December 1, 2018 — New York
This piece originally appeared in the Sunday Guardian.
Ten years ago, Mumbai was held hostage for a devastating four days as terrorists trained in Pakistan carried out coordinated attacks on 12 sites, killing 166 people and injuring more than 300. I was in New York City when news of the attacks broke, eating lunch at a popular South Indian restaurant downtown. The place fell silent as everyone watched, transfixed and horrified, as the report was broadcast on television.
The Mumbai attacks sent shock waves around the world. But in New York, where our own 9/11 experience had already traumatised us in much the same way that the Mumbai attacks did now, the events of 26/11—as the day became known—were terrible reminders of our own vulnerabilities.
Along with Mumbai and New York, the country that could most closely identify with the horror of those four days was probably Israel. Like India, Israel had lived through decades of terrorism. The link of 26/11 to Israel and to the global Jewish community was made more acute by the site of one of the attacks, the Chabad centre of Mumbai, known as Nariman House, that the Pakistan-based terrorists, members of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, deliberately selected as a Jewish target.
Israel and India have developed close relationships in recent years. Academic exchanges, economic investments and trade, agricultural and biotechnology projects—all have increased exponentially. The fact that both nations are challenged by Islamic terrorism is an unfortunate additional issue binding the two democracies together, extending their cooperation to intelligence-sharing and anti-terrorist measures.
Mumbai was neither the first nor the last victim of terror. Paris, Beirut, Jerusalem, Nairobi, Buenos Aires, Burgas, Bamako, and many other cities and their inhabitants have paid a price, giving evidence that government policies to protect their citizens are frequently insufficient. On this tenth anniversary of Mumbai, the nations of the world must recommit themselves to eradicating the scourge of terrorism, and to unite to defeat the repugnant ideologies of racial, religious and national supremacy that promote and incite violence and threaten the freedoms and liberties we cherish.
Global reactions and responses to terrorism, post 9/11 and especially after 26/11, took on a more serious form. Unlike earlier terror attacks in India, this one impacted many nationalities, and brought a clearer realisation that there are no “good” terrorists and “bad” terrorists. Terrorism is terrorism, with no justification or rationalisation. Period.
The best way to memorialise those who lost their lives in Mumbai ten years ago and all the other victims of terror around the world is to call out the perpetrators of these acts and their sponsors, identify them by name, and bring them to justice. It is only through our consistent and united efforts that the goal of eliminating terrorism in our world will succeed.
Shira Loewenberg is the New York-based Director for the Asia Pacific region of the American Jewish Committee