Remembrance Day: How can Israel eradicate terror? - opinion

We must act so that their deaths were not in vain, doing everything in our power to eradicate terrorism and its adherents.

 STRONG YET fragile: Lots of spinning plates. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
STRONG YET fragile: Lots of spinning plates.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

As the nation struggles to recover from the latest outrage – the savage murder of the Dees – a word about the ABCs of terrorism seems in order.

The current wave of terror that we are experiencing is, unfortunately, not a new phenomenon; we have been battling this scourge long before the state was declared. Jewish farmers a century ago would routinely be shot at as they tilled the fields, and Arab hoodlums took advantage of unlit, unguarded roads as they preyed upon hapless, helpless travelers.

There was the Hebron massacre in 1929 and attacks at Lod airport and Ma’alot that killed dozens. Hundreds of innocent people were murdered in the 1978 Coastal Road attack; in Beit Lid in 1995; at the Dolphinarium and Sbarro in 2001; and during Passover 2002 at the Park Hotel. Thousands were killed and wounded in the First Intifada, the Second Intifada and the “Knife Intifada.” The list of brutal attacks on our soldiers and civilians goes on and on, and no one government has managed to completely prevent the carnage.

While we certainly have made advances in the war on terror, it’s no easy task to stop the perpetrators, despite our courageous security forces and advanced technology. Highly motivated terrorists, devilishly clever and spurred on by a lifetime infusion of every kind of antisemitic stimuli, put us in a double bind:

If we fight back – invariably inflicting a significant amount of collateral damage – the casualties we cause are used to inflame the hostile populace against us even more. And if we hold back and do not respond in kind, we are looked upon as weak, thus encouraging the terrorists to commit even more heinous acts.

 IDF FORCES in action at a village near Nablus last month.  (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90) IDF FORCES in action at a village near Nablus last month. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

However, having said all this, there are still things that we can do, as well as things we must not do. 

You don’t stop killing by freeing the killers. The release of more than 1,000 bloodthirsty terrorists in the Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange fiasco was arguably the worst security blunder in Israel’s history, right alongside our tragic failure to predict the Yom Kippur War surprise attack.

Instead of letting these monsters loose on our population to foment even more terror, they should face the death penalty in the most severe cases (see “Reinstate the Death Penalty,” The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 4, 2009) or at the very least be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. This would send a potent message to their families that their relatives will not return as martyred heroes; they will sit in jail until they die.

Why, then, I ask, is the current government – rather than passing new bills about hametz, soda pop and disposable dishes – not putting this crucial item on the table?

How should Israel fight terror?

YOU ALSO don’t stop terrorism by paying off the terrorists with blood money, as was done numerous times in past years when suitcases stuffed with $100 bills were allowed by Israeli authorities to be passed from Qatar to Hamas. Terrorism may be generated by a fanatic Islamic fervor, but it also is often money-driven and needs hard cash to survive; weapons do not come cheap. We need to be drying up the bad guys’ money sources; hitting them in their wallets.

The efforts being made by some groups to take the perpetrators and their facilitators to court are admirable and may indeed have a chilling effect; but few, if any, of the victims of terror actually wind up with money in their pockets. In fact, the Israeli government is less than helpful in these cases. Its fear of the Palestinian Authority going bankrupt and being replaced by an even more violent gang of killers outweighs its concern for those who have paid the ultimate price.

And you don’t stop terrorism by talking it to death; you stop it by doing something about it. This government personifies the adage “Say much, but do little.” The officials boast ad nauseam about “finally stopping terror” and punishing the killers, but during their brief time in office, more terror attacks have occurred than at the beginning of any administration in our history. So please, stop boasting about what you are going to do, how you are going to find the Dees’ killers, how you will make Israel’s roads safe, etc; just go out and do it. 

You also don’t stop terrorism and restore the public’s confidence by blaming others for your own inadequacies and failings. Stand up on your own two feet and take responsibility for your actions – or lack thereof. There is no surer proof of a failed government than one which pathetically whines and points its collective finger at the other fellow who is no longer in office.

On a grander scale, we need to understand that an unstable government is a fetid breeding ground for terrorism to grow. When a country is rocked by disunity and dissension, when half the populace has no faith in its leader, when closed highways and bitter rhetoric are the order of the day, terrorism seizes the opportunity to come in for the kill. 

DO YOU remember the circus act where a juggler is balancing numerous plates on sticks? The plates are all spinning, and the juggler rushes from one plate to another to keep them spinning so they don’t all crash to the ground. That pretty much describes our current situation: We are indeed a strong country, but we live in a very fragile environment with lots of plates spinning. 

We are surrounded by hostile neighbors and must keep them at bay, all the while seeking alliances with our more friendly neighbors. We must cultivate relationships with nations in the West, whose support we need, while at the same time retaining our independence and our national pride. We have to satisfy the secular, the religious, the Sephardim, the Ashkenazim, the wealthy and the poor. We have to keep salaries high, and the cost of living low. We must be everywhere, all at once.

But if and when the spinning plates start to fall, the frenzied juggler can do little to save them. And that is our situation; the plates are crashing all around us. The world’s leading economists, in Israel and abroad, declare that the proposed judicial reform will have disastrous consequences, as indicated by the lowering of our credit rating this week. Interest rates rise as the value of the shekel plummets, and hi-tech companies – a major source of our collective wealth – seek safer shores to house their products and invest their funds.

Meanwhile, our relations with other countries, both near and far, are fast eroding. We have caused rifts between ourselves and the US, Britain and the EU; Jordan is upset at the ill-conceived statements foolishly made about them; Saudi Arabia has turned away from reconciliation with us and moved closer to Iran; Turkey’s President Erdogan is again demonizing us after a short lull; and even our newest friends, the Emiratis, are thinking twice about doing business with us. All the while, the terror groups within and outside Israel gather together to plot our demise, God forbid.

Most threatening of all, of course, is the unprecedented sense of disunity and distrust of government that today permeates every corner of the land. And it shows no sign whatsoever of easing.

The ancient (some would say modern!) Chinese were ruled by all-powerful emperors, who had absolute control of the country and everyone in it. But there was an unwritten yet unbreakable covenant that held fast: If the basic needs of the people – their security, their safety, their ability to provide food and shelter for their family – were not met, then the emperor was deposed by the masses (and generally executed).

Similarly, even in democratic countries, if the needs of the people are not satisfied, if push truly comes to shove, the people will persevere, and change will inevitably be made, for survival trumps even democracy.

As we face yet another Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars and Victims of Terrorism and mourn the 24,068 fallen soldiers and 4,216 victims of terror, we must pledge to honor these holy neshamot (souls). We must act so that their deaths were not in vain, doing everything in our power to eradicate terrorism and its adherents. We must project to the world our vitality and unique character. Most of all, we must diligently seek compromise and conciliation with one another, placing the nation and its citizens above any individual person or party. 

Then let each one of us pray to the Almighty for peace and prosperity in our wonderful, Old-New Land and State of Israel. Am Yisrael chai! 

The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana.