Brandeis and Terrorism

Terror affects different places different ways. When someone bombs the US, speculation immediately turns to a few key groups. Who hates American and has the resources to plan and carry out a very well-coordinated attack? We jump quickly to a few: bin Laden, Palestinian militants, other extremist Arab factions, and, of course, Iraq or Iran. The trend is obvious: people who are mad at the US for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is US support of Israel. I’m at Brandeis, the largest Jewish-sponsored University in America. That could make one a little nervous.

We have campus security on patrol, FBI and State Dept. contact, etc., etc. We are actually not that worried – we are not a high-profile enough target. However, we have found out today that it is extremely likely that this attack, like the previous World Trade Center bombing, was planned and coordinated from Newton, MA, the next town over from Waltham. I am sitting 6 miles from where the New York and Pentagon attacks may have been planned. Wow.

On campus reaction is mixed – the pacifist groups urge peace and suggest that no retaliation is in anyone’s interests. Some opinionated people, both Jews and gentiles, call for a full-scale attack on Afghanistan. Many urge calm and believe that, while some military retaliation is necessary, we should not be too hasty.

Basically, people at Brandeis are acting like people everywhere else. So far there have been no incidents to my knowledge of altercations between Palestinian or Arab students and any other groups, and so far everyone has been very supportive and understanding. Most classes have been dedicated to discussing this topic, and interfaith prayer meetings have been held.

This tragedy is terrible, we all know that. There is little I can say that has not already been said. I am still formulating my opinions about a response. I can’t wait to hear what my favorite political historian, Howard Zinn, has to say about this. He may shed some interesting light on the subject from an angle that many of us have not explored, namely the question of what the definition of terrorism is and who is really responsible for it. Time will tell who did this, and what will happen, and if this is a great time for American unity or the strongest signal of the inpending collapse of a once great nation. Will we take the right steps? Or will we alienate more of the world? Will our “war on terrorism” save lives or take more, and how will the world react? I don’t know the answers to these questions, and I hope, for the good of all mankind, that peace is somehow returned to our great land.