The Palestinian terror attacks are endless,” a friend moaned recently. The media and general public are struggling to come up with a name for what is often just referred to as “the current wave of violence” – “the knives’ intifada” and “the lone wolves’ intifada” are two terms that are competing for the dubious honor in the Hebrew press, the Palestinian media preferring “The Jerusalem intifada.”
But the wave of attacks lacks not just a name and an ending but also a definite starting point.
For some, the latest mini-intifada, whatever you want to call it, began on October 1, 2015, with the heinous attacks in which Rabbi Eitam Henkin and his wife, Na’ama, were killed in front of their four young children in a roadside shooting. Others consider that it started two days later in the Old City of Jerusalem when Aharon Banita-Bennett, 22, was stabbed to death on his way to the Western Wall with his wife and two young children; Adele and their toddler were wounded; Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, a father of seven, was killed as he came to the family’s aid. Others start counting from the death of Alexander Levlovich, 64, in Jerusalem when rocks were thrown at his car as he drove home from a Rosh Hashana meal with his family. It was an awful way to begin the Jewish New Year, but it is an easily remembered starting point for those struggling to keep up with the dreadful toll of victims.
There have been more than 30 deaths as a result of Palestinian violence in the last five months, the latest victim being IDF Capt. (res.) Eliav Gelman, who died on Wednesday as the result of an attack at the Gush Etzion junction.
But starting the list of violent incidents in September is artificial. Ask the family of Malachi Moshe Rosenfeld, 26, fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting near Shiloh on June 29, 2015, or of Danny Gonen, 25, killed 10 days earlier in a shooting attack after visiting the Ein Buvin spring near Dolev in the Binyamin Region.
Shalom Yohai Sherki, 25, run down and killed at Jerusalem’s French Hill junction in April 2015, was a victim of the same terrorism. And Purim in Jerusalem last March was also marred by a ramming attack on border policewomen at the same spot, fortunately without fatalities.
There were five fatalities, four rabbis and a Druse policeman who rushed to help them, when two Arabs armed with butchers’ knives and a gun attacked a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood in November 2014.
Another worshiper was comatose until he died of his wounds a year later.
Apart from the gruesome scenes of men cut down while praying, the attack gained an added local notoriety when CNN displayed a caption describing the synagogue as a mosque and counted the perpetrators in a headline of the death toll. The network later issued an apology acknowledging “our coverage did not immediately reflect the fact that the two Palestinians killed were the attackers.” Somebody – most likely sitting in the Atlanta headquarters – either didn’t know or didn’t care and rounded up the usual suspects: Violence in the Middle East? The Jews must be the aggressors and the Palestinians the victims.
That was a terrible month when it came to the toll of Palestinian terrorism: Dalia Lemkus, 26, of Tekoa was stabbed to death at a bus stop near the entrance to Alon Shvut; Sgt. Almog Shilony, 20, was stabbed and killed at Tel Aviv’s Hagana train station; Border Police inspector Jidan Assad and 17-year-old yeshiva student Shalom Aharon Badani were both killed by a Palestinian ramming a car into a crowd near a Jerusalem light rail station.
In October 2014, Chaya Zissel Braun, aged three months, was killed in a similar attack at the same place, when a car driven by a Palestinian threw her from her stroller as the terrorist rammed into a crowd. Karen Jemima Mosquera, 22, of Ecuador, died of her wounds a few days later.
Before that, there was Operation Protective Edge, the war in Gaza, in which 64 IDF soldiers and six civilians were killed by Hamas, including a four-year-old boy killed when a mortar shell hit his home.
And before that, in June 2014, there was the kidnapping and murder of the three teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Sha’er and Naftali Fraenkel. That was preceded by the death in May of Shelly Dadon, killed by an Arab taxi driver on her way to a job interview. Passover 2014 will be remembered for the death of off-duty police officer Baruch Mizrahi, on his way to a Seder night meal.
Permit me to skip naming victims – the information is available on the Foreign Ministry website that notes that “1,303 people have been killed by Palestinian violence and terrorism since September 2000.”
But why stop there? There was also the first intifada and the victims of the Oslo Peace process and many – too many – before those waves of violence.
