"REJOICE NOT when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth, / Lest the Lord see [it], and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him."
This is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible (Proverbs 24:17-18), and indeed in the Hebrew language. It is beautiful in other languages, too, though no translation comes close to the beauty of the original.
Of course, it is natural to be glad when one's enemy is defeated, and the thirst for revenge is a human trait. But gloating -- schadenfreude -- is something different altogether. An ugly thing.
Ancient Hebrew legend has it that God got very angry when the Children of Israel rejoiced as their Egyptian pursuers drowned in the Red Sea. "My creatures are drowning in the sea," God admonished them, "And you are singing?"
These thoughts crossed my mind when I saw the TV shots of jubilant crowds of young Americans shouting and dancing in the street. Natural, but unseemly. The contorted faces and the aggressive body language were no different from those of crowds in Sudan or Somalia. The ugly sides of human nature seem to be the same everywhere.
THE REJOICING may be premature. Most probably, al-Qaeda did not die with Osama bin-Laden. The effect may be entirely different.
In 1942 the British killed Abraham Stern, whom they called a terrorist. Stern, whose nom de guerre was Ya'ir, was hiding in a cupboard in an apartment in Tel Aviv. In his case too, it was the movements of his courier that gave him away. After making sure that he was the right man, the British police officer in command shot him dead.
That was not the end of his group -- rather, a new beginning. It became the bane of British rule in Palestine. Known as the "Stern Gang" (its real name was "Fighters for the Freedom of Israel"). It carried out the most daring attacks on British installations and played a significant role in persuading the colonial power to leave the country.
Hamas did not die when the Israeli air force killed Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the paralyzed founder, ideologue and symbol of Hamas. As a martyr he was far more effective than as a living leader. His martyrdom attracted many new fighters to the cause. Killing a person does not kill an idea. The Christians even took the cross as their symbol.
WHAT WAS the idea that turned Osama bin Laden into a world figure?
He preached the restoration of the Caliphate of the early Muslim centuries, which was not only a huge empire, but also a center of the sciences and the arts, poetry and literature, when Europe was still a barbaric, medieval continent. Every Arab child learns about these glories, and cannot but contrast them with the sorry Muslim present.
(In a way, these longings parallel the Zionist romantics' dreams of a resurrected kingdom of David and Solomon.)
A new Caliphate in the 21st century is as unlikely as the wildest creation of the imagination. It would have been diametrically opposed to the Zeitgeist, were it not for its opponents -- the Americans. They needed this dream -- or nightmare -- more than the Muslims themselves.
The American Empire always needs an antagonist to keep it together and to focus its energies. This has to be a worldwide enemy, a sinister advocate of an evil philosophy.
Such were the Nazis and Imperial Japan, but they did not last long. Fortunately, there was then the Communist Empire, which filled the role admirably.
There were Communists everywhere. All of them were plotting the downfall of freedom, democracy and the United States of America. They were even lurking inside the US, as J. Edgar Hoover and Senator Joe McCarthy so convincingly demonstrated.