columnIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Fear terrorism, not the Israelis defending against it

Contrary to the aspersions cast by external or internal ill-wishers, Israelis are far from trigger-happy.

Israelis light memorial candles at the site of the June 7, 2022 terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.
Israelis light memorial candles at the site of the June 7, 2022 terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Credit: Courtesy.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, an author and award-winning columnist, is a former adviser at the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

At a Tel Aviv cafe on Monday morning, I overheard a couple talking about the terrorist surge responsible for the fact that the normally packed establishment was as relatively empty as the adjacent Carmel Market.

On such a beautiful day, and with Passover fast approaching, both venues ought to have been teeming with Israelis taking a time out from grocery shopping to sip espresso in the sun. But the shooting spree on Thursday night at one of the White City’s popular pubs, as well as other deadly attacks by Palestinians and like-minded Arab Israelis, has people on edge.

This makes perfect sense. Less logical was the conclusion that the husband and wife reached about the perilous situation.

In their view, the greatest threat to their safety at the moment is not a potential assault from residents of the Palestinian Authority or their Arab-Israeli brethren. The danger lies, rather, in the slippery trigger fingers of Israeli security forces and members of the general public in possession of firearms.

The conversation turned to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s recent call on licensed gun owners to carry their weapons. That this directive came on the heels of heroic acts by armed civilians against terrorists on a rampage didn’t enter the discussion.

They cited two examples, both of which occurred on Sunday, to justify their fears. The first involved the shooting to death of an unarmed Palestinian woman in the town of Husan. The second was the killing of a Jewish-Israeli man at an intersection near Ashkelon.

It’s not clear whether the spouses had bothered to learn the details of each case. Their unified position, which they indicated by nodding and sighing at each other’s comments, was that the specifics were irrelevant.

Such an attitude, though far less rampant in Israel than the far-left would have one believe, provides fodder for the foreign press. This is not to say that publications like The Guardian and The New York Times need any help crafting headlines and concocting news stories that completely distort reality. But it sheds light on the tendency of Israeli liberals, like their counterparts abroad, to place blame where it doesn’t belong.

Unable, as an eavesdropper, to set the record straight in real time, I am taking the opportunity to do so here for anyone who has a similarly false sense of the above events.

Let’s start with the first instance, which took place at a makeshift checkpoint. Widowed mother-of-six Ghada Ibrahim Ali Sabateen charged at Israel Defense Forces soldiers in a suspicious manner and refused their order to halt. Following standard procedure, the soldiers first shot in the air. When Sabateen ignored the command, they shot her in the leg.

As soon as she fell to the ground, the soldiers administered first aid and called an ambulance. Palestinian medics quickly arrived and rushed her to the Al-Hussein Governmental Hospital in nearby Beit Jala, where she died of blood loss from a torn artery in her thigh.

If anything, this incident illustrates the care that the IDF troops took to avoid killing Sabateen, whose behavior indicated that she was seeking to die that afternoon as a “martyr,” rather than by suicide due to deep emotional problems. Now her family is eligible for a hefty monthly stipend from the P.A.

The second tragedy in question was equally unavoidable. Though it would subsequently emerge that the victim was not a terrorist, but rather a patient who had escaped from an institution for the mentally ill, his death wasn’t the result of some frivolous error.

In the first place, he was wearing pants resembling military fatigues and waving what later turned out to be a toy pistol. Secondly, he assaulted a female IDF soldier at a bus stop and grabbed her rifle, spurring witnesses on the scene to shout, “Terrorist! Terrorist!”

At this moment, IDF Binyamin Brigade Commander Col. Eliav Elbaz happened by and called out in Arabic to the perpetrator to put down the weapon. It was only after the man ignored the command and kept running that Elbaz shot him dead.

Even if the above IDF actions hadn’t been taken under the current circumstances, with a Ramadan-spurred terror wave that claimed the lives of 14 innocents in the space of less than three weeks, they would have been completely justified. Contrary to the aspersions cast by external or internal ill-wishers, Israelis are far from trigger-happy.

Indeed, it’s the jihadists who should be feared, not the men and women in uniform—or jeans—defending against them.

Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”

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