Yes, the terrorists targeted Jews

The astounding historical and religious significance of last week's attack is just now being revealed. Some of Tmatt's questions from yesterday on why these terrorists targeted Jews have been answered, but much remains to be determined and many tough questions must be answered by journalists.

Here is some of the historical, demographic, social and religious background near the top of this The New York Times report:

Although none of the Jews killed in the terrorists' assault on Nariman House, the community center run by the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, were Indian citizens, the attacks have badly shaken Jews in India. Mumbai has about 4,000 Jewish residents, accounting for a vast majority of India's Jewish population.

"This is the first time when a Jew has been targeted in India because he is a Jew," said Jonathon Solomon, a Mumbai lawyer and president of the Indian Jewish Federation. "The tradition of the last thousand years has been breached."

The origins of India's Jews remain uncertain, but according to some accounts they may have come as emissaries from the court of King Solomon. They established communities and lived peacefully with Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and, later, Muslims. The absence of anti-Semitism throughout this history has been a source of pride in India.

The entire crisis at this point seems to be careening towards a tragic bloody regional conflict that pretty much everyone -- but those who committed these atrocities -- would like to avoid for very good reasons. The religious undercurrents of this attack are very difficult to sort out, but the attacker's focus on the Nariman House must receive nothing but the highest scrutiny and coverage.

Consider this bit from the NYT article:

Many Mumbai Jews said they had limited interaction with Rabbi Holtzberg and Chabad House, whose activities were focused on Orthodox Jews visiting from abroad and encouraging greater religious observance among young Israeli backpackers. Few Jews live in the Colaba neighborhood where Nariman House is, having moved to more affluent areas in northern and western parts of the city.

In addition, the Lubavitchers' ultra-Orthodox practices are much stricter than the observance of most Mumbai Jews.

But Rabbi Holtzberg did preside over Sabbath services every Friday at the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue. He also conducted religious study classes and helped supply the city’s more religious Jews with kosher meat.

What a great way to tell so much, but so little at the same time. First of all, this information is buried at the bottom of the article. Secondly, there is no attempt to explain the "why" part of this story. None at all. Why would the terrorist target the non-Indian Jews who happen to be "much stricter in observance" than other Jews in Mumbai? How can that question not be addressed in a story of this length and depth?

On a related note, a faithful reader of ours kindly submitted this Reuters blog post that draws out some information that helps describe the goals of those who committed these atrocities. As our reader noted, it is very important to understand that the terrorists have "politico-religious" goals, a term used at the end of the Reuters post:

I just wanted to note a list of the goals Lashkar-e-Taiba has set for itself. In a publication entitled Why Are We Waging Jihad? that Haqqani cites, the goals are listed as:

1) to eliminate evil and facilitate conversion to and practice of Islam;

2) to ensure the ascendancy of Islam;

3) to force non-Muslims to pay jizya (poll tax, paid by non-Muslims for protection from a Muslim ruler);

4) to assist the weak and powerless;

5) to avenge the blood of Muslims killed by unbelievers;

6) to punish enemies for breaking promises and treaties;

7) to defend a Muslim state; and

8 ) to liberate Muslim territories under non-Muslim occupation

Can we call these Lashkar-e-Taiba's "religious goals?" It's hard to draw a dividing line, but these cover both religion and politics. In South Asia, where they have first-hand experience of this kind of thinking, they would describe these as "politico-religious" goals. That clumsy term is more precise, but could it catch on elsewhere?

In other words, when does religion end and politics leave off? Perhaps that's a question that Westerns are able to distinguish, but how easy is it in the Islamic world? Whatever the group's goals, their targeting of a specific group of non-Indian Jews in the financial capital of one of the most diverse countries in the world cannot be ignored nor can their religious motivation be placed on the sidelines.

Please respect our Commenting Policy