This story was written before July 18. A number of additional terror attacked were recorded in Europe and the Middle East. Many other attacks were stopped by authorities worldwide.
The musical sounds from the street saxophonist wafting above Jerusalem’s Jaffa Street this morning nearly drowned out the din of sirens and the noisy rush of curious onlookers while police and security personnel physically restrained a young Palestinian whom we later learned told police he was carrying pipe bombs and knives in his knapsack. It was a good day – another attack, a daily occurrence since last October and a potentially bloody one at that – had been prevented.
In a keen reminder of how life in the 21st century has some frightening aspects to it, I noted three brushes against terror in a period of four days.
It began during a brief trip to Nice with my husband where while sipping coffee on the morning of Bastille Day in a café 100 yards from our hotel, both along the beautiful Rue des Anglais, we pondered an extension to our trip in order to join the revelry. Commitments won out and mere hours before the celebrations were to begin we were airborne.
It wasn’t before arriving home in Jerusalem that I learned of the horrific turn of events and the deadly dash through the human gauntlet by a maniac behind the wheel of a four-ton truck that left 84 dead and 200 wounded. Soon learning of the bodies lying in the street in front of our hotel, I was reminded that I had remarked at the strangely sparse police presence on a day that would see tens of thousands of celebrants in the streets.
Ironically, before learning of events in Nice, we had been reminded that while scenery and topography change from country-to-country, the terrorist threat is global as well as lethal. This, after our late night trek from the airport to the capital was interrupted by a miles-long traffic jam that turned out to be a car-by-car police search, vehicles’ insides illuminated by flashlights.
As if someone yelled, “Hold that thought!” I began the week Sunday morning as an eyewitness to the apprehending of the terrorist who sought to board the Jerusalem light rail before he was discovered to be carrying several pipe bombs and knives.
The world is only beginning to learn the realities of living with terror that are well-ingrained in the experience of Israelis of all ages. How governments and the public sector see terror, how the public sees the environment around them, and how they deal with terror on a daily basis is the difference the people of Nice and Orlando need to come to terms with.
Maj. Gil Kleiman, former spokesman for the Israeli police who witnessed firsthand hundreds of terrorist related incidents, insists that many countries – and, in particular, European nations — are in denial about calling terror, “terror.” He suggests that there is a widely-held belief that the Nice attack, for instance, is a one-off event and a byproduct of what’s going on in the Middle East; and a byproduct of government policies. Kleiman believes the Europeans fail to understand that it’s a terror war directed against Western culture and country. In an analogy to terror and crime, he says that, “once a criminal is caught, it doesn’t mean crime has stopped.”
In Kleiman’s estimation, the difficulty lies in finding the right balance between continuing to live life and fighting terror. “If you go too much to the extreme, to dictatorship, you’ve ruined your society. If you don’t do anything, then the terrorists rule the streets. Either way, the people are left in fear which infects society.”
As other counterterrorism experts have cautioned, the fight against terror requires a citizen army. He explained to The Media Line that, “It’s not just about what the police or the FBI are doing, but what we are doing. It is not about what your generals feel but the single mother with three children.”
“Governments are new to terror and think all about tactics — how many bomb robots they have; how many helmets and flak jackets. You need to enlist the public.” How? “You have to stop being politically correct,” he says, offering as an example thinking an attack is over because “a couple of arrests have been made in Belgium.”
An activist public drawn into the ranks of the counterterrorism force wants to know how to protect themselves. Morty Dzikansky, a retired detective with the New York Police Department who served as the NYPD’s intelligence liaison to Israel during the violent period known as the Second Intifada, witnessing scores of terrorist attacks, stresses the need for preparedness in large crowds.
According to Dzikansky, who, like Kleiman, teaches terror response training, the first order of business is to know what to look for in terms of recognizing suspicious individuals. Next, he told The Media Line, “Know your alternative escape routes and always have working communications capability.” And don’t be shy in reporting your concerns to the authorities.
Maj. Kleiman believes that the United States, unlike its European counterparts, understands a war is raging. If, for example, a citizen reports a suspicious incident to authorities in Europe, he believes the report will not be taken seriously. Not so in America. But he also points to the difference between ISIS-style terror warfare and urban warfare.
Since the attacks began in France, many pundits have opined that it is just the beginning. Kleiman believes 9/11 was the pivotal moment when America realized it’s under attack. Similarly, the horrific incident in Nice should signal the Europeans that more will follow.
“Once they (the government) understand they are at war, and that it’s not going away and once they understand they have to enlist their public and once they understand what the public is thinking, and not just the police, then they’ll be able to solve the problem.”
While we all need to learn live with terror, the sounds of freedom ring louder than terror itself.