Do I walk around freely at night without curfew during war? Do I take long weekends in nature? Do I hop between cities from a great job to easy relaxation and freedom of press, dress and pastime? Do I fear rockets and missiles and bombs and guns? Do I see soldiers walking around en masse, tanks rolling in the streets? Are these my soldiers? Are these my tanks? Is it seige or celebration? Trench warfare or terror?
Israel and the western world are fighting a war on terror, an oxymoronic term distinguished into separate concepts only by nuance. In both cases, destruction is the goal, humans are the target. In a country with mandatory conscription, the line between civilian and soldier is fine. When is it terror? When is it war?
I live in the center of this conflict, but my experience of war is through media alone. In the West Bank and Gaza, militants take the steets shooting guns in the air, their infrastructure is the crumbled product of weak effort and occupation, their youth are the brainwashed victims of ultimate pessimism, fundamentalism and constant violence. Foreign soldiers roam the streets, invading homes, destroying buildings, attacking from air, sea and land. The thousands killed comprise both militants and innocents. Theirs is a war zone.
Mine is the target of terror. Terror is innocuous war. Civilians are at risk in both but it is the method of fear-mongering that differentiates combat from terror. I can leave my house whenever I want and never have to worry about losing my home, but I know that each day I am the likely target of destruction. I know I could be blown up on a bus. I know a rocket could hit Tel Aviv. I know Israel is the front-lines of any battle between the Middle East and the U.S. But I live otherwise freely with only the threat of terror. Meanwhile, thousands more in my half of the war zone are maimed, dead or traumatized. Nobody has won.
The difference between terrorism and the Cold War is that terrorism has proved its possibilities. Terrorism is the natural heir to the Cold War. It is the new war game. There is a world war happening right now and nobody has stepped forward to declare it. The allies have reconvened against the axis of evil. They are fighting to prove that traditional warfare will surpass this new debauchery. On one side, it is the same cast of characters: Britain, France, United States and a new German republic. On the other side, Arabia has been reincarnated into a fundamentalist military and economic power. Islamic fundamentalism has replaced the crusades. The wars go on, now indistinguishable and unprecedently long.
Terror is war which cannot be declared, because it relies on surprise tactics and ambush. Terrorists don't declare invasion - they strike when nobody is looking. By declaring a war on terror on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has set out to prove that only a war which is declared can be won. By sending combat soldiers into Palestinian towns and invading with air strikes to crack down on security, Israel is firmly sustaining its tradition of war, of triumphing through military and intelligence. But by refusing to admit its nuclear capabilities and singling out Israel in case of U.S. attack, Iran has set out to prove that cold war is superior - that terror is the best way to prove a point. Iraqi rebels and Palestinian militants are doing the same. It is the guerillas against the soldiers.
But traditional war has lost its efficacy and its glamor, and the guerilla turn from armed ambush to suicide bombings is a promised defeat. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still rage, soldiers are still killed in combat, civilians in cross-fire, and it is becoming more difficult to remember what the fight was about in the first place. Suicide bombers, using alternative war tactics, set themselves up for deliberate loss - a loss of their own life, a loss of innocent lives and absolutely no redemption for their cause. Terror is the new war, but both are impossible situations. It is impossible to win a war on terror because terror is the new war. Traditional warfare cannot snuff terror because terror is by definition an unbridled tactic of ambush. War is a game of logic and power, of demarcation and boundaries, of winners and losers. Terror is fundamentalism, the anti-logic. It is total annihilation without any rules.
This generation's world war will not end until it is acknowledged for what it is. As long as each side continues to play a different game, no solution is possible.