For Israelis who have been scarred by decades of Palestinian terrorism, the scenes in the photographs from the Indian subcontinent that flashed around the world last week after a suicide bombing attack in Kashmir are all too familiar.
Children and loved ones standing around grave sites, supported by friends and clergy, as the national flag ripples in the wind and silent tears are shed for those who were murdered by cowardly Islamic extremists.
In a horrific assault on February 14, an 18-year-old suicide bomber from the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed rammed an explosives-laden SUV into a convoy of Indian security personnel, murdering 40 Central Reserve Police Force officers in an incident that shocked the country.
It was the deadliest such attack in the area in recent memory, and it serves as a painful reminder of Pakistan’s ongoing duplicity, as Islamabad talks tough against terrorism even as it facilitates its perpetrators.
As India mourns its dead and considers its response to this outrage, it behooves Israel to stand with its Indian allies and do all it can to turn up international and diplomatic pressure on the Pakistani regime.
As two democracies in a sea of tyranny, India and Israel face a similar threat from Islamic jihadist terrorism.
Jaish-e-Mohammed, or “Army of Mohammed,” was founded by a radical cleric named Masoud Azhar with the aim of waging war against Indian rule in the province of Kashmir. For nearly two decades, this murderous gang of thugs, which had close links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, has been involved in a series of brutal attacks, ranging from an attempt to storm the Indian Parliament in New Delhi in 2001 to an assault on an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot in 2016.
The group, which is officially designated as a terrorist organization by the US and the UN, is also believed to have been linked to the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, a Jewish correspondent for The Wall Street Journal who was beheaded in Pakistan in February 2002.
Jaish-e-Mohammed was founded with the support and encouragement of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency and operates training facilities, schools and mosques in Pakistan’s Punjab region, the country’s most heavily populated area. Although Pakistan officially banned the group in 2002, that ban has been more honored in the breach than in the observance.
Indeed, as The Times of India reported on February 17, the Pakistani military actually went so far as to move members of Jaish-e-Mohammed from the border with India and relocate them to Pakistani army bases in order to protect them from possible retaliatory strikes. In other words, rather than shutting down the terrorists, Pakistan is shielding them.
IF YOU are wondering why events some 3,900 kilometers away should be of any interest to Israelis, consider the remarks made by Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Azhar in two audio messages he released in July 2017, when he referred to Jews and Hindus as his “first enemies” and called for attacks to be carried out against them.
As the past two decades since the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have demonstrated, groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and the ideology they spread are a menace to us all. Viewing extremist Islamist terrorism as a localized problem – be it in India, Israel or elsewhere – is naive, short-sighted and dangerous.
Organizations such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, and the states that sponsor them, must be held to account for their actions.
The White House was spot-on in its response to the attack in Kashmir, issuing a statement that said: “The United States calls on Pakistan to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil.” And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also conveyed his assurances to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In January 2018, the administration of US President Donald Trump suspended more than $1 billion in military and security assistance to Pakistan because of the country’s meddling in Afghanistan and sponsorship of terrorist groups operating there.
But more must be done to compel Pakistan to shut down the terrorist training camps that operate on its soil.
Six months ago, an investigative report in an Indian magazine revealed that Jaish-e-Mohammed is building an enormous six-hectare (15 acre) complex outside the Pakistani city of Bahalwalpur, where it hopes to train thousands of youth and inculcate them with extremist thought. But Pakistani authorities have failed to take measures to halt the plan.
In the wake of last week’s attack, the international community needs to hit Pakistan with additional sanctions, unless it ceases to sponsor and facilitate terrorist groups.
As a 2017 study by the Hudson Institute suggested, it is necessary “to make it more and more costly for Pakistani leaders to employ a strategy of supporting terrorist proxies to achieve regional strategic goals,” as current Pakistani policy poses a threat to US national interests in the area.
Israel and its supporters in Washington need to be more vocal and forceful in denouncing Pakistan and showing solidarity with India. For far too long, Pakistan has gotten away with murder – both literally and figuratively. It is time to put an end to Pakistan’s mischief and to let our Indian friends know that the Jewish state stands with them in this difficult hour.
Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post