At Large

Terror in the Galilee

For once the acts of a murderous terrorist are not excusable.

By 8.11.05

Send to Kindle

JERUSALEM -- Last Thursday an AWOL Israeli soldier named Eden Natan-Zada, in an act of pure terrorism, killed four people and injured twelve in a bus that had arrived at the Arab-Druze town of Shfaram in the Galilee. Deciding that being Arab is a crime punishable by death and that he was the executioner, he showed his military valor by killing two older men and two young women, sisters, apparently shooting them in the back, and strafing the rest.

Natan-Zada seems then to have been subdued and shackled by policemen, who, however, were overcome by residents of the town who beat Natan-Zada to death. Having been AWOL for 77 days and fallen in with an extremist fringe group in the West Bank settlement of Tapuach, Natan-Zada's parents had been appealing to the authorities to detain him and impound his gun. Chief of Staff Dan Halutz has ordered an inquiry into why this was not done.

As an assault on civilians intended to promote a political aim -- in this case, apparently, Natan-Zada's hope of creating a ruckus that would derail the disengagement plan -- the massacre shared the basic features of all terror attacks. What was different from most cases of terror, however, especially recent ones, were the reactions of the community of the victims -- Israeli Arabs; and of the community of the perpetrator -- Israeli Jews.

Clearly, the Arabs who stormed the bus and beat Natan-Zada to death were not searching for "root causes" and asking themselves what Israeli Arabs, or Arabs in general, must have done to deserve such an attack. Nor, in the ensuing days, has a single voice in the Israeli Arab community raised such questions. Instead, their leaders have demanded that all "settlers" be disarmed (even though Natan-Zada himself came from the town of Rishon Letzion south of Tel Aviv, and the vast majority of Jews living in the territories are law-abiding), threatened mass protests, plan to bring complaints to international organizations, and have also demanded that Israel refrain from investigating Natan-Zada's lynching by Arabs of the town even after he was subdued by the policemen.

This despite the fact that if one wanted to find "root causes," it would be easy enough. Natan-Zada, who was 19, grew up at a time when Israeli Jews were regularly being slaughtered in the streets, mostly by Palestinian Arabs but with Israeli Arabs perpetrating or abetting a significant minority of the attacks. It would, of course, be morally monstrous to suggest that this in any way justifies or "explains" Natan-Zada's decision to carry out a mini-genocide on a bus. He was one of hundreds of thousands of young Israelis who grew up in that period, and the rest of them are not terrorists. Such "root cause" claims, however, are routinely made by parts of the victims' community when terrorists strike in Britain, America, and other Western countries.

AS FOR THE ISRAELI JEWISH community, it has reacted to the attack with shock and condemnation across the political spectrum. Prime Minister Sharon called it "a vile act by a bloodthirsty terrorist who sought to harm innocent Israeli citizens." Benzi Lieberman, head of the settler community, said: "Murder is murder is murder, and there can be no other response but to denounce it completely and express revulsion." The Israeli Jewish response has not been harmonious; some left-wing figures, while also denouncing the attack in harsh terms, have predictably sought to pin the blame on entire right-wing sectors.

Even finding a burial place for Natan-Zada proved difficult: after Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz refused him a military burial and the mayor of Tapuach refused to have him interred there as well, it was decided to bury Natan-Zada in his hometown of Rishon Letzion -- where, again, the mayor and citizens raised objections. Meanwhile, the authorities are weighing the controversial step of administrative detention without trial for other far-right individuals suspected of violent potential.

In the Holy Land, then, known for the often-bizarre nature of its events, the reaction to this terror attack has been notably "normal" -- or what should be normal. Although the Israeli Arab community has gone overboard in (like the Jewish leftists) spreading the blame too wide, and in opposing an investigation of the lynching, it has exhibited the moral sanity of responding with outrage at the killer and without an ounce of self-recrimination. The Israeli Jewish community, for its part, has totally eschewed "root cause" and "victim" exonerations even though it could draw on a rich stock of victimhood if it wanted to take that contemptible tack.

When all terror attacks anywhere meet with such total revulsion both from the victimized community and the perpetrators' community, terrorism won't stand a chance.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

P. David Hornik is a writer and translator in Beersheva, Israel, blogging at PDavidHornik.typepad.com.