coming back at my post “starting over” just a couple of hours ago on today’s attack in Jerusalem I felt I had to add some more after the first shock was gone. A feeling of shock in fact, that might be all too European.
However first of all I’d like to link Lila’s entry for she quoted a lot of great (English) footage on what actually happened and thereby managed to draw a (too?) vivid picture.
But what I felt I had to write about isn’t the fact that something terrible and frightening happened but rather the consequences. The question of what to do next. Though one might think that’s everyday-business for Israelis indeed it isn’t. Every action taken by either the police forces or the IDF is a matter of constant discussion. (As long as it is still being discussed and people aren’t on the run from their own country’s problems.) Such a discussion can be seen at Lila’s place for instance. There is graenzgaenge pointing out that the emphasis is supposed to be on how to keep Jerusalem save, not on politics or what the rest of the place might think about Israel yet posing the question whether the freedom of mobility of (Arab) Eastern Jerusalem residents can be granted without endangering (Jewish) Western Jerusalem residents.
And then of course there is the house-issue. All starting with Olmert, merely a couple of hours after the attack, claiming that
the attacker’s east Jerusalem home must be destroyed. (source)
Yet he isn’t the only person sharing an opinion that won’t make Israel look all too civilized in the western world.
In a telephone conversation with Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, [Ehud] Barak reportedly said that he did not understand why the house of the terrorist who perpetrated the Mercaz Haraz Yeshiva attack on March 6 had not yet been demolished, and promised that he would push for the structure to be torn down. (source)
Lupolianski himself stated Wednesday that the bulldozer driver’s home should be demolished. “Only by destroying the terrorist’s home will we be able to send out a clear message and prevent other youngsters who want to perpetrate terror attacks and kill Jerusalem residents from carrying out their plans,” he said at the scene of the attack. (source)
And reading this brought the European I have been brought up as back to the light of day. As in “wait a minute. As angry and frightened as I am, can this be right? Can it be right to destroy houses because one member of the family living there run amok?”
Of course I can’t just ignore the fact that the terrorist’s family – according to Sabina he happens to be a relative of the Yeshiva terrorist – wasn’t quite behaving to Eurpean standards either. Instead of crying to the media how he had always been such a kind person helping old women and widows and swearing a thousand voes that one had no idea he, above all, could do such a terrible thing his aunt reportedly cried from her balcony praising her “Shahid”.
But what would happen if this took place in Europe. Apart from even more horror, I mean. How would authorities react?
No question demolishing houses wouldn’t be an option. First of all investigators would swarm out like bees on a warm spring day finding every bit of data on the incident and making extra sure there are no more people on the run who had been involved. Which in the case of yesterday’s attack is unlikely for it is said that the terrorist acted spontaneously and without planning in advance save a group supporting him. (Which as far as I know some of the usual definitions on terrorism wouldn’t actually fit into “terrorism” but would rather be “just” a regular crime.) Investigations might go on for years if something like that happened. And then? After every stone had been turned around and every single detail that might perhaps have prevented the catastrophe had been discovered and possible culprits – most likely within politics – had been made to step down. Well, depending on the country and the current political situation people as well as politicians are likely to ask for stricter rules on whatever went wrong. Which I think can be compared to Israelis questioning the risk behind free movement granted to Eastern Jerusalem Arabs. And then? Most likely nothing. Even with cases that moved nations – as Natasha Kampusch’s – at one point investigations are ended and all that is left is trying to help survivors finding back into a normal life coping with what they witnessed. Most Europeans though feeling helpless would agree that there is no more that can be done.
Does Israel, because of its special situation, have the – moral – right to outrun those borders? Does the psychological support of the offender in any way legitimise collective punishment? And moreover: Will it help? Or is the only long-term effect it has producing even more hatred and thereby next generation’s terrorists while accepting the helplessness on this single case and focusing on the survivors may lead to an understanding of justice within the offender’s family and the whole Arab/Palestinian community.
I know Israeli who’d state that one oughtn’t forget when discussing this the mentality of Arabs where a failure of reaction would be viewed as weakness and thereby as a victory. Judging from what I have seen this might well be true. Yet does that really mean Israel is to descend to Palestinian levels of morals and play by their rules?