Quote of the week

“Beyond the opinion that each one may have in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the cancellation of this party [game] is a victory for hatred, fear and terrorism. The World Cup has not started yet, but the Argentine national team has already lost its first points.”

Argentinian journalist Gabriel Chocron, as quoted by the Elder of Ziyon, here.

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Refuse to be terrorized

This essay, from Bruce Schneier, is an important refresher of one he did after 9/11. It’s a solid, sensible view of terror as he sees it from a western perspective. However, from my perspective, it’s one of those areas – one of the few, you might argue – where Israel and Israelis have a different perspective. Where such events are unusual, in Israel they are not. Indeed, much ‘low level’ terrorism – which is assuredly not low level to those who are its victims – is just not reported out of Israel. It is not newsworthy.

Therefore, be aware that this is a valid view, but it is not the only one. I would very much like to see how Mr Schneier would cover the same topic from our viewpoint.

As the details about the bombings in Boston unfold, it’d be easy to be scared. It’d be easy to feel powerless and demand that our elected leaders do something — anything — to keep us safe.

It’d be easy, but it’d be wrong. We need to be angry and empathize with the victims without being scared. Our fears would play right into the perpetrators’ hands — and magnify the power of their victory for whichever goals whatever group behind this, still to be uncovered, has. We don’t have to be scared, and we’re not powerless. We actually have all the power here, and there’s one thing we can do to render terrorism ineffective: Refuse to be terrorized.

It’s hard to do, because terrorism is designed precisely to scare people — far out of proportion to its actual danger. A huge amount of research on fear and the brain teaches us that we exaggerate threats that are rare, spectacular, immediate, random — in this case involving an innocent child — senseless, horrific and graphic. Terrorism pushes all of our fear buttons, really hard, and we overreact.

But our brains are fooling us. Even though this will be in the news for weeks, we should recognize this for what it is: a rare event. That’s the very definition of news: something that is unusual — in this case, something that almost never happens.

Remember after 9/11 when people predicted we’d see these sorts of attacks every few months? That never happened, and it wasn’t because the TSA confiscated knives and snow globes at airports. Give the FBI credit for rolling up terrorist networks and interdicting terrorist funding, but we also exaggerated the threat. We get our ideas about how easy it is to blow things up from television and the movies. It turns out that terrorism is much harder than most people think. It’s hard to find willing terrorists, it’s hard to put a plot together, it’s hard to get materials, and it’s hard to execute a workable plan. As a collective group, terrorists are dumb, and they make dumb mistakes; criminal masterminds are another myth from movies and comic books.

Even the 9/11 terrorists got lucky.

If it’s hard for us to keep this in perspective, it will be even harder for our leaders. They’ll be afraid that by speaking honestly about the impossibility of attaining absolute security or the inevitability of terrorism — or that some American ideals are worth maintaining even in the face of adversity — they will be branded as “soft on terror.” And they’ll be afraid that Americans might vote them out of office. Perhaps they’re right, but where are the leaders who aren’t afraid? What has happened to “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”?

Terrorism, even the terrorism of radical Islamists and right-wing extremists and lone actors all put together, is not an “existential threat” against our nation. Even the events of 9/11, as horrific as they were, didn’t do existential damage to our nation. Our society is more robust than it might seem from watching the news. We need to start acting that way.

There are things we can do to make us safer, mostly around investigation, intelligence, and emergency response, but we will never be 100-percent safe from terrorism; we need to accept that.

How well this attack succeeds depends much less on what happened in Boston than by our reactions in the coming weeks and months. Terrorism isn’t primarily a crime against people or property. It’s a crime against our minds, using the deaths of innocents and destruction of property as accomplices. When we react from fear, when we change our laws and policies to make our country less open, the terrorists succeed, even if their attacks fail. But when we refuse to be terrorized, when we’re indomitable in the face of terror, the terrorists fail, even if their attacks succeed.

Don’t glorify the terrorists and their actions by calling this part of a “war on terror.” Wars involve two legitimate sides. There’s only one legitimate side here; those on the other are criminals. They should be found, arrested, and punished. But we need to be vigilant not to weaken the very freedoms and liberties that make this country great, meanwhile, just because we’re scared.

Empathize, but refuse to be terrorized. Instead, be indomitable — and support leaders who are as well. That’s how to defeat terrorists.

[This essay originally appeared on TheAtlantic.com. Available, here.]

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About those roadblocks…

From the Times of Israel:

An Israeli was killed Tuesday morning after he was stabbed by a Palestinian man at the Tapuah junction in the northern West Bank.

The attacker stabbed the Israeli, grabbed his weapon, and according to some accounts shot him at close range.

