It was obvious to observers around the world that one of the designated targets of the Pakistani Islamist terrorists was the Mumbai Chabad House, the one Jewish center in Mumbai. The 10 Islamic terrorists who came from Pakistan to India chose their targets with great care.
If one assumes that the terrorists primary goals were to destabilize India, weaken growing Indian-Pakistani cooperation in fighting terrorism, and greatly increase Indian-Pakistani tension, hopefully to the point of military war between the two countries, every one of the targets made strategic sense. Slaughtering as many people as possible in Indias major economic center, including as many foreign tourists as possible at Mumbais finest hotels, also made sense.
But one target seemed to make little sense. In fact, until the attack was over people were uncertain whether the terrorists attack on the Jewish center known as the Chabad House was part of the original plan or chosen spontaneously. Only when the lone terrorist who was captured told his interrogators that the Chabad House was planned a year earlier was it indisputable that killing the Rabbi, his wife, their children and any other Jews present was part of the plan.
The question is why?
Why would a terrorist group of Islamists from Pakistan whose primary goal is to have Pakistan gain control of the third of Kashmir that belongs to India and therefore aimed to destabilize Indias major city devote so much of its efforts -- 20 percent of its force of 10 gunmen whose stated goal was to kill 5,000 -- to killing a rabbi and any Jews with him?
The question echoes one from World War II: Why did Hitler devote so much time, money, and manpower in order to murder every Jewish man, woman, and child in every country the Nazis occupied? Why did Hitler -- as documented by the late historian Lucy Dawidowicz in her aptly named book The War against the Jews -- weaken the Nazi war effort by diverting money, troops, and military vehicles from fighting the Allies to rounding up Jews and shipping them to death camps?
From the perspective of political scientists, historians, and contemporary journalists, the answer to these questions is not rational. But the non-rationality of an answer is not synonymous with its non-validity.
For the Islamists, as for the Nazis, the destruction of the Jews -- and since 1948, the Jewish state -- is central to their worldview.
If anyone has a better explanation for why Pakistani terrorists, preoccupied with destabilizing India, would expend so much effort at finding the one Jewish center in a country that is essentially devoid of Jews, I would like to hear it.
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