Thursday, August 04, 2005

Yes It Was Terrorism 

When I first saw the reports on the web, and the immediate labelling of the attack as terrorism by at least one Arab MK, I was already planning a post explaining the difference between a spontaneous, outrageous murder, and terrorism. I've changed my mind.

The Jerusalem Post has early details of a shameful Jewish terrorist attack:
In what police are calling an incident of Jewish terrorism, a Jewish man dressed in IDF uniform opened fire on a bus in the northern town of Shfaram Thursday evening, killing at least 4 people and wounding nearly a dozen more.
From what I've read, the dead include the bus driver and two adolescent girls. Any idea that this can be excused is inexcusable.

The suspect was a resident of the West Bank settlement of Tapuah and was well-known to police for extremist views. He was a member of the outlawed ultra-Right-wing Kahane Chai party. An IDF soldier, Tzuberi had been tried in the past for refusing orders linked to the disengagment plan, and had been reported AWOL from the IDF 77 days ago - still in possession of his army-issued firearm. During his short army career he served time in military prison on two occasions.

Sources in the Shin Bet said that they had received no warning of plans by Jewish extremists to attack Israeli Arabs. Far-right activists told The Jerusalem Post that they had seen the shooter at anti-disengagement events.
I had planned to clarify that terrorism is when violence against innocents is used to promote a cause, usually with organized support or at least acquiescience. Now it appears that the terrorist did have a cause. And, while details are murky at this point, it is difficult to imagine the shooting being framed as an act of self-defense or somehow justifiable. Nor does it appear his murderous ideology developed in isolation, even though he may not have left the traditional suicide video, and the organization with which he was affiliated may not claim credit for his action.

It is too late to stop what has happened, to call back the bullets. We can only try to rise to the challenge of demonstrating how a civilized society should respond to terrorism in its midst. It is our responsibility to stop this from occuring again, especially those whose support this man may have thought he had. We must show that anyone who has even an inkling of future attacks will take action to stop them. We must show in polls and surveys that are sure to follow in coming days that we do not support the terrorist, or his actions, and we must oppose any fringe attempts to justify or minimize the act.

I'm sure it will be difficult. It is understandable to fear that condemning a man who murdered in the name of a goal will taint that goal, a goal -- opposing disengagement -- shared by many. This may very well be a fear Palestinians share when they have such trouble condemning and opposing their own terrorists. Hopefully by unreservedly carrying the burden of opposing this terror, we will show that this fear is an unacceptable excuse. Opposition to disengagement remains a perfectly valid opinion to hold and peacefully advocate, as does belief in the right to a Palestinian state. But killing innocents in the name of either goal cannot be tolerated. Not today, and not tomorrow.

May this murderer's memory be thoroughly disgraced, for the innocents he has murdered, and the harm he has done.


While this is a time to condemn and not debate, there were several points raised publicly I would like to address:

The Aalam Center for Arab-Israeli Communications alleged that there wasn't sufficient live coverage of the event by Israeli TV. I don't know to what extent this is true because I don't watch, but I'll accept it as true for the moment. My problem is with the assumption that this was because Jews don't care about Arab blood. I would offer another possibility: that the mob's retribution against the killer was not something Israeli TV broadcasts live. If people who watched the coverage have reason to believe otherwise, I'd like to hear about it. I believe Jews, and especially the media, do care about Arab blood, the blood of innocents, and that this particular criticism, made in the heat of the moment, should be reconsidered. The attack was bad enough without inventing new and unwarranted charges.

MK Azmi Bashara further questioned why the media was calling it a shooting rather than terrorism. Forgetting for the moment that almost all media prefers the news-speak vocabulary which doesn't include the T-word at all, I believe that if Dr. Bashara checks again, now that the details are getting out, he will find that it largely is being called a terrorist attack. A charge of terrorism depends on certain contextual facts, and cannot always be leveled until details are made public. Dr. Bashara may be used to the more spontaneous and creative reporting methods of the PA and its media which often results in outrageous accusations which later require discreet retraction. I suspect Dr. Bashara will not reconsider his accusation, but I believe he should.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: