Letter of the week?

From today’s Jerusalem Post (letters section) comes this cracker:

The near-daily murderous attacks by Palestinian terrorists against Israeli soldiers and civilians demonstrates that the army and government are unable to keep the peace and guarantee the safety of Israelis, wherever they live.

Senior officials claim that there is no way to effectively combat this “knife intifada,” but I would beg to differ. As the violence between Israel and the Palestinians rages on, with no end in sight, the Palestinians and others have demanded that the United Nations take a more active role in order to stem the violence.

I could not agree more – the status quo is simply not sustainable, and it is high time we listened, for a change, to the international community.

To that end, I propose that the UN immediately commission and issue a report detailing the measures that Russia, Iran and Syria employ against terrorists operating in their respective countries. I am confident that if the UN makes Israel implement the report’s findings in their entirety, Palestinian terrorism will cease in record time, and calm and security will be permanently restored to our streets.



Suicide by soldier

You can look at the current Palestinian terror campaign in several ways, in each case (I would argue) concluding that there is nothing to be gained by the Palestinians; it’s all a bloody waste of time and precious life. But Professor Ariel Merari, according to this Times of Israel piece, has a perspective that is new, at least to me. First, the IDF perspective:

Whaat is motivating the terrorists in Israel’s current wave of knife, car-ramming and shooting attacks? What goes through the head of, say, a young Palestinian who enters a supermarket and plunges his knife into the neck of a woman he’s never met?

According to sources within the Israel Defense Forces, aside from the ostensible ideological motive, many of these attacks are a form of “suicide by cop,” or “suicide by soldier.”

“Most of the people have personal problems with their families or they themselves are unbalanced,” a senior IDF officer in the Central Command told The Times of Israel.

Referring to the terrorist who killed two Jews and a Palestinian near the Jewish settlement of Alon Shvut, including 18-year-old Ezra Schwartz, the officer suggested, “He may have owed people money.”

“They all have their personal reasons,” the officer continued. “You have 12- and 13-year-old girls, a 14-year-old boy. There was also that old woman in Hebron who tried to ram her car. Or that woman from Silwan, 40 years old, with four kids, from a wealthy home.”

And the professor:

Ariel Merari, a professor emeritus of psychology at Tel Aviv University, has interviewed and studied would-be Palestinian suicide bombers in previous waves of attacks. He said that while he has not directly interviewed any of the latest attackers, what the IDF officer said is consistent with his findings from a decade and two decades ago, as described in his 2010 book, “Driven to Death: Psychological and Social Aspects of Suicide Terrorism.”

So, it is not based on any present data, but – as it were – past performance.

Suicide is one of the aspects of society which is not a popular topic for discussion. Its effects on the family and friends of the deceased can be shattering. Often there is a sinkhole of despair that has gone unchecked, but to have brought the issue out in to the open would have meant – in the eyes of many – being tarnished with some tag as perhaps mentally ill, depressed, or a lesser person. Wholly wrong, but it happens. Mental health is the Cinderella of the health service in most western countries, so you can imagine the lack of resources in societies focused on terror. And that may mean that despite the security preparations Israel takes, the current terror campaign will be with us for a lot longer. Truly, there would be a peace dividend for everyone.

The Paris attacks and the exploitation of fear

Bruce Schneier has an excellent blog piece entitled Policy Repercussions of the Paris Terrorist Attacks (which I have only just come across) that is the usual breath of fresh air about terrorism, security, and surveillance.

For example:

The politics of surveillance are the politics of fear. As long as the people are afraid of terrorism — regardless of how realistic their fears are — they will demand that the government keep them safe. And if the government can convince them that it needs this or that power in order to keep the people safe, the people will willingly grant them those powers.

In short, governments use fear as a justification to acquire more intrusive powers.

It doesn’t matter that mass surveillance isn’t an effective anti-terrorist tool: a scared populace wants to be reassured.

