Showing posts with label suspicious knapsacks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label suspicious knapsacks. Show all posts

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dealing with Terrorism: In the U.S. and in Israel

Boston Terrorist Incident
Israelis have been quick to send their heartfelt condolences to Americans on the occasion of last week's terrorist bombing in Boston.  Unfortunately, Israel has far too much experience in dealing with these types of incidents.  Even though this attack was reportedly carried out by two Chechens who had recently adopted a form of radical Islam, it would be quite a stretch to say that this attack has anything to do with Israel - notwithstanding the fact that at least one of the bombers reportedly yelled "Free Palestine" at some point.  The only relationship between this attack and the attacks that Israel has faced so often over the course of its history is that they are both types are cowardly, terrorist attacks designed to kill and maim large numbers of innocent civilians.

Terrorist attacks have a significant effect on the societies in which they occur.  One need only look at the level of airport security that we now all face, post 9/11, to contemplate the effects of terrorism.  In the U.S., the effect has spilled over to security at numerous events from sporting events to political rallies, with airport type security measures so often ubiquitous.  Yet, the U.S. continues to be a remarkably free country, which makes it such an easy target for terrorists and crazed mass murderers.  In fact, given that Congress recently defeated proposed gun-control legislation, it is probably still one of the easiest places in the world to purchase a weapon and commit unspeakable acts of horror.

The Boston attack had nothing to do with gun control but it was an attack that took advantage of a very free society and one that is still free from the daily struggle with security issues of the type that Israel faces.  Unfortunately, here in Israel, Israelis are constantly required to be vigilant about abandoned packages, bags and luggage.  A left back will attract immediate calls for help, calls to the police and quick area evacuations.  This is the sad legacy of numerous terrorist incidents.

Israeli Bomb Disposal Robot
A few years ago, not long after we first arrived here, our son left his school knapsack on the side of the road while playing some sports.  He forgot it there and headed home. Just minutes later, an Israeli bomb disposal vehicle arrived and tore open the knapsack.  The math books were saved, but the durable Roots bag was a distant memory.   Israelis who see an unattended knapsack or other package act quickly.  They know that lives can depend on their actions.

Just last week, while I was leaving the airport, I saw a woman leave her suitcase unattended for a very brief time.  Security personnel quickly began asking about the ownership of the bag and preparing to take action.  The woman returned and received a sharp scolding from the security officers who were ready to have the suitcase detonated.

Israelis are accustomed to facing airport style security in many places - the entrance to malls, concerts, just about any public gathering and even many restaurants and smaller facilities.  This is the burden that the society has to grapple with after so many years of terrorism.  Fortunately the number of these attacks has waned considerably in recent years but the measures are still necessary and very common. 

This same type of security challenge is one which other free, democratic countries, not only the U.S. and Canada, but numerous European countries, are likely to face increasingly over time.  The challenge for these countries, just as it is for Israel, is to find the balance between implementing sufficient security measures and placing unnecessary restraints on a free public.  It seems to me that Israel's airport security, for example, does a far better job in this regard.  There is no need for every single person to take off their shoes  and belt when travelling, just to ensure that everyone is treated equally.  This simply creates an unnecessary convenience for millions of travellers.  

On the other hand, it will certainly be a sad day in the United States and other western democracies if things get to the point where anyone wishing to enter a mall must pass through a metal detector and an airport security type station.  While that is the reality in Israel, Israelis are not wishing it on others.  On the contrary, Israelis are hoping that we will get to the point where these measures will not be necessary here.  Unfortunately, for now, it does not look like that day will arrive any time soon.