been
much more pleasant and peaceful, if things were different.

I should also say a word about the millions of decent, honest, good
people who are either devout Moslems or are not very religious but grew up
in Moslem families. They are double victims of an outside world, which now
develops Islamophobia and of their own environment, which breaks their
heart by being totally dysfunctional. The problem is that the vast silent
majority of these Moslems are not part of the terror and of the incitement
but they also do not stand up against it. They become accomplices, by
omission, and this applies to political leaders, intellectuals, business
people and many others. Many of them can certainly tell right from wrong,
but are afraid to express their views.

The events of the last few years have amplified four issues, which have
always existed, but have never been as rampant as in the present upheaval
in the region. These are the four main pillars of the current World
Conflict, or perhaps we should already refer to it as \"the undeclared World
War III\". I have no better name for the present situation. A few more years
may pass before everybody acknowledges that it is a World War, but we are
already well into it.

The first element is the suicide murder. Suicide murders are not a new
invention but they have been made popular, if I may use this expression,
only lately. Even after September 11, it seems that most of the Western
World does not yet understand this weapon. It is a very potent
psychological weapon. Its real direct impact is relatively minor. The total
number of casualties from hundreds of suicide murders within Israel in the
last three years is much smaller than those due to car accidents. September
11 was quantitatively much less lethal than many earthquakes. More people
die from AIDS in one day in Africa than all the Russians who died in the
hands of Chechnya-based Moslem suicide murderers since that conflict
started. Saddam killed every month more people than all those who died from
suicide murders since the Coalition occupation of Iraq.

So what is all the fuss about suicide killings? It creates headlines. It
is spectacular. It is frightening. It is a very cruel death with bodies
dismembered and horrible severe lifelong injuries to many of the wounded.
It is always shown on television in great detail. One such murder, with the
help of hysterical media coverage, can destroy the tourism industry of a
country for quite a while, as it did in Bali and in Turkey.

But the real fear comes from the undisputed fact that no defense and no
preventive measures can succeed against a determined suicide murderer. This
has not yet penetrated the thinking of the Western World. The U.S. and
Europe are constantly improving their defense against the last murder, not
the next one. We may arrange for the best airport security in the world.
But if you want to murder by suicide, you do not have to board a plane in
order to explode yourself and kill many people. Who could stop a suicide
murder in the midst of the crowded line waiting to be checked by the
airport metal detector? How about the lines to the check-in counters in a
busy travel period? Put a metal detector in front of every train station in
Spain and the terrorists will get the buses. Protect the buses and they
will explode in movie theaters, concert halls, supermarkets, shopping
malls, schools and hospitals. Put guards in front of every concert hall and
there will always be a line of people to be checked by the guards and this
line will be the target, not to speak of killing the guards themselves. You
can somewhat reduce your vulnerability by preventive and defensive measures
and by strict border controls but not eliminate it and definitely not win
the war in a defensive way. And it is a war!

What is behind the suicide murders? Money, power and cold-blooded
murderous incitement, nothing else. It has nothing to do with true fanatic
religious beliefs. No Moslem preacher has ever blown himself up. No son of
an Arab politician or religious leader has ever blown himself. No relative
of anyone influential has done it. Wouldn\'t you expect some of the
religious leaders to do it themselves, or to talk their sons into doing it,
if this is truly a supreme act of religious fervor? Aren\'t they interested
in the benefits of going to Heaven? Instead, they send outcast women, naïve
children, retarded people and young incited hotheads. They promise them the
delights, mostly sexual, of the next world, and pay their families
handsomely after the supreme act is performed and enough innocent people
are dead.

Suicide murders also have nothing to do with poverty and despair. The
poorest region in the world, by far, is Africa. It never happens there.
There are numerous desperate people in the world, in different cultures,
countries and continents. Desperation does not provide anyone with
explosives, reconnaissance and transportation. There was certainly more
despair in Saddam\'s Iraq then in Paul Bremmer\'s Iraq, and no one exploded
himself. A suicide murder is simply a horrible, vicious weapon of cruel,
inhuman, cynical, well-funded terrorists, with no regard to human life,
including the life of their fellow countrymen, but with very high regard to
their own affluent well-being and their hunger for power.

The only way to fight this new \"popular\" weapon is identical to the only
way in which you fight organized crime or pirates on the high seas: the
offensive way. Like in the case of organized crime, it is crucial that the
forces on the offensive be united and it is crucial to reach the top of the
crime pyramid. You cannot eliminate organized crime by arresting the little
drug dealer in the street corner. You must go after the head of the

If part of the public supports it, others tolerate it, many are afraid of
it and some try to explain it away by poverty or by a miserable childhood,
organized crime will thrive and so will terrorism. The United States
understands this now, after September 11. Russia is beginning to understand
it. Turkey understands it well. I am very much afraid that most of Europe
still does not understand it. Unfortunately, it seems that Europe will
understand it only after suicide murders will arrive in Europe in a big
way. In my humble opinion, this will definitely happen. The Spanish trains
and the Istanbul bombings are only the beginning. The unity of the
Civilized World in fighting this horror is absolutely indispensable. Until
Europe wakes up, this unity will not be achieved.

