10/19/15 Some Very bad Trends

by Marc Schulman

It’s a difficult morning in Israel. For a few days we were able to fool ourselves into thinking it was possible the worst was over. (Since there was one day of quiet, followed by a number of knifing attacks – but all in the West Bank or East Jerusalem, places that none of us go.) That fantasy ended last night when an attacker entered the Central Bus station in Be’ersheba and began shooting and stabbing, leaving one dead and 6 wounded. In the ensuing chaos an Eritrean refugee was shot and killed, when he was misidentified as a terrorist.

Last night the Islamic State issued five videos on this newest round of the conflict, trying to take responsibility for it. In its videos, ISIS called on Palestinians to continue the attacks, as the first step in liberating Al Aqsa from the Jews. Some Israeli observers are already calling this latest barrage of violence “the ISIS uprising”, not because the attacks are under their direction, but because the spirit of ISIS has now seeped into the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The fear in Israel is that since the attacks have not been organized from above, i.e. by any organization, it will be very difficult to bring these attacks to an end. Moreover, as ISIS has been very successful in convincing young people that Jihad is their destiny, if they have greater and greater impact on Palestinian youth, the situation may get much worse before it gets better. Not to be out done, today it has been reported today that Hamas ordered its cells in the West Bank to begin suicide bombings.

The death of the Eritrean refugee has caused some soul searching. The shooting of the refugee was shown on TV in the moments after the shooting. Last night, as the incident was shown in a repeating loop on the special TV news reports, viewers thought they were watching the heroic Bedouin security chief of the bus terminal stopping a terrorist. Later in the night, it turned out that the “terrorist” was an innocent Eritrean migrant who was mistaken for a terrorist, who was shot after he was already down, and then beaten by passersby in the terminal. While this mournful mistake has triggered some national self-examination. How deep this soul searching will go is unclear. However, at this time, the police have opened up a criminal investigation and this afternoon Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned the attack. Hopefully, these events will not be forgotten by the next, inevitable attack.

This morning it was announced that the attacker yesterday in Be’ersheba was a Bedouin Arab-Israeli from the Negev – a fact which is going to make finding a solution, both long-term and short-term, even more difficult. The events of the last two weeks have set back Jewish/Arab relations in Israel a decade or more. Yesterday it was made public that a number of Israeli municipalities have announced that Israeli Arab workers would no longer be allowed into the schools in which they have been long-term maintenance and cleaning workers. The actions are clearly illegal under Israeli law, but when some parents from the city were interviewed they said, while they understood how bad this policy sounded, the safety of their children had to come first, and they did not feel safe with Arabs in their schools. Yesterday, before any Arab-Israeli had perpetrated a serious attack that position seemed indefensible. Today, that approach is going to be harder to contest.

As the violence enters its third week, a resident of Tel Aviv sighed, and said it seems this bloodshed is our destiny, since the same events keep repeating themselves. He went on, adding, it appears that neither us, nor our enemies have the leaders that can break this terrible cycle. The fear among many is that while the cycle has been going on for almost a hundred years, we have entered into a new and even more dangerous phase.