Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Ira Sharkansky
Letter from Israel 

Terror here and elsewhere

 


A Palestinian used his car as a weapon and drove into a cluster of soldiers alongside an IDF base in the West Bank. He killed two and injured two others. A few days later, a Palestinian stabbed a security guard in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Those were the third, fourth, and fifth deaths so far in 2018 attributed to Palestinian terror. That equals the number of American Jews that we know were killed by gunfire. Four Jewish students and one Jewish teacher were killed in the school shooting at Parkland, Florida.

The number of Israeli deaths from terror has ranged from 6 to 36 annually in recent years.

We can quarrel if the numbers are as important as the continued threat, or what can be done to deal with it. Just as dead and tragic are more than 30,000 Americans and about 300 Israelis who die annually from traffic accidents.

In terms of the incidence of traffic deaths per billion vehicle miles, American roads and/or drivers are about 30 percent more dangerous than those of Israel. And according to murder rates, Americans are three times more dangerous than Israelis.

We’ve also been reminded of Islamic terror in France. The most recent terror attacks in Israel here have produced the usual responses. Media devoted considerable attention to the incidents, interviews with family members and friends of those killed, and updates on the condition of the wounded. Members of the Palestinian driver’s family insisted that it was a traffic accident; that the young man was law abiding and had no connection with politics. After a few hours of questioning, the driver admitted that he intended to kill Jews, but that it was a spur of the moment decision and had no connection with anyone else.

Israeli security forces have already closed his family residence, and have begun the legal process intended to destroy it. Some 70 members of his extended family have lost the permits that allowed them to work in Israel.

No doubt some will continue to arrive surreptitiously. That may be more difficult, however, if Israeli officials continue with their announced intention of extending the security wall to put their village on the other side.

Merchants in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, near where the stabbing occurred, have been charged with knowing that an attack was imminent, and not doing anything against it.

Should we worry about collective punishment, or see such moves as reasonable ways of dealing with terror coming from a culture where family and community loyalties are pervasive.

Some politicians are calling for the application of the death penalty. Others dispute the effectiveness of a death penalty; see it as a spur to more terror; and cite the legal hassles, time, and expense likely if a military court uses existing provisions to sentence the driver to death. 

The Palestinian who stabbed a guard in the Old City was shot and killed by security personnel. One can doubt that Israel will solve its problem with the Palestinians any sooner than Americans will deal with its guns.

A recent incident of police killing a black man holding a cell phone, then saying it looked like a pistol, suggests the limits of arming teachers as a response to mass attacks at schools.

Parkland has provoked a mass response in favor of doing something about weapons, but the task is enormous. Responses can vary between 50 states and thousands of local jurisdictions. Advocates of control are talking about increasing the age of those allowed to buy guns, or tweaking the details of the weapons available. 

There are advocates of a general response from the Supreme Court, equivalent to the 1973 decision about abortion. It could take the form of a ruling that the Second Amendment stands for the right of States to maintain militias in the form of the National Guard, and not for a general right of citizens to have firearms. One shouldn’t bet a great deal of that happening anytime soon.

Israel takes care in providing gun permits. Among the requirements are prior military service, approvals as to criminal record, mental and physical health; and either a work place or residence where a weapon is considered necessary.

Aside from cynicism, fatalism, and another rendition of the problems in the way of true peace between Israelis and Palestinians, there seems little to be done that hasn’t already being done.

With respect to killing by car, the IDF is extending the protection of problematic locations with meter-high concrete posts put in place at bus stops where Palestinians had used their cars to attack people waiting for transportation. 

Officials are warning security personnel and the public that we’re approaching several events likely to be associated with increased attacks: Land Day when Arabs commemorate an event in 1976, Passover, Israel’s 70th anniversary, the movement of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and Ramadan.

We can expect the closing of crossing points between Palestinian and Israeli areas on several of those occasions, as well as increased police and military patrols.

There’s also been an uptick in the incidence of events on the border of Gaza, so far without Israeli casualties and a minimum of Palestinian casualties associated with Israeli responses. Hamas is threatening to send thousands of civilians to the border with Israel, saying it will assert the right of refugees’ return to their homes. Israeli security personnel are training, getting the tear gas and water cannons ready, as well as snipers.

Further afield, and more dangerous, are the continued actions of Iran to supply and incite violence against Israel. There may be thousands of missiles capable of reaching Israel.

Things could be better, and they’ve been a lot worse.

We can be optimistic, but cautious.

Comments welcome. irashark@gmail.com.

 

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