The second ingredient is words, more precisely lies. Words can be lethal.
They kill people. It is often said that politicians, diplomats and perhaps
also lawyers and business people must sometimes lie, as part of their
professional life. But the norms of politics and diplomacy are childish, in
comparison with the level of incitement and total absolute deliberate
fabrications, which have reached new heights in the region we are talking
about. An incredible number of people in the Arab world believe that
September 11 never happened, or was an American provocation or, even
better, a Jewish plot.

You all remember the Iraqi Minister of Information, Mr. Mouhamad Said
al-Sahaf and his press conferences when the US forces were already inside
Baghdad. Disinformation at time of war is an accepted tactic. But to stand,
day after day, and to make such preposterous statements, known to everybody
to be lies, without even being ridiculed in your own milieu, can only
happen in this region. Mr. Sahaf eventually became a popular icon as a
court jester, but this did not stop some allegedly respectable newspapers
from giving him equal time. It also does not prevent the Western press from
giving credence, every day, even now, to similar liars. After all, if you
want to be an anti-Semite, there are subtle ways of doing it. You do not
have to claim that the holocaust never happened and that the Jewish temple
in Jerusalem never existed. But millions of Moslems are told by their
leaders that this is the case. When these same leaders make other
statements, the Western media report them as if they could be true.

It is a daily occurrence that the same people, who finance, arm and
dispatch suicide murderers, condemn the act in English in front of western
TV cameras, talking to a world audience, which even partly believes them.
It is a daily routine to hear the same leader making opposite statements in
Arabic to his people and in English to the rest of the world. Incitement by
Arab TV, accompanied by horror pictures of mutilated bodies, has become a
powerful weapon of those who lie, distort and want to destroy everything.
Little children are raised on deep hatred and on admiration of so-called
martyrs, and the Western World does not notice it because its own TV sets
are mostly tuned to soap operas and game shows. I recommend to you, even
though most of you do not understand Arabic, to watch Al Jazeera, from time
to time. You will not believe your own eyes.

But words also work in other ways, more subtle. A demonstration in
Berlin, carrying banners supporting Saddam\'s regime and featuring
three-year old babies dressed as suicide murderers, is defined by the press
and by political leaders as a \"peace demonstration\". You may support or
oppose the Iraq war, but to refer to fans of Saddam, Arafat or Bin Laden as
peace activists is a bit too much. A woman walks into an Israeli restaurant
in mid-day, eats, observes families with old people and children eating
their lunch in the adjacent tables and pays the bill. She then blows
herself up, killing 20 people, including many children, with heads and arms
rolling around in the restaurant. She is called \"martyr\" by several Arab
leaders and \"activist\" by the European press. Dignitaries condemn the act
but visit her bereaved family and the money flows.

There is a new game in town: The actual murderer is called \"the military
wing\", the one who pays him, equips him and sends him is now called \"the
political wing\" and the head of the operation is called the \"spiritual
leader\". There are numerous other examples of such Orwellian nomenclature,
used every day not only by terror chiefs but also by Western media. These
words are much more dangerous than many people realize. They provide an
emotional infrastructure for atrocities. It was Joseph Goebels who said
that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. He is now
being outperformed by his successors.

The third aspect is money. Huge amounts of money, which could have solved
many social problems in this dysfunctional part of the world, are channeled
into three concentric spheres supporting death and murder. In the inner
circle are the terrorists themselves. The money funds their travel,
explosives, hideouts and permanent search for soft vulnerable targets. They
are surrounded by a second wider circle of direct supporters, planners,
commanders, preachers, all of whom make a living, usually a very
comfortable living, by serving as terror infrastructure. Finally, we find
the third circle of so-called religious, educational and welfare
organizations, which actually do some good, feed the hungry and provide
some schooling, but brainwash a new generation with hatred, lies and
ignorance. This circle operates mostly through mosques, madrasas and other
religious establishments but also through inciting electronic and printed
media. It is this circle that makes sure that women remain inferior, that
democracy is unthinkable and that exposure to the outside world is minimal.
It is also that circle that leads the way in blaming everybody outside the
Moslem world, for the miseries of the region.

