Saturday, October 25, 2008

25-Oct-08: So who needs security checkpoints?

Three weeks ago and on numerous occasions before that, we wrote in this blog about terrorists being intercepted at the Hawara crossing by Israeli service personnel, and thus prevented from carrying out yet another in the tragic stream of stabbings, shootings and bombings directed by Palestinian Arab terror operatives against civilian Israelis and Israeli civil society.

Today, there's another.

A Palestinian Arab youth was stopped at Hawara today after a pipe bomb was found on his body. He had arrived at the security crossing from the direction of Nablus. A bag on his back aroused suspicion, and a search revealed the pipe bomb.

YNet reports that "During the search a number of Palestinians at the checkpoint advanced towards the soldiers, and warning shots were fired into the air as a response. The checkpoint was closed following the incident."

(And just for the record, the most-recent reported intercept of a terrorist at Hawara before this one was as far back as... this past Wednesday, when a 17-year old Palestinian Arab was arrested at the same place. This one had a Molotov cocktail, a pipe bomb and other explosives concealed under his clothing.)

Criticism of such passive security measures taken by Israel as the security barrier and the numerous security checkpoints that require traveling Palestinian Arabs to stop, identify themselves and, occasionally, to be searched, is a constant in this ongoing war.

So is the inability or unwillingness of those who report on events in this part of the world to report on the almost daily intercepts by Israeli security of active terror agents en route to an appointment with their seventy-two virgins.

The murder two days ago of an eighty-six year-old Israeli pedestrian in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Gilo would have been prevented if the terrorist who stabbed him had been caught en route. He was not stopped, and so an innocent life - one among thousands - was brutally ended.

Critics of Israeli policy frequently refer to the anger engendered by Israeli security checkpoints. "A daily exercise in humiliation", an article published in Canada's Globe & Mail a year ago, is one of many instances.
HAWARA CHECKPOINT, WEST BANK — Under the supervision of an Israeli soldier clutching an M-16 assault rifle, Qassem Saleh begins his daily disrobing. First, he lifts his bright orange shirt so the soldier can see there's no bomb strapped to his torso. Then, after passing through a metal floor-to-ceiling turnstile, he undoes his belt and hands it over for examination to a second soldier, along with his wallet, mobile phone and cigarettes. The second soldier peruses his documents and asks his reason for travel. The answer is a simple one: Mr. Saleh goes through all this, not to board a plane or visit a prison, but so that he can go home to his family after a day's studies at An-Najah University in Nablus. It's a process Israel says is necessary for security, but one that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians consider their daily humiliation. "If a person was carrying anything [illegal] do you think he'd pass through here?" the 23-year-old media student said as he walked through a crowd of taxi drivers shouting offers of rides to the cities of Ramallah and Hebron to the south. "They just do this to humiliate us, to annoy us into leaving this country."
The Palestinian Arab man's question is not to be taken rhetorically. Anyone with experience of daily life here knows the answer is: Yes, terrorists bring their instruments of death right up to the doors of Israeli security on a daily basis.

Knowing this changes the whole analysis.

Our personal experience with reporters covering the complex events that characterize the Middle East conflict and the ongoing war of the Arabs against Israel is that, for the most part, they are easy prey for the baseless assertions and simple distortions of their interview subjects.

And it's not only reporters. The same Canadian article says:
A report released last week by the International Committee for the Red Cross singled out the checkpoints and the isolation of Nablus as key parts of a system that denies Palestinians "normal and dignified lives."

Being wrong - as so many of those reporting and pontificating on these events are - on the moral, legal and strategic argument for security against terrorists is a very expensive mistake measured in human lives and grief. People, like us, who know the price from personal experience have an obligation to speak out on this. That's one of the reasons we write this blog.

Security checkpoints and barriers are unlikely to bring peace. But they go a considerable way towards protecting an innocent civilian population from religiously-inspired terrorist thugs with access to virtually unlimited stocks of weaponry. In this light, and until a better approach is devised, they are the most rational decision a society can take.