Is Israel the Villain - or an admired Exemplar of the World?
First read the note below and decide yourself; then tell it everybody, to your paper first*
Welcome to Israel
Jan. 7, 2010
David Horovitz , Editor's note, THE JERUSALEM POST
At the turn of this new decade, Western leaders are being forced to grapple urgently with just one aspect of the Islamist threat that Israel routinely faces - terror in the skies. And suddenly, briefly, we are the admired exemplars...
Surely, there's been an oversight. Check the list again. Are you certain that Israel's not on it?
In the wake of the failed Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit, Britain, America and numerous other countries have recognized an escalated threat of terror in the skies, and have begun radically intensifying their efforts to prevent their citizens being blown up during international air travel.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pushed forward the introduction of sophisticated full-body scanners at British airports. The Netherlands and Canada are following suit. And the United States has introduced enhanced screening procedures for everybody traveling from or through states that sponsor terrorism or are otherwise considered a particular risk, with the list of offenders comprising Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
But where is Israel on that register of states? Why aren't our nationals being given the extra-stringent treatment?
Don't be ridiculous, you say. Everybody knows that the Israelis don't go around blowing up airplanes. Everybody knows that the Israelis work assiduously to prevent terrorism, not to carry it out. Everybody knows that Israelis are a responsible people, a people who can demonstrably be trusted even with nuclear weapons, a people who love life, a people who try to avoid killing civilians even as they protect themselves from constant attack.
Oh really? That's not what we usually hear - not from the world's statesmen and diplomats and columnists and activists. Didn't a European Union survey of ordinary, law-abiding Europeans establish just six years ago that we pose a greater menace to world peace than Iran or North Korea? Aren't we the global villain whose military and political chiefs so threaten world harmony as to warrant arrest when they touch down on hallowed European soil? Wasn't an IDF delegation just forced to cancel a visit to the UK, hosted by the British army, because the British legal system deemed its members not partners in the struggle against terrorism, but offenders whose very presence in the UK constituted grounds for potential war-crimes prosecution? Aren't we the people who respond so disproportionately to attack as to have forfeited our international rights to self-defense? Aren't we the land of the trigger-happy aggressors?
Then why, in this era of air terror and heightened fear of attack, wouldn't Israel be at the very top of that list of nations that require particular attention? Why on earth would our people be given a body scan-free ride in and out of the terrified airports of the civilized world?
Wait, it gets more implausible. Not only are Israelis not being pulled out of the crowds of passengers for special security treatment, along with the Iranians, the Saudis, the Pakistanis and the Syrians, but the countries that want to keep themselves safe from terrorism are turning to us for help and advice. How can this be? The worried security apparatuses of the threatened West are looking to Israel, rogue Israel, pariah Israel, Goldstone-branded war-criminal-state Israel, for help in thwarting terror in the skies?
Can it truly be that our air-safety methods - the methods of a nation that has been vilified for its disproportionate response to Islamist terror; the methods of a nation that has been castigated by the most august international legal bodies and in the most elevated global diplomatic forums for building a physical barrier against terrorism in the West Bank and for attacking and blockading the Hamas terror-state of Gaza; the methods of a nation whose national airline is being threatened with an ouster from South Africa because of the ostensible racism of its passenger profiling policies - are now being extolled as the last word in effective anti-terror strategy?
INDEED, IT is so. On TV broadcasts and radio shows, and in newspaper editorials and analysis pieces, it is Israel that is being hailed for the peerless security regimen at its airports. It is our security apparatuses that are cited as the exemplars. And we get to hear sober security consultants worldwide explaining, gently but firmly to civil liberties watchdog groups, that, no, the Israeli-style methods now being contemplated overseas are not discriminatory, just realistic.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and their allegedly populist counterparts are being criticized by the experts for still not facing up to the Islamist threat with the wisdom of the Israelis. They're being slammed for trying to win plaudits by throwing money at the problem rather than tackling it at the root. They're being derided for wasting immense amounts of money and untold hours of blameless travelers' time by lumping in every innocent passenger from what is deemed a danger country along with the genuine threats, and thereby reducing the prospects of thwarting those true threats effectively.
Even the full-body scanners Brown has ordered for Britain, we hear now, likely wouldn't have exposed the explosives Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had sewn into his underpants. The $150,000 state of the art "millimeter wave" scanner is pretty effective at spotting metal, it turns out, but no good at all with chemicals and light plastics. And what's the point, we hear the security analysts object, of the new US airport focus on passengers from those 14 suspect states - forcing these baffled Libyan toddlers and those nonplussed elderly Cuban grandmothers through that enhanced security screening - when al-Qaida can all too easily recruit, indeed has recruited, impressionable nationals from non-danger states, even Europeans, to send on its murder missions?
And so, reeling at the surrealism of it all, we watch talking heads in TV interviews, using the tones of patronizing academics addressing some very dull students, hammering home the point: You've got to do it the Israeli way. You just can't scan and triple-check everybody and shouldn't try to. You'll make air travel impossible and create massive lines at airports which would obviate the necessity for terrorists to get on board; they could just shoot up the airports. You have to use intelligence - intelligence in gathering information on potential threats, and intelligence in applying security measures at check-in.