Sadly, a look at the list of names, places and dates of death shows that this is not something new. This isn’t about the (carefully maintained) status quo of al-Aksa Mosque and the Temple Mount. It predates “the settlements” and the 1967 Six Day War. It started before the birth of the State of Israel in 1948.
There were waves of Arab violence (they weren’t called Palestinians yet) in the 1930s and the 1920s and long, long before that.
Daniel Pipes notes some “milestones” in what is now known as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict including incidents such as the October 2, 1938, massacre in Tiberias (part of the 1936–1939 “Arab Revolt” in British Mandate Palestine) in which Arabs killed 20 Jews, among them 11 children.
The 1929 massacre of Jews in Hebron (where Jews had lived for generations) took the lives of 67 members of the community.
According to Pipes, in 1920 there were 142 pogroms and 36 lesser “riots” against the Jews, incited by Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini.
The first attack by Arabs on a Jewish community in this area took place in 1886 in Petah Tikva, he notes.
His time line begins in June 1834, in Safed. “[The] First recorded attack on native Jews in Israel by Muslims... the massacres and mass rapes went on for 33 days.” It was repeated in 1838.
That’s why I laughed when a friend told me last week that when his first child was born in the early 1990s, he genuinely believed that there would be no need for him to serve in the IDF when he reached the age of 18.
By the time my son was born in September 2001, well into the second intifada, I don’t think many people had illusions that peace would break out.
When I saw the cover of the latest edition of The Jerusalem Report with its headline “What’s radicalizing Palestinian youth?” I couldn’t help but snort: “Palestinian adults.”
For yes, I hear the explanations of “hopelessness,” “frustration” and “poverty,” and they are poor excuses.
How many hundreds of Israelis have been killed in terror attacks in the last few decades? How many times have Israeli children rushed for shelter in rocket attacks? Don’t Israeli children count? Don’t Jewish children suffer from fear? Frustration? Hopelessness? Bereavement? And if poverty was the cause of the violence, the world would be in even worse shape than it is now.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot triggered a debate when, in answer to a question by youths on the eve of their military service, he said: “When there’s a 13-year-old girl holding scissors or a knife and there is some distance between her and the soldiers, I don’t want to see a soldier open fire and empty his magazine at a girl like that even if she is committing a very serious act. Rather, I want to see that soldier use the force necessary. I think that our soldiers are professional enough and moral enough to do that.”
I salute him. More than once I have noted that even a trained soldier, police officer or security guard faces an immense challenge trying to disarm (or neutralize) a terrorist, real-time, in a crowded situation. They shouldn’t hesitate, trying first to assess the age of the attacker; neither should they fear shooting without first calling a lawyer.
The rules for opening fire are very clear. It is the situations in which people find themselves under attack – at the bus stop, in the supermarket, at prayer – that are not easy to understand.
But once an attacker, of any age or gender, is no longer a threat (and that includes ruling out the likelihood that he or she will spring back and attack again as has happened in several incidents), then, as the chief of staff pointed out, there is no need to carry on shooting. Neutralizing need not mean killing.
One of the characteristics in this latest phase of Palestinian violence is the young age of many of the perpetrators, as young as 11 in one (non-fatal) stabbing incident.
Some of this can be attributed to the culture of martyrdom and incitement in the Palestinian territories. Partly, it is the result of even more incendiary propaganda and hate by Islamic State, which distributes its message of death and destruction via slick, sick videos on the social media.
This week in a particularly deadly string of attacks even by Syrian standards, more than 150 people were killed in Damascus and Homs. ISIS released footage of a boy, not yet a teenager, bidding his father goodbye before driving an armored truck laden with explosives into Syrian forces, assured of a martyr’s death and jihadist’s paradise.
That is why Eisenkot’s message is so important. The last thing Israelis should want is for its youth to focus only on suffering, victimhood and venting frustration.
The violence stretches back so far it has no beginning.
Neither is there an end in sight. We therefore will go on being judged by our response.
It has to be moral and fair, not because of what the world thinks of us but because we have to live with ourselves.
And we intend to carry on living firstname.lastname@example.org