Saturday, October 09, 2004

What People Think

Having finally gotten my news providers, or at least some of them, back in sight, I've been checking up on the Taba bombing. I still haven't gotten full range of motion on the net, so I haven't sampled the usual spectrum of coverage, but the "who" of the act still seems to be rather mysterious. For the Israelis to immediately say baldly that the bombing was the responsibility of Al Qaeda is rather like saying that the Bogeyman did it. This shadowy group of criminal masterminds has been blamed for a wide variety of acts of terrorism, many of which haven't necessarily been claimed by them, whoever they are. How do we know who actually did them?

A group of us were having a chat in a garden nearby. One of the women said that since things had been going well, wasn't it just the thing for us to get smacked hard in October, the beginning of the serious tourist season, by some group of crazies whoever they might be. A discussion of responsibility-placing led to another comment that we could find a fax machine and claim responsibility of the Jihad for the Greater Protection of Eggplants. That would probably be as realistic as ascribing the act to another unknown group.

Why should someone do such a thing as to bomb the Taba Hilton anyway? It isn't a brilliant hotel, really, and the area of the Gulf of Aqaba where it is situated is pretty boring in comparison to Sharm, Hurghada or points south. It's totally isolated, so long walks are out, there are no other hotels or services nearby to provide any distraction or entertainment. Most of the guests at Taba have always been Israelis, with Egyptians preferring to go to prettier or more interesting places. Maybe they were indeed the target, but why?

One possibility would be that some group (meaning at least two people) wanted to stop them coming to Sinai. There are probably other places in Sinai with more Israelis on this holiday weekend than Taba, but at Taba the non-Israeli victims would be fewer since most other people don't like to go there much. This group could be one with an axe to grind with Israelis, or it could also be a group trying to destablise the Egyptian government. After all, that was the goal of the terrorists of the 80's and 90's rather than it being direct actions against foreigners. Tourists are revenue in a country that so vastly depends on tourism for its income. Without revenue any government, not just the Egyptian government, is much less stable. What Egypt was seeing during our "terrorist wars" was essentially a war between Islamic fundamentalists and other groups not very enamoured of the Egyptian government and the visible enforcement arm of the Egyptian government, the army and police. The government's assigning police escorts to ensure the safety of tourists at the time was akin to waving a red flag at a bull. The real terror in that case was knowing that whoever you were, you could be regarded as a pawn in this game, not that someone might be wanting to hurt you for any attribute you might possess. Most of us locals did everything we could to stay as far away from the military or police a we could. However, if the group was into destabilisation it would have been more effective to attack somewhere else in Sinai, on the Red Sea coast, or in the Luxor/Aswan region.

Working all this out in my head has caused me to make a note to myself that terrorist attacks are bloody complicated to plan. First you need to decide if you want to be known as the perpetrator of the act. If you do, how do you let them know? How do you identify yourself? What if they never heard of you before?

If you don't care to be identified, then you can go on to the next issue, which is what is the desired end? As I said before, the problems in Egypt in past years were primarily due to a continuing conflict between the military/police arm of the Egyptian government and various people who wanted to bring down the government. If this was a renewal of those hostilities, this was badly planned and implemented since it could have been a much splashier, messy act in other places. So scratch that, this looks like a new group.

Since the victims were largely Israeli, it would appear that the instigators wanted to do something about Israeli tourists in Sinai. This boils down to people who might like Israelis to stay home and not travel to Sinai. Well, Israeli tourists, as long as they behave like other tourists, are welcome to come and buy genuine ancient Pharaonic amulets just like any other, so while whoever did this isn't concerned with improving the nation's cash flow, but they weren't primarily concerned with damaging it as noted before, since with that motive a better plan could have been carried out.

The economic motive doesn't work here on this side of the border because it assumes one wants to stifle tourism income, and if all of the Israeli tourists stayed home, it wouldn't make that much difference in Sinai's economy, which had been booming with the influx of Euros. As far as I've read so far, the Italian government has not issued a travel advisory for Sinai yet, only the Americans and the Germans. So I am left with the conclusion that this is a political statement to the effect that Israelis should not be traveling in Sinai. This is a very particular goal and has to be related to Israeli internal politics in some way because it doesn't make any sense any other way. There could be people inside Israel who don't want Israelis to travel to Egypt, but I would imagine that the Israeli security checks are pretty stringent.

Then again there is the report in the BBC site that part of the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber, although both the main groups inside Israel/Palestine, such as Hamas, have denied any responsibility. Suicide bombing is not really a sign of a stable mind in my world, which would suggest that the individuals carrying it out were total nut cases In this case, it's all anybody's guess. After all, did the Symbionese Liberation Army ever liberate anyone? And who are the Symbionese anyway?

I'm glad that I don't have to figure this out for a living. For what it's worth, the link is to emails sent in by a variety of folk to the BBC with their thoughts about the Taba bombing. Interesting.

1 comment:

ألِف said...

Taba might not enjoy the night life and frenzy of Plastic Sharm, but for people who are more into nature it is much more appreciated. For those people, a walk along the beach, or a hike in the mountain is priceless; even if in the vicinity of a five star hotel.

Now this leads to the next point: Whether absence of the Shekels will affect Sinai’s economy or not. I think the Shekels have the quality of being capable of trickling deeper into the tissue of the Sinaii people than the Euros. In all my hikes with friends in the depths of the mountains and valleys of Sinai, Israelis – who can go as deep as Sta. Katreena without visa - were almost the only nationality trekking. In holidays like this one you could easily count groups and families up to 30 persons in a given regular camping night. A beach-café-hotel-market town like Tarabin ows its existence to Israelis, to the extent that even the violence in far Palestine affects it!