Again and again in this new upside-down world where we, implausibly, are suddenly the smart guys, the mantra runs: Look at the Israelis. Their main international airport was shot up by the Japanese Red Army. Their planes were hijacked by Palestinian terror groups. And they wised up.
Protect your airports with outer rings of security, the global experts urge - like the Israelis do. Put air marshals on board your planes - like the Israelis do. Profile your passengers - like the Israelis do. And no, that's not racism, it's pragmatism. Yes, the Israelis emphatically do focus on Muslims; there's no denying the truism that while all Muslims are certainly not terrorists, most terrorists are Muslims. But ethnic origin is only one of the factors that rings the Hebrew alarms.
Israel's security apparatus, the experts point out in their newly tolerated admiration, looks at a host of other factors which, understandably, it doesn't talk too much about in public. But if you examine the way Anne Murphy was intercepted at Heathrow Airport in 1986, some have astutely pointed out, you start to get the idea. Here was a naïve pregnant Irish woman who had no idea that the bag her Jordanian fiancé had so kindly given her, to carry her personal belongings for their holiday in Israel, contained a false bottom filled with Semtex plastic explosives. She hadn't the faintest notion that, in the service of his Syrian state-intelligence paymasters, Nezar Hindawi was sending her and their unborn child to their deaths. And neither, until she reached El Al security, did Israeli intelligence.
But Murphy was traveling alone on a ticket that had been purchased only shortly before the flight. That would immediately have raised some red flags. The most rudimentary questioning would then have established that her Arab boyfriend had told her he was flying out separately and would meet her there. And from that point on, there was no way that Murphy and her incendiary bag were going any further without the most stringent checking and rechecking. The result: A bomb-plot foiled and hundreds of innocent lives saved. That's the way you safeguard air travel. The intelligent way. The Israeli way.
Flash forward 23 years. Abdulmutallab had purchased his ticket to the US with cash - a reported $2,831 to be precise, at the KLM office in Ghana, from where he traveled to Nigeria, the Netherlands and on toward the destination he intended to prevent his 288 fellow passengers and crew from reaching, Detroit. He had provided no contact address. He was traveling with no luggage. And it was a one-way ticket. Would Israeli-style security procedures have thwarted him long before he got near a plane, even without helpful warnings from his father and intercepted "chatter" about al-Qaida sending a Nigerian to blow up a flight heading into the US? I rather think so.
THE DEMONIZERS of Israel need not get too worried just yet. Unless, heaven forbid, Abdulmutallab's successors - and they are out there - get their explosives mix right and manage to bring down a plane in the near future, the panic will subside, and the identification with Israel's terror-threatened norm will recede. Until the next time.
The horrified recognition among Western leaders that the states that sponsor and encourage and harbor Islamist terrorism are truly potent enemies, and the realization that the enemy of those enemies, Israel, is their friend - those truths will again become obscured.
America, even America, still hasn't quite grasped that this isn't a crisis that will be solved by better airport policing, but rather another skirmish in the ongoing, defining battle of the free world against the graduates of an Islamist educational production line that teaches a religious imperative to kill and be killed. Or, more accurately, America has chosen to forget what the true stakes are, for it used to acknowledge that it was engaged in a "war on terror."
For now, the threatened international community is focused on air-terrorism. Mercifully, it isn't generally required to deal with all the other manifestations of Islamist aggression that relentlessly confront Israel - the murderous cross-border infiltrations, the missile attacks, the massive arms build-ups, the nuclear drives, and the gang attacks on our very legitimacy led by Muslim nations in legal and diplomatic forums. And so, spared the need to address those threats, all those wise and eloquent delegates to those august international bodies will resume their icy rejection of Israel's explanations for the other self-defense measures it takes, away from its airports, and we will again come to reoccupy our more familiar seat in the dock. The Israel-demonizing manipulators of the British legal system, coordinating with the Iran-sponsored terrorists of Hamas, will again prevent IDF officers from meeting with their British counterparts in the common cause of thwarting aggression and terrorism.
But for a few weeks at the turn of this new decade, Western nations, finding themselves exposed and vulnerable to Islamist terrorism, and discovering that the measures they thought would prove sufficient after 9/11 are inadequate, have been required to grapple with just one aspect of the terror-threat reality Israel has been enduring for decades. And they have realized - with the distortions and misrepresentations of what Israel does to protect itself briefly pushed aside by simple concern for their own citizens - that what they really need to do is, well, what the Israelis do.
* This is an outstanding letter-writing opportunity and excellent background material. Whenever your paper writes or anybody speaks of Israel as a threat to peace - in the Middle East or at al - you can counter it by a letter or otherwise, with your own words but using as you wish this article's arguments. Facts and the actions of the leaders of the world - not necessarily their words - demonstrate that the villain is: the islamists, the admired exemplar all look at: is Israel. - E.M.