Former Shin Bet head: Fear of terror threatens Israel with ‘1984’ scenario

‘A democracy eats itself up in small bites,’ warns expert Brian Michael Jenkins.

January 26, 2018 11:04
4 minute read.
Former Shin Bet head: Fear of terror threatens Israel with ‘1984’ scenario

A BOY WATCHES Hamas members gather in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis earlier this month ahead of commemorations marking the 30th anniversary of the group’s founding.. (photo credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)

Israel risks turning into a “1984” society if it remains in fear of Palestinian attacks, warns a former head of the Shin Bet security service.

“The major threat to democracy is fear,” Adm. (res.) Ami Ayalon told The Jerusalem Post.

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“Terrorists want to instill fear, and naturally what the government should do is try to decrease the level of terror. In a normal world this is what should be expected. But what we see is the opposite,” Ayalon stated. “Leaders encourage the fear of citizens in order to get elected. The immediate result is a frightened society that always prefers security over civil rights and this way brings us certainly to 1984,” he said, referencing the 1949 dystopian novel by George Orwell.

Ayalon, a former director of the Shin Bet and commander of the Israel Navy, made the comments following a special geostrategy conference at the University of Haifa.

“What are we willing to pay to win against the enemy we are fighting?” he asked, while recounting his time as the head of the Shin Bet during the Second Intifada, when parents wouldn’t allow their children to ride on buses or go to shopping malls out of fear of suicide bombings.

“If the war on terror is never-ending, what will we give up?” “We are on the way to losing our identity as a liberal democracy,” Ayalon said, explaining that the “slippery slope” of fear is being manipulated by terrorist groups such as Islamic State.

“In our world, the military cannot win. We can win on the battlefield but they will win hearts and minds,” he explained, adding that the world is engulfed in a “hybrid, complex war on terror” that, thanks to the 24/7 news cycle, has become a “reality show” broadcast across the globe in which citizens have become “spectators choosing their leaders.”

Echoing Ayalon, terrorism expert Brian Michael Jenkins told the Post that “terrorism is all about manipulation of perception. Terror takes our anxieties and gives them a face.”

Jenkins stated that while a risk-free society is unrealistic, there have been only 21 terrorist attacks in the US since 9/11 that claimed just over 100 lives, with the June 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting attack by Omar Mateen accounting for nearly half the total. 

“In the United States, security measures are not imposed but demanded. A police state can happen even in a democratic society if it is desperate. It will be the cumulative effect of the requests for increased security measures following attacks.

“A democracy eats itself up in small bites,” Jenkins warned.

Since October 2015 Palestinian youth have stabbed, run over and shot Israeli soldiers and civilians, including tourists, in a wave of violence in the West Bank and Israel. The violence has decreased since its peak in the winter of 2016 when there were almost daily attacks, but according to Ayalon attacks are not expected to disappear.

“As long as Palestinians have no hope and nothing to lose, we will continue having terror attacks,” he said, adding that “the waves of terror will continue if they have no hope in their current reality, especially in regards to the Gaza Strip.”

Nevertheless, Ayalon said, Israel must continue to be strong in the fight against Palestinian terrorism.

“When we understand that a group of people are going to kill our citizens, we must do everything in our power to stop them. It’s the morally right thing to do.”

Amir Benayoun finally receives visa to perform at UN ceremony • By AMY SPIRO At the last minute, Israeli singer and songwriter Amir Benayoun received a visa to the United States and will appear at the UN on Monday.

Benayoun will be there to perform the original song “The Last Survivor” – which he created along with Moshe Klughaft – in Hebrew, English and Arabic alongside Miri Mesika and David D’or, in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Earlier, Benayoun had been refused a visa by the US Consulate, though Mesika and D’or had their requests approved.

At the time, the embassy said Benayoun did not sufficiently prove he was intending to return to Israel, but the singer claimed the refusal was for political reasons.

“I’m happy to represent my land and my nation at a ceremony in honor of Holocaust victims,” Benayoun said in a Friday statement. “What’s done is done and we have an important task ahead of us.”

After Benayoun’s first visa refusal, he was invited back to the embassy to appeal, but since he wasn’t guaranteed approval, the singer refused to go.

“Of course I won’t go back to the embassy,” Benayoun wrote on Facebook last week. “If they wanted to give me [a visa] they could just do it without all this rattling around.”

But when embassy officials asked him this time to come back, Benayoun went, and soon he’ll be off to New York to perform at the ceremony arranged by Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon. Organizers say 350 to 400 people are expected to take part in Monday’s event, including ambassadors from around the world and Holocaust survivors. The song is also slated to be used as part of Holocaust memorial ceremonies held in Turkey and Kosovo this year.

While several Israeli officials had promised to help Benayoun receive a visa, at least one was working against him. When the trip was first announced, Meretz MK Esawi Frej sent an official letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requesting that Benayoun not be allowed to perform due to what the lawmaker deemed his racist views. In response to Frej’s letter, Alison Smale, a deputy of Guterres, said Benayoun was not invited by the UN to appear at its Holocaust Memorial Ceremony that will be held on Wednesday.

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