Analysis: What are the effects of the current Palestinian Knife Jihad on Israeli society.
Highway 60 from Jerusalem to Hebron has always been dangerous to travel, not only because of reckless behavior by Palestinian Arab drivers who often overtake where it’s absolutely forbidden but the road is also a prime target for terrorists.
It is a day after a Palestinian Arab rammed his car into a group of Jews who were standing along the road near Halhoul, a Palestinian town a kilometer away from the Israeli village of Carmei Tzur. The attempted murder was caught on video. A car with Palestinian license plates can be seen speeding on Highway 60 when the driver suddenly departs from the road and rams his car in the group of Jews.
An officer of the Border Police was critically hurt in the vehicular terrorist attack. He suffered severe head injuries when the car hit him frontally.
On my way to the main intersection in Gush Etzion, I noticed lots of soldiers guarding Highway 60 which goes through the Palestinian villages Beit Umar and Al Aroub. These villages are known for their support of Hamas and have been the scene of numerous terror attacks.
When the armored autobus I traveled with reached the Gush Etzion intersection (Tzomet HaGush) I noticed the change in security measures that have been taken since a recent string of stabbing and vehicular attacks that targeted the Jewish residents of this largest ‘settlement’ bloc in Judea.
At every bus stop four heavily armed soldiers guard Jewish travelers and at the central square of Tzomet HaGush an armored vehicle of the IDF is on permanent alert. People stay away from the sidewalks because of fear for another vehicular attack.
At the local Ramy Levi supermarket, everything seems business as usual. Arab and Jewish employees are stacking the shelves while customers are buying food for Shabbat. The only difference with the situation that existed until recently is the absence of Arab clients. The manager of the supermarket told me that since the Knife Jihad began more than a month ago Arab clients stay away out of fear for reprisal attacks.
Since its opening a few years ago, the supermarket had always been a model of Arab-Jewish coexistence in the region. When I interviewed Rami Levy the owner of the supermarket chain some years ago, he told me that he thought that peace could only be achieved via this type of day to day coexistence.
Israelis have become very pragmatic and realize there won’t be quick fixes for the multiple problems they face and certainly not for the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs.
The ‘two states for two peoples’ slogan that had been adopted by a majority of the Israeli people only ten years ago has slowly been replaced with another one: “One state for our people”.
Israelis now seem to realize that the 1948 war for independence has in fact never ended and that the current struggle is as much an existential one as it was then.
“The Arabs don’t want us here, and that’s why we have to take care of ourselves in the first place. It’s them or us,” is what you now often hear from Israeli Jews.
They have cast their illusions about peace aside and have internalized the fact that Islamism is the leading trend in the Middle East today. They see what the Islamic State is doing just over the border in Syria and in Egypt where this week a Russian airplane with 224 passengers was brought down by the Jihadi group. They know that this type of extremism has taken root in Palestinian society as well and saw what the supposedly moderate President of the PA Mahmoud Abbas said during a speech in Geneva last week. Abbas told the UN Human Rights Council that all of Israel is occupied Palestinian territory.
“For how long will this protracted Israeli occupation of our land last? After 67 years, how long?”
This is the reality Israelis have to cope with. They see no light at the end of the tunnel. To the contrary, the situation seems to become grimmer by the day.
Until now, the war against Palestinian terrorism was a matter of the IDF against organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But now Israelis have to cope with a new normal: every Arab could be a terrorist.
As a result, self-protection has become a very important issue in Israeli society. People spend huge amounts of money on taking protective measures like reinforcing the windows of their cars (against stone throwing) or obtaining a license for a gun.
People who are already in the possession of a gun are now encouraged to carry the weapon wherever they go.
It won’t stop the ‘wave of terror’ however. In the Gush Etzion area, there is no shortage of weapons or soldiers. You see soldiers everywhere, yet the region saw the highest number of attacks against Jews since the start of what Hamas calls “The Jerusalem Intifada.”
Palestinian society is still convinced that the existence of Israel is temporary and that the use of this type of violence will achieve what the first and second Intifada failed to do: The fear of a knife in one’s back will eventually cause Jews to pack their bags and leave Israel, the Palestinian Arabs think.
This type of thinking is fueled by incitement and propaganda by the PA and Hamas and flies in the face of reality. Israeli Jews have proven time and again that nothing will force them to contemplate leaving Israel. This reality is visible in Israel today as well. Instead of despairing people go on with their lives as if nothing has changed and when things become though there’s always humor to cope with the troubles.
Take for example a look at this Israeli Jewish man who looks like an Arab and wears a t-shirt with the text: “Please relax I am only a Yemenite Jew”.
And then there is this Israeli man who put the following on his Facebook page:
And this Israeli wrote the following on his FB page:
“Surreal what people are bringing with them when they go outside…”