Construction, deconstruction and destruction

When Bob the Builder meets a Palestinian Mickey Mouse, bulldozers turn into weapons.

bulldozer pigua 224 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
bulldozer pigua 224 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
'Here's a song which is not heard enough by a group which might want to change its name," announced the presenter of a radio show, a week after the July 2 attack in which three people lost their lives in Jerusalem. I don't remember which particular song he played. I do remember the name of the band: Nikmat Hatraktor - The Tractor's Revenge. To understand the black humor - a survival mechanism as valid as any other - you have to realize that a bulldozer in Hebrew is called a "tractor," while a "bulldozer" is usually used to refer to the sort of person who gets things done: a human steamroller. Nothing is like it seems. We've had to get used to terms like "human bomb," and now the innocent name of a once-popular band has taken on a negative connotation - doubly negative following last week's copycat bulldozer attack. On July 22, when for the second time in three weeks an Arab bulldozer driver from east Jerusalem plowed into cars and a bus - this time on King David Street, not so far from the July 2 rampage on Jaffa Road - it became even more difficult to joke about the situation. This time 15 people were wounded before the terrorist was shot dead by a Druse Border Police officer and a civilian passerby, Yaki Asa-El. (The 53-year-old grandfather - a former Armored Corps company commander - is a farmer from the community of Sussiya in the southern Hebron Hills and the older brother of Post columnist Amotz Asa-El.) The band "The Tractor's Revenge" took its name in 1988 from a song by musician Rami Fortis. In an interview with the Post five years ago, keyboardist/percussionist Ilan Green explained the name by saying: "It means what it means." But who knows what anything means anymore? It's not just the Israeli band which has got a sudden image problem. When after the first attack I recalled how surreal it was to count police and ambulance sirens, Life is Beautiful-style, with my young son in the "second intifada," a neighbor noted she could identify with the problem. Her four-year-old son is a fan of Bob the Builder and gets excited every time he sees a bulldozer. Since massive roadwork projects in connection with the light rail are taking place all over Jerusalem, there are plenty of construction vehicles for him to see, and plenty for his poor mom to worry about. One of the worst aspects of these "low-tech" attacks - is this about to become known as "the third intifada"? - is how it destroys everyone's innocence and trust. While my neighbor's young son tries to absorb the message of conflict resolution, cooperation and equal opportunities through small-town construction contractor Bob the Builder, his workmate Wendy and their gang of anthropomorphized vehicles, here in the Israeli capital the adults are increasingly looking at construction equipment - and their operators - as something menacing. Unlike the suicide bombers of the first and second intifadas, the perpetrators of the latest two atrocities - and the former transport company driver who killed eight students at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in March - did not fit the profile of fanatical Islamicists. In fact, they didn't fit the profile of most terrorists. These were not "poor Palestinians" living "under the occupation" in the territories, as the sympathetic image would have it. They were Arabs who lived in Jerusalem, benefited from freedom of movement possibly greater than most Jewish residents, who feel utterly intimidated when passing through Arab neighborhoods, and turned their jobs into the Devil's work. While Jewish politicians, at the local and national level, stressed the obvious - that most of the country's Arab citizens are loyal, hardworking people - the Arab MKs were so quiet their silence was eerie. The same Arab politicians who welcome pro-Palestinian moves to divest from the Caterpillar company because its equipment is used in building the security barrier and demolishing illegally built homes had nothing to say when bulldozers were so unnaturally used as weapons. The latest attack was praised by Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip as "a natural reaction to the crimes of the occupation." The attacker, who had a criminal record for drugs and theft, was a relative of imprisoned Hamas leader Muhammad Abu Tir. Perhaps he was trying to kill some Jews to show he'd repented for his Allah-less ways. He might have acted alone, but he acted in an environment in which becoming a martyr is an admirable goal. The ultimate promotion for a smalltime criminal. My neighbor's comments about Bob the Builder - or Bob Habanai, as he is known and loved in Hebrew - reminded me of a far-from-lovable character in the spotlight last year. Farfur, the Palestinian Mickey Mouse, was exposed by Palestinian Media Watch, which showed the Hamas TV character preaching that the "oppressive invading Zionist occupation" must be "resisted" at all costs. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas's enemy no less than the Zionists for the moment, at least went through the motions of denouncing the latest terrorist incident, saying: "I condemn the attack and as always I wholeheartedly oppose all acts of terror." But, I smell a rat. On July 20, the Post's Khaled Abu Toameh revealed that the PA's official news agency Wafa is claiming Israel is using rats to drive Arab families out of their homes in Jerusalem's Old City. In the past the news agency, which is controlled and funded by Abbas's office, has accused Israel of using wild pigs to drive Palestinians from their homes and fields in the West Bank. When official Palestinian media run such wild allegations, the results are obvious. There is a problem with rats in the western part of the city, too. It has apparently worsened as the massive excavation necessary for the light rail project has disturbed them, but I wouldn't run a story blaming the Arab construction workers for deliberately setting them loose. The increasing radicalism of Israeli Arabs which thrives in this Jews-are-capable-of-anything climate was evident before the King David Street attack. On July 18, two students from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem were indicted for suspected ties to al-Qaida. There are six suspects altogether: four from east Jerusalem and the other two from Taiba and Nazareth. Among their plans was a plot to attack George W. Bush's helicopter from the Hebrew University's Givat Ram campus during the US president's visit in May. Again, we are not talking about penniless, uneducated Palestinians. Again, the Israeli Arab leadership was silent. Bob the Builder's catchphrase is: "Can we fix it?" The other characters always respond: "Yes we can!" But it won't be easy to fix the damage caused by the recent attacks in Jerusalem. Someone in the Israeli Arab leadership has to shout out a condemnation of terror and make sure Bob the Builder's philosophy of peacefully building things together is the message which is being heard.