Jewish World Review July 14, 2005/ 7 Taamuz,
Terror through the dome
During the two hours on public transportation, I marveled at how
safe we felt. Mothers with carriages and strollers were easily accommodated,
and there were no security measures in sight. When our train ran six minutes
late, causing us to miss the bus at the designated junction, the driver
phoned ahead to arrange for the bus to stop for us farther up the road.
Later, as we sat in a cool reserve on a lake sheltered by leafy birches and
tall pines, sipping tea and nibbling a chocolate torte with our friends, we
remarked at how idyllic the world suddenly seemed.
Less than a week later, Islamist terrorists struck the London
underground and a double-decker bus, and my German friends were grimly
speculating whether they could be targets, too. When the magazine der
Spiegel asked Sir Peter Torry, the British ambassador in Berlin, whether
Germany could suffer a similar attack or whether London was a uniquely
"preferred target" because of its participation in the war in Iraq, he
offered no optimistic assessment: "I believe that we must expect everyone to
be a potential target."
The Germans, after all, have troops in Afghanistan, too, and are
training Iraqi security forces. But that's not what makes them a target for
terrorists. "We all champion the same values, and these are precisely the
values that the terrorists wish to destroy," the ambassador said. "They have
declared war on all of us: Germany, Great Britain, France, Spain. Freedom,
decency, democracy, all of these things are worthless for these people."
The Germans see their vulnerability through a series of
incidents. Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 terrorists, received an advanced
degree in urban planning at the Technical University in Hamburg. Six months
after 9/11, nine members of a Palestinian terrorist cell in Germany were
arrested for planning attacks on civilians. In January, German police
rounded up 20 men suspected of Islamic militancy. German officials foiled a
number of attacks over the last three years. Germany has banned certain
radical Islamic groups known to be active in England: Europeans call the
British capital "Londonistan."
Berliners, like the American standing in front of the British
embassy in Washington on the morning after, echo the sentiments of the mayor
of Paris: "We are all Londoners now." Almost no one here thinks the
terrorists are out to create a better world. In Die Welt, a conservative
Berlin paper, Roger Koppel expresses a common perception that Islamist
terrorists pursue total destruction to all "deniers of Allah's truths, who
are not fit to live." The Suddeutsche Zeitung, a liberal newspaper in
Munich, says the London attacks created an opportunity for the G-8 nations
to speak up, finally, in "a unified voice on anti-terror policy."
Germans admire the British stiff upper lip and the "cool" of
Britannia. They don't expect Britain to withdraw troops from Iraq, to fold
like a paper fan as the Spanish did when they were victims of a terrorist
attack in Madrid. They recall, with a certain rue, British toughness in the
"If you want to learn how the Prussian goose-step works, you
have to watch British TV, because in Germany nobody knows how to perform
it," Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, told a London audience
not long ago. He scolded them for an obsession with Hitler and the
Holocaust. Shortly after that, the German government brought 20 teachers of
history from Britain to let them see the changes up close.
The teachers admired the beautiful glass dome on the Reichstag,
designed by British architect Norman Foster, who describes his work as an
optimistic symbol for Germany's future: "As night falls and the glass bubble
of the cupola glows, the building becomes a beacon, signaling the strength
and vigor of the German democratic process." Goose-stepping Germans are
dead. Jihad is the new terror stalking the West with all the grim
determination of the Nazi menace before it.
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