Figuratively speaking, this outer circle is the guardian, which makes
sure that the people look and listen inwards to the inner circle of terror
and incitement, rather than to the world outside. Some parts of this same
outer circle actually operate as a result of fear from, or blackmail by,
the inner circles. The horrifying added factor is the high birth rate. Half
of the population of the Arab world is under the age of 20, the most
receptive age to incitement, guaranteeing two more generations of blind

Of the three circles described above, the inner circles are primarily
financed by terrorist states like Iran and Syria, until recently also by
Iraq and Libya and earlier also by some of the Communist regimes. These
states, as well as the Palestinian Authority, are the safe havens of the
wholesale murder vendors. The outer circle is largely financed by Saudi
Arabia, but also by donations from certain Moslem communities in the United
States and Europe and, to a smaller extent, by donations of European
Governments to various NGO\'s and by certain United Nations organizations,
whose goals may be noble, but they are infested and exploited by agents of
the outer circle. The Saudi regime, of course, will be the next victim of
major terror, when the inner circle will explode into the outer circle. The
Saudis are beginning to understand it, but they fight the inner circles,
while still financing the infrastructure at the outer circle.?

Some of the leaders of these various circles live very comfortably on
their loot. You meet their children in the best private schools in Europe,
not in the training camps of suicide murderers. The Jihad \"soldiers\" join
packaged death tours to Iraq and other hotspots, while some of their
leaders ski in Switzerland. Mrs. Arafat, who lives in Paris with her
daughter, receives tens of thousands Dollars per month from the allegedly
bankrupt Palestinian Authority while a typical local ringleader of the
Al-Aksa brigade, reporting to Arafat, receives only a cash payment of a
couple of hundred dollars, for performing murders at the retail level?

The fourth element of the current world conflict is the total breaking of
all laws. The civilized world believes in democracy, the rule of law,
including international law, human rights, free speech and free press,
among other liberties. There are naïve old-fashioned habits such as
respecting religious sites and symbols, not using ambulances and hospitals
for acts of war, avoiding the mutilation of dead bodies and not using
children as human shields or human bombs. Never in history, not even in the
Nazi period, was there such total disregard of all of the above as we
observe now. Every student of political science debates how you prevent an
anti-democratic force from winning a democratic election and abolishing
democracy. Other aspects of a civilized society must also have limitations.
Can a policeman open fire on someone trying to kill him? Can a government
listen to phone conversations of terrorists and drug dealers? Does free
speech protects you when you shout \"fire\" in a crowded theater? Should
there be death penalty, for deliberate multiple murders? These are the
old-fashioned dilemmas. But now we have an entire new set.

Do you raid a mosque, which serves as a terrorist ammunition storage? Do
you return fire, if you are attacked from a hospital? Do you storm a church
taken over by terrorists who took the priests hostages? Do you search every
ambulance after a few suicide murderers use ambulances to reach their
targets? Do you strip every woman because one pretended to be pregnant and
carried a suicide bomb on her belly? Do you shoot back at someone trying to
kill you, standing deliberately behind a group of children? Do you raid
terrorist headquarters, hidden in a mental hospital? Do you shoot an
arch-murderer who deliberately moves from one location to another, always
surrounded by children? All of these happen daily in Iraq and in the
Palestinian areas. What do you do? Well, you do not want to face the
dilemma. But it cannot be avoided.

Suppose, for the sake of discussion, that someone would openly stay in a
well-known address in Teheran, hosted by the Iranian Government and
financed by it, executing one atrocity after another in Spain or in France,
killing hundreds of innocent people, accepting responsibility for the
crimes, promising in public TV interviews to do more of the same, while the
Government of Iran issues public condemnations of his acts but continues to
host him, invite him to official functions and treat him as a great
dignitary. I leave it to you as homework to figure out what Spain or France
would have done, in such a situation.

The problem is that the civilized world is still having illusions about
the rule of law in a totally lawless environment. It is trying to play ice
hockey by sending a ballerina ice-skater into the rink or to knock out a
heavyweight boxer by a chess player. In the same way that no country has a
law against cannibals eating its prime minister, because such an act is
unthinkable, international law does not address killers shooting from
hospitals, mosques and ambulances, while being protected by their
Government or society. International law does not know how to handle
someone who sends children to throw stones, stands behind them and shoots
with immunity and cannot be arrested because he is sheltered by a
Government. International law does not know how to deal with a leader of
murderers who is royally and comfortably hosted by a country, which
pretends to condemn his acts or just claims to be too weak to arrest him.
The amazing thing is that all of these crooks demand protection under
international law and define all those who attack them as war criminals,
with some Western media repeating the allegations. The good news is that
all of this is temporary, because the evolution of international law has
always adapted itself to reality. The punishment for suicide murder should
be death or arrest before the murder, not during and not after. After every
world war, the rules of international law have changed and the same will
happen after the present one. But during the twilight zone, a lot of harm
can be done.