That point is worth emphasizing, too. For example, there already was surveillance operating before the Paris terror attacks. Increasing it wouldn’t have increased the chances of preventing the attacks. Mass surveillance does not work in this arena. It does work in terms of keeping tabs on your political opponents…

So far as the opportunities and politicians are concerned, Schenier writes:

And politicians want to reassure. It’s smart politics to exaggerate the threat. It’s smart politics to do something, even if that something isn’t effective at mitigating the threat. The surveillance apparatus has the ear of the politicians, and the primary tool in its box is more surveillance. There’s minimal political will to push back on those ideas, especially when people are scared…

…Terrorism is singularly designed to push our fear buttons in ways completely out of proportion to the actual threat. And as long as people are scared of terrorism, they’ll give their governments all sorts of new powers of surveillance, arrest, detention, and so on, regardless of whether those powers actually combat the threat. This means that those who want those powers need a steady stream of terrorist attacks to enact their agenda. It’s not that these people are actively rooting for the terrorists, but they know a good opportunity when they see it.

So, even though it does not work, the politicians are going to keep trying to secure more surveillance and other intrusive powers.

Do read the whole post (which includes some excellent links to other material on the same issues) here.

A slip of the blame

Credit to the Guardian for establishing a live report on this morning’s terror attack. Unfortunately, it was blighted momentarily by this:


They got the headline wrong. It has since been corrected.

Inevitably, Hamas have praised the attack. They claim it is in retaliation for the lynching of an Arab bus driver earlier in the week. The police say the bus driver’s death was suicide. I do not know any reason to doubt the police. However, for the avoidance of doubt, if it were a lynching, that would be a despicable crime and the perpetrators should be hunted down and subject to the full force of the law. But even if it were a lynching, in no way, shape or form does that justify or excuse this morning’s attack.

There will be plenty of blame to go around. If the media – and western politicians – were being honest, they would own up to the root cause being incitement. Incitement by Hamas, but also by Abbas and Fatah. Incitement that has almost entirely been ignored. Kerry’s condemnation is to be welcomed, but it’s late; very late.

It would be good if this were the last such attack. I’m praying that this is the case, and for a full and speedy recovery for the surviving victims.

Your own money

From the Times of Israel:

Abbas gives every freed prisoner $50,000 and a top job

In addition to lump sum, former inmates promoted to senior Palestinian Authority positions that carry large monthly salaries

I don’t like it. But I suppose they can do whatever they want with their own money.

…Hey, wait a minute!

Do not dare

An outstanding (and important) comment from Harry’s Place:

Greenewald is morally bankrupt. Norm Geras is excellent once again on this and I can’t add anything to his precis.

I am proud and privileged to have served in Helmand Province both as a soldier and latterly as a civilian. I have seen at close quarters the damage inflicted on Muslims by…yes, other Muslims. I have seen the results of poison attacks on girls for the crime of going to school and I have seen the corpes of those Muslims murdered by their fellow Muslims for the crime of taking part in development projects. I have also seen the armies of the United Kingdom, United States and others place themselves in incredible danger in order to save the lives of Muslims and I have seen life-saving medical care given to Muslims who not ten seconds earlier were trying to kill my comrades and I. I have seen the gratitude in the eyes of those Muslims whose villages had been liberated from the tyranny and cruelty of the rule of other Muslims. I have seen the exacting and exhaustive investigations into instances where our armies unintentionally killed or injured innocent people and I have seen cash handed over to those whose properties have been damaged by fighting. I have seen the apprehension and fear on the faces of these Muslims when they speak of what awaits them when the western forces leave them, potentally to the mercy of other Muslims.

I do not support all which we have done in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but, Glenn Greenewald, do not dare try to tell me that life would be better if we had never turned up. Do not dare tell me that western armies are worse behaved than the mysogynisitc murderers of the Taleban and al-Qaeda. Do not dare tell me that if only we stopped upsetting them, the extremists would somehow convert to social democracy. Do not dare.

[The original is here.]