For years now people have been calling terrorism a cancer. As Itamar Rabinovich, the president of Tel Aviv University and former Israeli diplomat, put it, “You either cut it out or it eats you up.”
Right now, this is certainly Israel’s approach to Hezbollah. Either we cut it out or it will kill us.
I am sympathetic to this line of reasoning. Islamic extremism is the greatest threat to humanity today. As Dan Gillerman, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, eloquently noted in one of his many defenses of Israel at the U.N. this past week, when Israel kills innocent children it begs for forgiveness. When Hezbollah kills innocent children, they dance in the street with joy.
That said, I think Israel might not have its medical terminology or for that matter its political strategy fully worked out. Instead of cancer, a more apt metaphor to understand the sickness of Islamic terrorism is AIDS.
Like AIDS, terrorism emerged in force in the 1980’s and has continued to plague humanity ever since. At this point, there is no cure for AIDS. We have been unable to figure out how to permanently put an end to it. We don’t know whether or not it will take a vaccine, a piggy-back virus etc…. Simply put, we have no idea how to cut it at its roots. What we do know, however, is that if you try to fully destroy it with the available medications, we would end up killing the patient.
The trick to AIDS is that until we find that ultimate solution we have to learn how to live with it, how to neutralize it, how to protect ourselves from it and control it once someone has contracted it. It’s sad, but we have learned how to live with AIDS. We have internalized the fact that if we tried to annihilate it by pumping one’s body full of more medicines, it would only backfire.
Our ultimate goal must be to eradicate terrorism, but as of now, it looks like the sooner we learn how to manage it, the better off we will be. I am saying this not because I am a pessimist but because this is the sad situation at hand. Of course, our long-term goal should be its eradication, and when that opportunity presents itself, Israel and America should act swiftly and powerfully using all their might to rid the world of this awful disease. Until then, we need to figure how to devise the kind of “cocktail” that will allow us to continue to live as good a life as we can under these difficult and trying circumstances.