The picture I described here is not pretty. What can we do about it? In
the short run, only fight and win. In the long run? only educate the next
generation and open it to the world. The inner circles can and must be
destroyed by force. The outer circle cannot be eliminated by force. Here we
need financial starvation of the organizing elite, more power to women,
more education, counter propaganda, boycott whenever feasible and access to
Western media, internet and the international scene. Above all, we need a
total absolute unity and determination of the civilized world against all
three circles of evil.

Allow me, for a moment, to depart from my alleged role as a taxi driver
and return to science. When you have a malignant tumor, you may remove the
tumor itself surgically. You may also starve it by preventing new blood
from reaching it from other parts of the body, thereby preventing new
\"supplies\" from expanding the tumor. If you want to be sure, it is best to
do both.

But before you fight and win, by force or otherwise, you have to realize
that you are in a war, and this may take Europe a few more years. In order
to win, it is necessary to first eliminate the terrorist regimes, so that
no Government in the world will serve as a safe haven for these people. I
do not want to comment here on whether the American-led attack on Iraq was
justified from the point of view of weapons of mass destruction or any
other pre-war argument, but I can look at the post-war map of Western Asia.
Now that Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are out, two and a half terrorist
states remain: Iran, Syria and Lebanon, the latter being a Syrian colony.
Perhaps Sudan should be added to the list. As a result of the conquest of
Afghanistan and Iraq, both Iran and Syria are now totally surrounded by
territories unfriendly to them. Iran is encircled by Afghanistan, by the
Gulf States, Iraq and the Moslem republics of the former Soviet Union.
Syria is surrounded by Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Israel. This is a
significant strategic change and it applies strong pressure on the
terrorist countries. It is not surprising that Iran is so active in trying
to incite a Shiite uprising in Iraq. I do not know if the American plan was
actually to encircle both Iran and Syria, but that is the resulting

In my humble opinion, the number one danger to the world today is Iran
and its regime. It definitely has ambitions to rule vast areas and to
expand in all directions. It has an ideology, which claims supremacy over
Western culture. It is ruthless. It has proven that it can execute
elaborate terrorist acts without leaving too many traces, using Iranian
Embassies. It is clearly trying to develop Nuclear Weapons. Its so-called
moderates and conservatives play their own virtuoso version of the
\"good-cop versus bad-cop\" game. Iran sponsors Syrian terrorism, it is
certainly behind much of the action in Iraq, it is fully funding the
Hizbullah and, through it, the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad, it
performed acts of terror at least in Europe and in South America and
probably also in Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia and it truly leads a
multi-national terror consortium, which includes, as minor players, Syria,
Lebanon and certain Shiite elements in Iraq. Nevertheless, most European
countries still trade with Iran, try to appease it and refuse to read the
clear signals.

In order to win the war it is also necessary to dry the financial
resources of the terror conglomerate. It is pointless to try to understand
the subtle differences between the Sunni terror of Al Qaida and Hamas and
the Shiite terror of Hizbullah, Sadr and other Iranian inspired
enterprises. When it serves their business needs, all of them collaborate

It is crucial to stop Saudi and other financial support of the outer
circle, which is the fertile breeding ground of terror. It is important to
monitor all donations from the Western World to Islamic organizations, to
monitor the finances of international relief organizations and to react
with forceful economic measures to any small sign of financial aid to any
of the three circles of terrorism. It is also important to act decisively
against the campaign of lies and fabrications and to monitor those Western
media who collaborate with it out of naivety, financial interests or

Above all, never surrender to terror. No one will ever know whether the
recent elections in Spain would have yielded a different result, if not for
the train bombings a few days earlier. But it really does not matter. What
matters is that the terrorists believe that they caused the result and that
they won by driving Spain out of Iraq. The Spanish story will surely end up
being extremely costly to other European countries, including France, who
is now expelling inciting preachers and forbidding veils and including
others who sent troops to Iraq. In the long run, Spain itself will pay even

Is the solution a democratic Arab world? If by democracy we mean free
elections but also free press, free speech, a functioning judicial system,
civil liberties, equality to women, free international travel, exposure to
international media and ideas, laws against racial incitement and against
defamation, and avoidance of lawless behavior regarding hospitals, places
of worship and children, then yes, democracy is the solution. If democracy
is just free elections, it is likely that the most fanatic regime will be
elected, the one whose incitement and fabrications are the most
inflammatory. We have seen it already in Algeria and, to a certain extent,
in Turkey. It will happen again, if the ground is not prepared very
carefully. On the other hand, a certain transition democracy, as in Jordan,
may be a better temporary solution, paving the way for the real thing,
perhaps in the same way that an immediate sudden democracy did not work in
Russia and would not have worked in China.

I have no doubt that the civilized world will prevail. But the longer it
takes us to understand the new landscape of this war, the more costly and
painful the victory will be. Europe, more than any other region, is the
key. Its understandable recoil from wars, following the horrors of World
War II, may cost thousands of additional innocent lives, before the tide
will turn.