It was eerie how precisely I called it. Yesterday, in describing the terror situation, I said: “I might write about the most recent attack and then, within hours, there might be another one.” As it turned out, it wasn’t even hours. I had just sent out my posting when word came in of another attack. But this wasn’t a relatively simple matter of an attempted knifing. This was an horrendous affair:
It happened in the Central Bus station in Be’ersheva, in the Negev:
A major attack. A terrorist carrying a pistol and a knife stormed into the bus station, killed a soldier, grabbed his rifle and began shooting.
The soldier was Omri Levi, 19, of the Golani Brigade. He was on his way to his base.
Before he was shot dead by security, the terrorist wounded ten people, including four security personnel – some critically, some less seriously.
It is deeply regrettable that one other person died in the course of this attack: An Eritrean, standing nearby, was thought by security to be an accomplice to the terrorist, and so was shot. The crowd in the station, assuming he was complicit in the attack, then set upon him, beating him. He ultimately died of his wounds.
The terrorist has been identified as an Israeli citizen – a Bedouin, Muhand Al-Okabi, 21,
News reports that identify him as having come from the Bedouin town of Hura, near Be’ersheva, are incorrect: he lived in an illegal Bedouin village outside of Hura. (They like to call these villages “unrecognized,” as if the government has failed to give them their due, but “illegal” is the proper term.)
His father is an Israeli Bedouin from the area, his mother had been brought by his father from Gaza, and acquired citizenship when she married him. I’ll come back to this.
What has been determined is that security was lax at the bus terminal – someone with a gun and a pistol should not have been able to enter.
From all sides, Palestinian Arabs celebrated this attack.
On the Hamas website, spokesman Husam Badran blessed “the quality operation.”
While Jibil Rajoub, Fatah strongman and former head of PA preventative security, in an interview with official PA media, referred to the attack as “an act of heroism.”
And a Lebanese Internet site reported “heavy celebratory gunfire” at Palestinian refugee camps al-Beddawi and Ain el-Hilweh in Lebanon.
I doubt that many expected anything else.
The big question being asked is how an Israeli citizen could have done this – this is not a Palestinian Arab from some village in Samaria.
Bedouin leaders in the Negev, including the mayor of Hura, have expressed horror at what happened. One insisted, “His family is known and not as a family that encourages terrorism.” The family was lauded, in fact, as having helped to found the State of Israel.
Another leader protested: “This is not our way. Our way is the way of peace and reconciliation, love and brotherhood, of intermeshing and loyalty.” (Quite a mouthful. Does he not protest too much?)
Well, my friends, I am here to tell you that the situation is much more complicated and much uglier than what the Bedouin leaders would have us believe. We tend to think of the Bedouin of the Negev as loyal Israeli citizens and undoubtedly some still are. Undoubtedly some are genuinely horrified by what has taken place and are proud to serve in the army (though fewer do these days). What we need to face, however, is that for several reasons there has been a radicalization of the Negev Bedouins.
This is in part because the Islamist – Hamas affiliated – Islamic Movement in Israel, Northern Branch, comes down into the Negev to incite them. They are heavily invested in the Bedouin community there, including in the schools. There is a recent history of the Bedouins – incited and guided by the Islamic Movement – who make radicalized demands of the State with regard to illegally constructed villages, which they misrepresent as having a legitimacy that does not exist. Those of you who have been reading my posts for any length of time know I have reported. This is not a benign phenomenon, but rather one intended to marginalize Jewish settlement.
Then there is the matter of his mother, who is from Gaza. This is another part of the story of the Israeli Bedouin, who adhere to the Muslim practice of polygamy. Since this is against Israeli law, they do it serially, nominally divorcing one wife before marrying another. When there is a “wife shortage,” they seek women from places such as Gaza. But these women are not pro-Israel.
Al-Okabi’s mother is not his father’s first wife. What ideology did she bring with her from Gaza, as she raised her son (and, presumably, other children)? Perhaps Muhand Al-Okabi’s family was a good family in the past, as is being claimed. But in his generation?
This is a phenomenon, in all its aspects, that has not been addressed sufficiently by Israeli officials. More than once, I have been horrified by what I learned. For example: Bedouin in those illegal villages frequently extort. They come out and tell the company paving a road in the area that if a road is not also laid down in their illegal village, the road that is being put down will be torn up over night.
Because the rule of law has not been enforced on relatively small matters, the chickens are now coming home to roost – as we confront major issues.
There is one other very major aspect to the problem of the Negev Bedouin that must be addressed.
Reports have surfaced that the terrorist was a supporter of ISIS. So says a man who worked with him (although I have not been able to discover what sort of “work” we are talking about).
“Channel 2 television reported that the worker said, ‘He talked about it all the time.’” (Emphasis added)
If this is so, how surprised could his family have been? But let’s carry it further: How startled could the Bedouins of Hura been, their elaborate protests not withstanding?
