News Middle East

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Israel has never been a stranger to the reality of senseless terror

The Jewish state has only ever known defiance and defence -- yet it is judged for protecting its own people, writes Carol Hunt

BOTH husbands were buried on Friday. Both had been on holiday with their wives, both had left small children at home and both were victims of last week's terror attack in the tourist town of Burgas in Bulgaria, which killed seven people and injured many more.

The Bulgarians are shocked, naturally, that such a thing could happen in their country, to their guests. The Israelis, who were the intended victims, less so.

Since its conception in 1948, Israel has repeatedly had to defend not just its right to exist as a place where people of Jewish ancestry can find refuge, but also to defend its citizens in the wider world.

Last week President Obama joined the campaign to hold a moment of silence at the London Olympics to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the massacre of 11 Israeli Olympians at the 1972 games in Munich.

Yet while many remember the horror of what occurred at Munich as being beyond redemption, others perceive the retaliation of Israel, the so-called 'Operation Wrath of God', when Premier Golda Meir authorised the covert assassination of all those thought to be involved, to be a far more sinister and unforgiveable attack on human rights.

In the 2005 film Munich, director Steven Spielberg received much criticism from Zionists who deplored that the film seemed to equate terrorism with counter-terrorism and that the Israeli assassins were portrayed as questioning the policy of tit-for-tat self-defence.

Spielberg himself said: "There is something about killing people at close range that is excruciating. It's bound to try a man's soul."

Strangely, it's not two weeks since I had pretty much that same notion as I stood in front of a photo in the Holocaust Museum of Yad Vashem in the hills of Jerusalem.

The picture showed a young German soldier, standing not more than six or eight feet from a Jewish mother and her small child whom she held wrapped around her waist, her head turned to the side.

It had been taken when the soldier had been in the process of killing her and her son.

A memento.

Last week, political commentator Charles Krauthammer, when asked about the possible reaction of Israel to the Bulgarian murders, said: "I think what Israel will do is what it traditionally does, as it did on the attack on its athletes in the Olympics 40 years ago, where it finds out methodically who did it and all of a sudden terrorists all over the world turn up dead."

Israel's prime minister has pledged that Israel will "continue to pursue the attackers and exact a heavy price from those who sent them".

It's this compulsion to counter-attack with greater force and strength, to take the whole head in exchange for an eye, which has added to the perception in many quarters that Israel is an aggressor nation, that she is the cause of much of the strife in the Middle East and that if she would just go away, all would be well.

In Israel, of course, they see things differently. For example, the justification for the security fence (called the 'apartheid wall' by some) recently constructed to much international condemnation is obvious to them.

"More than a thousand of our citizens were killed by suicide bombers coming over the border," we were told when we saw it on a visit to Israel earlier this month.

"After the fence went up (only 4 per cent of it is concrete wall) those killings practically stopped."

One has to concede they got the result that they were looking for.

In the oft-bombarded southern town of Sderot, where the group of journalists I was with were told we would hear a 15-second warning siren before an attack, we saw the remains of home-made bombs and missiles, regularly thrown from neighbouring Gaza.

A young soldier spoke about only ever knowing a life where she was constantly on edge, was allowed little freedom to travel and was always alert to the fact that an attack may be imminent, that she or her loved ones may be injured or killed.

All around there were bars and cafes full of "bright young things", in areas where teenagers and children were murdered -- at a disco, in a pizza parlour, on a bus.

All Israelis -- indeed, the Jewish people -- have ever known throughout their history is defiance and defence; they are determined to protect their homeland and their citizens and if we wish to continue judging their methods perhaps, just perhaps, it would be wise to put ourselves in their shoes and live their lives, even just for a day or two, before casting that particular stone.

Sunday Independent

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