Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Terrorism, Iran and Palestine
HIRAYAMA Kentaro / Professor of Hakuoh University

October 7, 2001
I learned of the simultaneous terrorist attack on the United States in Milan, on my way back from Israel/Palestine, still gripped in a continuing conflict. As American television broadcasts repeated the phrase "Pearl Harbor," "Kamikaze, Kamikaze" reverberated in the French and other European media. Then after returning to Japan, I watched a recorded interview in which Osama bin Laden was denouncing mass murder inflicted by the United States, pointing to "Nagasaki" as an example. Along with a sense of disconnection, I felt a heavy gloom descend upon me.

The phrase Islamic "fundamentalism" first appeared in the international media at the time of the Islamic revolution in Iran. It was a news terminology coined by the American media because Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's stern countenance, together with his words and deeds, were reminiscent of the "Christian fundamentalism" of the early 20th century. During the 1980s that followed, Iran or the Shi'ites, was considered the "epicenter" of "Islamic fundamentalism," which had become closely intertwined with the image of violent anti-American terrorist incidents such as that of bomb-laden trucks charging into French and U.S. military installations in Beirut. During that same period, Mr. bin Laden was fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan, in cooperation with the Saudi Arabian government and the United States - namely the CIA.

Times have changed. International terrorism originating with Iran or Shi'ite organizations have all but disappeared from the news headlines. Iran was quick to condemn the latest simultaneous terrorist attack on the United States, with the mayor of Tehran going so far as to send condolences to the Mayor of New York. The open-door policy of the government of President Seyed Mohammad Khatami and Iran's regional strategy of backing the anti-Taliban forces in the Afghan civil war no doubt provided the backdrop for this reaction. However, we can hardly ignore the more important factor leading to this change, that as the war with Iraq - which had been supported by the United States and European countries - ended and Israeli troops withdrew from Lebanon, Iran's motives for anti-U.S. terrorist action dissipated, or at the least became diluted.

No "claim of responsibility" has been issued by the bin Laden group in the aftermath of the latest terrorist incident in the United States. However, it is evident that behind this disturbing silence lies discontent both broad and specific, that had been nursed by the Arab/Islamic world against the United States. Until the latest incident, daily media coverage had been dominated by the clashes in Palestine. The images were that of relentless military revenge delivered by the Israeli army against a continuous wave of suicide bombings by the Palestinian side. Palestinians and the Arab/Islamic world was deeply disappointed by the laissez-faire policy adopted by the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush. This was in stark contrast with the previous administration of President Bill Clinton, which had demonstrated during its peace arbitrations an understanding for the long-held aspirations of the Palestinians including the creation of an independent and viable Palestine and the recovery or sharing of the Holy City.

The latest terrorist incident has prompted Chairman Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian leadership to contain the conflict, and a meeting with Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres has finally taken place. President Bush meanwhile has now promised to make an effort towards achieving peace in the Middle East, but he will be judged on whether he can demonstrate leadership with vision and not limit himself to obtaining support from the Arab nations in his latest effort at crisis management. Rooting our terrorism will be difficult. However, diminishing its motives does yield results, as has been demonstrated already by Iran's case.

The author is Professor of Hakuoh University and former NHK Commentator.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

平山健太郎 / 白鴎大学教授

2001年 10月 7日





一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