Chai from Jerusalem: The one-man 'sleeper cell'

Terrorism has returned to the streets of Jerusalem and spurred a new terror from within.

David Parsons (photo credit: )
David Parsons
(photo credit: )
Terror returned to the streets of Jerusalem in early July when an Arab construction worker from east Jerusalem went on a rampage on a heavy bulldozer through busy Jaffa Road, ploughing into cars and buses with dozens of people trapped inside. Some questioned whether it was just a spontaneous rage, but most Israelis are worried it signals a new wave of terror from 'within'. The shocking assault with a huge front-end loader killed three civilians and left a lingering trauma on local residents. Panicked witnesses recalled how one mother handed her baby out a car window to a passerby an instant before the massive machine smashed her vehicle flat. The 30-year-old Arab driver, Husam Taysir Dwayat, appeared to be acting alone and for 'nationalistic motives'. His family insisted he had no links to any Palestinian terrorist organizations and had even once lived with a Jewish woman in his home village of Sur Baher, in east Jerusalem. His attorney also argued that his late client simply "went berserk" and thus was "a murderer and not a terrorist". But much of their protestations were meant to save the family home, as Israeli leaders called for the demolition of his house to deter other Arabs from perpetrating similar terrorist acts. Police say Dwayat had a history of drug use and served time in jail for rape and other crimes. But this did little to explain why he had suddenly gone on a killing spree through congested lunch-hour traffic. Witnesses, however, said he was shouting Allahu Akbar ("Allah is Greater") as he used his heavy equipment to flatten cars, topple buses "like toys" and run over pedestrians. This indicates that, whatever set him off, Dwayat turned his murderous venture into an act of suicide martyrdom. The constant vigilance of Israeli troops and the security barrier have sharply curtailed the toll from deadly suicide missions launched by Palestinians from the West Bank. But east Jerusalem Arabs carry Israeli residency cards and can move and work anywhere in Israel. Given their open access and ample opportunities, they are coming under increasing societal pressure, especially from Palestinian terror militias, to stage attacks inside Israel. Thus the last major terror attack - the shooting massacre at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in early March - was also carried out by an east Jerusalem Arab who worked daily on the west side of town. In addition, an entire generation of local Arabs have grown up with the message that jihad martyrdom for the sake of the Palestinian cause is the highest virtue in life and earns one instant entry into paradise... no matter how 'bad' one has been in life. This undoubtedly made it easier for the bulldozer driver to start crushing everyone and everything in sight. Israeli Arabs are concerned, however, that this was a random act of violence that will be used to punish their entire community. Yet a recent poll showed that despite their complaints of inequities and discrimination, most Israeli Arabs (71%) prefer living in Israel to any other country in the world. Still, it is hard for Israelis to shake the feeling that somewhere among them lurks the next one-man 'sleeper cell'. The writer is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem;