My word: Checks and balancing acts

Security checks are necessary – all Israelis are used to opening their bags and passing through metal detectors before being allowed to enter a bus or train station, shopping mall or concert hall.

Israeli soldiers check cars at a checkpoint near the West Bank City of Jericho (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli soldiers check cars at a checkpoint near the West Bank City of Jericho
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian terrorists have taken the lives of more than 20 people, ranging in age from 18-year-olds to a man in his seventies, since the latest wave of attacks started on October 1. (Although arguably, this is not a wave but more like a stormy sea: The exact moment when it started is hard to pinpoint.) People have an understandable need to rationalize the attacks. I can tell you what is not the trigger: Checkpoints.
Recently I have heard an increasing number of Palestinians and their supporters claiming that it is the fear and humiliation of military checkpoints that are “fueling the despair” that leads people to decide to kill Israelis, using whatever they can: knives, scissors, guns, axes, or cars driven into a crowd of pedestrians.
The frustration at checkpoints is real. The need for checks even more so.
It is the equivalent of security checks at an airport. Once upon a time, pre-flight security checks were perfunctory. That was before the Palestinian hijackings that began in 1968, targeting Israelis and Jews. Since September 11, 2001, airports everywhere enforce rigorous rules, some obvious, others verging on the ludicrous.
I hate the feeling of eyes and hands searching my face, body and luggage. Having a bottle of face lotion confiscated, even though it was not powerful enough to get rid of wrinkles, let alone bring down a 747, was irritating, but it doesn’t “make me explode” other than figuratively.
Palestinians wistfully talk of a day when they have their own state without checkpoints. I also favor a Palestinian state, although I can’t see how it’s achievable any time in the near future. And I also realize, unlike many Palestinians, that there will still be checkpoints in the form of border crossings. Even Europe has come to understand, the hard way, that open borders are a beautiful idea but not practical.
And you can thank Islamist terrorism in part for that, too.
Dreams of packing a bag in Ramallah and driving unhindered to the beach in Tel Aviv are lovely but they are just that: dreams. Israel won’t be able to allow its neighbors travel from a Palestinian state to the Mediterranean coast (a trip of less than 15 kilometers – nine miles – at its narrowest point) without ensuring that they are on an innocent day trip rather than a killing spree.
I CAN tell you something else that didn’t cause the latest round of Arab violence against Jews: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comment on election day in March that “the Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves.” As unfortunate, even reprehensible, as the remark was it can hardly explain why Arab girls in their early teens would seek out vulnerable targets 10 months later and stab them with scissors (mistaking an elderly Palestinian for a Jew in the process).
It makes no more sense than blaming attacks in Europe on British Prime Minister David Cameron’s description of the would-be migrants to the UK, waiting in a makeshift refugee camp in Calais, as “a swarm.”
The election day comment was raised this week as a possible motive for the attacks in a comment by a Facebook friend, and I found myself being dragged into that sort of social media exchange that doesn’t change anyone’s mind and easily descends from the civil to the unpleasant. Eventually I stopped following the conversation. Life’s too short: That much is painfully obvious in times like these.
Instead, I found myself looking at pictures of cats. They were part of the Belgian reaction to the threat of terrorism. In a story gleefully picked up by media outlets around the world, after Belgian police requested that citizens refrain from mentioning anything they saw about security searches in case they accidentally divulged important information to terrorist suspects, people responded “purr-fectly”: posting pictures of their feline friends dressed in “Cat-fiyyehs” or superhero capes.
Most Israelis I know found the lock-down in Brussels (and the pictures of pampered pets wearing a niqab or fez) baffling.
A veteran Jerusalemite, I’m used to the capital occasionally coming to a halt because of a few centimeters of snow (the type that Belgians wouldn’t even post on the social media) but terrorist attacks (and rockets) do not stop us.
Just this week, the attack near the Mahaneh Yehuda market caused a gasp of horror among friends and colleagues – before they walked there in their lunch break.
It sounds callous. It’s not. Just as my parents and grandparents carried on with their lives during the London Blitz, so do we carry on now. It’s not out of some deep conviction that if we give in to terrorism then the terrorists have won (well, not only out of that belief).
There’s simply no alternative. Fear heightens our senses and makes us more cautious; we can’t let it paralyze us.
European politicians, police and armed forces are obviously trying to come to terms with what for them is a new type of threat. According to a report in the Guardian, Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said that the November 13 attacks in Paris “had shown that the profile of potential targets had changed. ‘It’s no longer synagogues or the Jewish museums or police stations, it’s mass gatherings and public places.’” How did Europeans miss the extent of the jihadist threat until it blew up in their faces (not for the first time) in Paris? It might have had something to do with the fact that they haven’t been listening to what Israel, on the front lines, has been telling them for years. Au contraire. The EU, based in fear-frozen Brussels, has been busy lately labeling Israeli produce from “the settlements.”
When three people were killed in a terrorist attack at the Gush Etzion junction on November 19, I briefly wondered whether Europeans labeled them: Settler, American Jew and Palestinian? All of them – Alon Shvut resident Yaakov Don; gap-year teen Ezra Schwartz, and Hebron resident Shadi Arafa – were victims, their deaths a tragedy.
When a terrorist stabbed and killed Reuven Aviram and Aharon Yisayev as they prayed in a Tel Aviv synagogue that afternoon (a year after a similar lethal attack at a Jerusalem synagogue) was this really because of “settlements” and “checkpoints” rather than global jihad? Did the management of German department store KaDeWe, who briefly but unforgivably removed wine produced on the Golan Heights from its shelves, think that this will keep Europe safe and free? Islamist terrorists don’t want Israeli wine banned from European shops. They want all alcohol banned and everything else that goes along with the Western lifestyle.
And the UN is no better: This week it yet again passed six resolutions condemning Israel without so much as hinting at the terrorist attacks, or criticizing any other country or crime.
My “favorite” resolution, based on a report by UN Watch, “Determines once more that the continued occupation of the Syrian Golan and its de facto annexation constitute a stumbling block in the way of achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region.”
The vote was 105 in favor to six against (Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau and the US). There were 56 abstentions.
What’s wrong with the world? I’ll tell you what: Just six countries, so few they can be counted on one hand and a thumb, are willing to say out loud that it is not Israel’s presence on the Golan that is preventing “a lasting peace in the region.”
This was on the same day that NATO member Turkey shot down a Russian plane while both were nominally on the same side, fighting the satanic Islamic State forces: Turkey using the war as a way to prevent the expansion of a Kurdish area; Russia using it to increase its influence in the region while propping up the regime of Syrian president and mass murderer Bashar Assad.
No wonder an increasing number of Jews are considering leaving Europe for good and moving to Israel. In a mad world, you might as well be in a country that hosts a writers’ festival, film festival, jazz festival and myriad opportunities for religious studies and continues to enjoy life despite the danger.
A FRIEND this week posted a photo of an Arab teenage suspect being frisked in Jerusalem and wondered where all this was leading.
I noted that earlier in the day a Palestinian youth acting suspiciously had been stopped nearby and found to have a knife. He later reportedly admitted he had planned to carry out an attack.
It’s unpleasant. It’s not politically correct.
But I’d rather have “lone wolves” caged behind bars before they can attack and kill people of any race, religion, age or gender.
Is the system perfect? Far from it. Do I have concerns? Yes: And I have intervened and complained when I’ve seen something that bothered me.
Security checks are necessary – all Israelis are used to opening their bags and passing through metal detectors before being allowed to enter a bus or train station, shopping mall or concert hall. There is no reason for them to be carried out without security personnel doing the utmost to preserve dignity – and lives.
It’s time for a reality check. Sharing photos of cats on Facebook doesn’t, unfortunately, make the dangers go away. There’s a global terrorist war going on – and the world needs to beat it, not tweet it, saying “it’s not nice.”