He then fired at nearby border police, who returned fire and succeeded in subduing him.

The victim, who was said to be about 30 years old, was declared dead at the scene after MDA paramedics’ resuscitation efforts failed.

The attacker was evacuated to Beilinson hospital in Petah Tikva in moderate condition.

Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika condemned the attack and blamed it on Israeli government policy.

“This despicable murder is a direct result of the impotence in the face of rock-throwing, the removal of roadblocks, and the continued treatment of terror attacks as ‘disorderly conduct,’” Mesika said at the scene of the attack.

“The IDF and security establishment must internalize the fact that terror kills. The government has to get with the program and acknowledge that terrorism is terrorism,” he added.

The attacker was released from prison less than six months ago after serving a three-year sentence for throwing stones, Ynet reported. He hails from a village near Tulkarem and his brother was imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority for collaborating with Israel on Monday, the report said.

The authorities are in a difficult position. More roadblocks and more security means better protection, worse disruption for the Palestinians living there, and more condemnation by the world’s apologists for terror. Less roadblocks and less security means less protection, less disruption for the Palestinians living there, and less condemnation by the world’s apologists for terror. It’s a balancing attack. And it’s people like today’s victim who pay the price when the balance is askew.

As an aside, note this part of the article:

“…his brother was imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority for collaborating with Israel on Monday…

So, on Monday his brother is imprisoned by the PA, and on Tuesday he kills an Israeli. Does anyone else feel it in their bones that somebody in the PA might bear some responsibility for today’s attack?

Stepping back from the detail, today’s terror attack underlines the continuing desire for a meaningful, peaceful, long term resolution. Now, where’s my magic wand?

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Munich knew?

The Times of Israel headline:

Germany had a tip-off three weeks ahead of Munich massacre, Der Spiegel claims.

Wow.

The detail:

Germany had a tip-off from a Palestinian informant in Beirut three weeks before the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre that Palestinians were planning an “incident” at the Games, a German news magazine charged Sunday.

The Foreign Ministry in Bonn took the tip-off sufficiently seriously to pass it on to the secret service in Munich and urge that “all possible security measures” be taken.

But the Munich authorities failed to act on the tip, which was passed on to Bonn by the German Embassy in Beirut, and have never acknowledged it in the ensuing 40 years, Der Spiegel said in a front-page story to be published Monday but made available online in German on Sunday.

Double Wow.

I am not sure which, if true, is worse: the failure to act, or the cover up.

Read the whole story here.

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Burgas, Bulgaria

I have a pretty clear view of why a terrorist atrocity like Burgas happened; not the nuts and bolts of the attack, but the political context which, arguably, encourages or  tolerates or excuses it. For example, imagine the outrage if this had been a group of British tourists, or Americans. Somehow, Israelis – read Jews – are legitimate targets.  Nothing to see here. Move on. But I’m not in the right frame of mind to do justice to that post. Instead, while we wait for the investigation to (hopefully) bear fruit, there’s one piece of media coverage worth highlighting just now. It’s from ynetnews.com:

PM reveals: South Africa attack against Israelis thwarted

Following meeting with senior intelligence officials PM discloses that over 20 terror attacks abroad have been thwarted

In the past year Israel successfully prevented numerous terror attacks against Israeli targets abroad – most of which were not reported.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday revealed never before published information about one of the foiled attacks. He said that an attack against Israelis was prevented in South Africa, but did not disclose any further details.

Netanyahu held a situation assessment attended by the IDF chief of staff, and heads of the Mossad and Shin Bet. The discussions dealt with the attack in Bulgaria and the situation in Syria.

A very senior defense official said that since May 2011 more than 20 terror attacks have been prevented, including in Azerbaijan (twice), Kenya, Turkey, Thailand Cyprus and Bulgaria (prevented at the beginning of the year) and in Turkey (an attempt to attack the Israeli Consul in Istanbul).

“Iranians and Hezbollah members are incarcerated in jails throughout the world, the senior security official said. “We don’t know how long the wave of terrorism will continue – it’s global.”

The official said that when a terror state that supports and organizes terror such as Iran joins forces with with an organization that is prepared to take the risks like Hezbollah, no country is safe from possible attacks.

“It is clear to us that this is not an isolated case,” he added. The official noted that Israel has intelligence information that ties the attack in Bulgaria to the attack that was prevented in Cyprus. In both cases the modus operandi was the same.

The official explained the reason why no travel advisory was issued for Burgas: “When we have information we announce it and when we don’t have information we don’t announce it,” he said.

“We felt that something was in the works but we could not connect it with a time or place. Therefore we did not issue an advisory.”

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