Terror in Jerusalem

We must acknowledge that the relationship between Jerusalem's Arabs and Jews needs reevaluation.

israeli arab 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
israeli arab 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
It would be easier to come to terms with what happened in Jerusalem on Wednesday if we could convince ourselves that Jabr Duwait had simply gone berserk when he ploughed murderously into pedestrians, cars and buses. If only a forensic psychiatrist could certify that the 30-year-old bulldozer operator had suffered a psychotic episode that impelled him, perched on that mammoth machine, to rampage through one of the city's most congested thoroughfares killing and wounding as many innocents as he could. We might shake our heads in dismay, but tell ourselves that there can be no ultimate protection from a madman. But the havoc wrought on Jaffa Road was in all likelihood not the work of a madman; to convince ourselves otherwise would be delusional. Eyewitnesses described a scene of mayhem. Duwait began his onslaught from a construction site on nearby Sharei Yisrael Street, ramming a city bus and wounding people along the way before turning into Jaffa Road - which was even more congested than usual because of infrastructure work on the light railway. As pedestrians scattered to avoid being crushed by the giant vehicle, the killer drove in the direction of the Mahaneh Yehuda outdoor market, viciously smashing into a second city bus, knocking it over. He smashed and crushed several other vehicles in his path. Three people were killed and scores wounded, before an off-duty soldier and a specially-trained motorcycle policeman managed to climb aboard the bulldozer and, as Duwait cried "Allahu Akbar"(God is great), shot him dead. JUST HOURS after the killing spree, the overturned bus had been set upright and towed away. The bulldozer, too, was removed, as were the crushed cars. Volunteers washed the blood of the victims from the street. Jaffa Road, and the adjoining Central Bus Station vicinity, resumed their normal appearance. But the people of Jerusalem have been badly traumatized. There is a gnawing sense that the tranquility residents have enjoyed for some years now, since the unofficial end of the second Intifada, may be over - and that the biggest danger emanates from within the boundaries of the city itself. Duwait was a resident of Sur Baher, a Palestinian Arab village located near Kibbutz Ramat Rahel in southeast Jerusalem, and inside the security barrier. Being a resident of metropolitan Jerusalem, as opposed to the West Bank, Duwait held a blue ID card similar to the one carried by all Israeli citizens. Wednesday's outrage recalls the attack just two months ago inside the study hall of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in which another Jerusalem Arab, Ala Abu Dhaim from Jebl Mukaber, murdered eight students before being shot dead by an off-duty IDF officer (who, by a surreal coincidence, is the brother-in-law of the man who shot Duwait). WITH SEVERAL notable exceptions, Jerusalem Arabs tended to avoid being drawn into the second intifada. But in recent months a number of incidents, including the near-lynching of two municipal inspectors on Salah-a-Din Street and an attempt to murder two security guards in the Old City, have spotlighted what appears to be a trend toward radicalization. The capital's Arab population gave their support to Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections. The Arab neighborhoods that dot metropolitan Jerusalem - not just "east" but north and south as well - were absorbed into the capital's boundaries after the 1967 Six Day War and its Arab residents issued blue ID cards. Eligible to apply for full Israeli citizenship, they overwhelmingly chose not to do so, in solidarity with the Palestinian cause. The dichotomy under which these Arabs live seems to be growing ever more strained. They may work for Jews; they may receive health and social benefits from the Zionist state, but culturally and politically they are inseparable from the surrounding Arab milieu. They watch the same satellite TV stations and hear preachers espousing the same radical messages as their compatriots in the West Bank and Gaza. We must, at the very least, acknowledge that this framework - the relationship between Jerusalem's Arabs and Jews, and its security ramifications - which has applied since 1967 needs reevaluation. To do otherwise would leave us in denial.