This past June, the Shin Bet arrested six residents of Hura, “after it was discovered they were actively spreading the ISIS ideology, and attended secret meetings for the movement. Four of the suspects are school teachers. The official statement said that the suspects used their position as educators to spread the ISIS ideology.” (Emphasis added)
The best analysis I’ve seen with regard to what we are dealing with now is by Ari Soffer in Arutz Sheva, “Israel Must Tackle Its Own Extremism Problem” (emphasis added):
“…This is no ‘war’ against a foreign country or entity, but a struggle to wrest a portion of Israel’s own citizens from the claws of a poisonous ideology that is incinerating country after country in our immediate neighborhood…
“Yet far from countering it, in the absence of any real strategy Israel authorities are achieving the very opposite, with an approach which is in practice completely, absurdly, illogically backwards.
“As any counter-extremism expert will tell you, one of the most basic elements of such a strategy must be empowering moderates and marginalizing extremists as much as possible. Yet here in Israel, we do the very opposite.
“Extremist Arab MKS who openly support terrorist groups like Hamas, who actively engage in racist harassment against Jews (and police) on the Temple Mount, who have attacked soldiers in the past (remember the Mavi Marmari?), and who are even now calling for an ‘intifada,’ are free to serve in the Knesset and receive a government-funded salary.
“And while our politicians vow to crush Hamas and attack the Palestinian Authority for not doing more, we allow Hamas’s little brother, the Islamic Movement – particularly its jihadist northern branch – to operate openly and legally in Israel, alongside other fascist Islamic groups…Why are these organizations still legal in Israel?
“At the same time, those Israeli Muslims, Christians and Druze who are loyal citizens, who do serve in the army and contribute as much as any Israeli Jew to Israeli society are sidelined…drowned out by the extremists we ourselves allow to flourish here…
“Much of this is due to the rampant political-correctness of the Supreme Court and some politicians, who are afraid of ‘discriminating’ against Arabs by taking action against extremists. But the result is a perverse one: if discrimination and distrust towards Israeli Arabs still persists, it is in great part because the liberal elite has fed it by effectively legitimizing the most rabid extremists as their ‘legitimate representatives’ – whether their ‘constituents’ actually like it or not…And…it is Israel’s Arab population that ultimately suffers the most…
“So instead of battling the extremists who encourage and facilitate terrorism, while empowering moderates who encourage and facilitate integration and participation in Israel society (some of whom, like Father Gabriel Nadaf, are doing incredible work even with the limited resources they have) we are getting the worst of both worlds: sidelining the moderates while allowing the extremists to run riot.
“The time has come to flip that irrational approach on its head. The government must act decisively to not only follow through with Netanyahu’s latest pledge to ban the Islamic Movement, but toshow a true zero-tolerance policy towards all purveyors of Arab and Muslim supremacy. Extremist MKs such as Hanin Zoabi, Ahmed Tibi, Basel Ghattas, and Jamal Zahalka should not be free to abuse their positions and act as an effective fifth-column operating within Israel’s own legislature. And rabid anti-Semitic preachers should not be allowed to spread their hate on the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.”?
I have grown exceedingly weary in recent weeks of reading apologetics, including in mainstream Israeli media, about how we must be more sensitive to our treatment of Arabs in our midst – for we see that our treatment has fostered the current terrorism. Or about how it’s all about “occupation,” and how even the Israeli Arabs witness this and are radicalized by it.
The issues I’ve raised here are painful to confront, but it is very necessary to do so. The time has come to grapple with the situation with seriousness.
What our government requires most of all now is introspective honesty and a very determined strength in working to correct the problem. Everyone who truly cares about Israel must be behind our government on this. For we are going to face a firestorm of criticism from the politically correct, left-leaning international community – as well as from those same politically correct and left-learning elements inside our society. (Already there are pro-Palestinian Arab NGOs here registering distress about the “injustice” of depriving terrorists of their citizenship or residency rights.)
What I’ve been doing, during this time of renewed terrorism, has been to track the government’s strength in taking sane steps to adjust the situation. I’ve been encouraged in several respects – as if the light had suddenly dawned, and major parties within the government had had enough. But we are not where we need to be yet, not by a long shot.
I will go back to doing this tracking, and discussing related issues, in my next post.
Here I simply want to report on what is happening with Hamas and Fatah. Yesterday, Hamas declared itself dissatisfied with the results of the ‘knife intifada,” which wasn’t killing many. Put down your knives, they advised and go back to killing with vehicles.
And now Hamas has ordered its followers to conduct suicide bombings.
“Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas official, said Sunday that the ‘intifada’ needs to be turned from a ‘popular’ terror war into a fully-militarized terror war, making an open call for the use of guns and explosives”.
While Fatah brags that is can “blow up buses in Tel Aviv,” Jibil Rajoub isn’t sure it’s a good idea at this time:
“The world doesn’t accept exploding buses in Tel Aviv…
“However…the international community seems to allow the murder of IDF soldiers and Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.
“The world doesn’t ask about a settler or soldier who is on occupied territories at the wrong place and the wrong time, no one asks about that.”
And then, as with every post now, I close with good news. This is a beautiful video, that let’s people see who we are (with thanks to Deena M):