In the last couple of weeks Arab terrorism ventured beyond Israel. A Russian plane exploded over the Sinai Peninsula. All 227 passengers died. ISIS, the Islamic State terrorist group, is suspected of this horrific, cowardly attack. ISIS accuses Russia for attacking its forces in Syria.
Last night, in Paris, more than 120 Frenchmen were killed in six coordinated attacks. The eight gunmen are believed to be ISIS operatives. They’re taking aim at the French for their involvement in Syria. What’s most terrifying is not so much what has happened but “Who’s Next?” This not-knowing is at the heart of terrorism. Terrorists alter our lives irrevocably. Stepping out our front door becomes a matter of life and death.
I bring up these sad examples to illustrate what the typical Israeli has to endure in the last two months since the recent Arab uprising. Daily Israelis are stabbed to death, run over at a bus stop by a mad terrorist, their cars struck with rocks. In the first few days, Israelis went into shock. Shopping malls remained empty. Buses rolled half-empty across city streets. People look over their shoulder for would-be killers. Every Arab-looking man or woman is a suspect. Israel’s security forces are instructed to shoot and kill. Soldiers and security personnel could easily disarm a knife-carrying man or woman by wounding and disabling them. But the order are clear: shoot to kill. I agree. The shoot-to-kill policy is two-fold: 1. deter any Arab from launching at attack knowing he will not come out alive. 2. Calm the Israeli public. I doubt many Israelis want a wounded terrorist to be tended to in an Israeli hospital by Israeli doctors (that has often happened), and then brought to trial, jailed, then released in a swap.
Living in Galilee, I encounter Israeli-Arabs daily. They’re everywhere; they stock the shelves at the supermarket, cut and slice beef at the butcher’s section; they’re gas station attendants, mechanics, day laborers, vendors at falafel stands, and pharmacists behind the counter. This proximity is what’s terrifying. To be constantly on the alert, to be vigilant does a number on the nerves. It’s Arab roulette. Who can you trust? We living amidst them and them living amidst us is not like walking on egg-shells but walking on land-mines. What will explode next?
If Israeli-Jews are jittery and scared, Arab-Israelis are terrified. Recently I took in my car for service at a Toyota dealership in Nazareth, an Arab town. For years, the service manager greeted me kindly. Service was superb. Against my better judgment, I decided not to cave in to fear and “give peace a chance.” Arriving at the dealership, I found it empty. All the lifts were idle, not one car was being serviced. Phones were mute, as if their cords had been cut dead. After we warmed up to one another, the Arab manager said between s series of nervous cigarette puffs: “Yesterday, I was terrified. Yesterday, I drove my SUV into a Jewish town and came to a stop at the light. Jews in the car next to me eyed me. I thought I was having a heart attack. I thought they were going to lynch me.” When I prodded him some more, he said Arabs are panic-stricken. They stay home. They venture out only when necessary, fearing a reprisal from Jews. I return to my seat at the dealership and read the paper. Soon I’m offered coffee, baklava pastries, fruit, dates – compliments of the house. I don’t even have to haggle over the invoice, as before. This time the discount is offered with a smile, a nervous smile. Everyone’s on edge. I drive home. I don’t bother to stop at the nursery to pick up seasonal plants and flowers from the Arab owner. Why tempt fate? I’m a casualty of fear. And there are thousands and millions like me in Israel, in Russia, in France.
As for playing the roulette, even Vegas gives better odds. Spin, baby, spin.