Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Death by bulldozer

In one of the most bizarre terrorist attacks I've heard about, a Palestinian wreaked havoc in the busy streets of Jerusalem by using an unconventional weapon, to wit, a runaway bulldozer. During the course of the attack a packed city bus was turned on its side and a number of cars were smashed, and pedestrians were struck before the assailant was shot dead by an Israeli motorcycle division police officer who climbed into the cab of the vehicle while on its rampage. It is ironic that a bulldozer would be the weapon of choice. That's because the images most Israelis associate with them are that of bulldozers razing the houses of Jewish settlers in disputed areas of the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Dozens were injured in this brazen assault, but the fact that three women were the ultimate victims of the attack in the heart of Jerusalem serves as a reminder that terrorism is intended to disrupt the normalcy of life. Women buying items in food markets or using public transportation to make purchases at retail outlets make ideal victims for terrorists. Because they stand for innocence and have no political agenda, women killed in senseless tragedies like this strike terror in the heart of everyone. The case can certainly be made that if it happens to them, it could happen to anyone. Reports from Jerusalem suggest the terrorist, a 31-year-old East Jerusalem Arab and father of two, was very well-versed with how to use the bulldozer as a weapon. A witness watched as he used the shovel portion of the powerful device to hit a van head-on and then to use it to smash and flatten the front of the vehicle. Reports say dozens of other vehicles were smashed along busy Jaffa Street unable to get out of the way of the oncoming earthmover because of concrete barricades that have been erected on the sides in prepartion for a light rail system being constructed there. Ironically, the attack occurred as Israel opened up its borders to Gaza, a move orchestrated by Egypt in a deal with Hamas, who promised to stop lobbing missiles into Israel from their positions in Gaza. Despite promises to the contrary, Kassam missiles had been launched yesterday, breaking the cease fire so tenuously negotiated. Meanwhile, Israeli politicians have pointed to the dead assailant's status as an occupant of the former East Jerusalem section. All former East Jerusalem residents were offered citizen status following the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel captured the Arab section of the city and unified it. Most refused to accept citizenship. Some Israelis, like Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai, the chair of the right-wing Shas Party, have called for stricter measures to limit the movements of East Jerusalem residents. Others point out that such measures would threaten to partition East and West Jerusalem again, making East Jerusalem a likely capital of a Palestinian state should that occur. There is no doubt that this adds to the ongoing malaise in Israeli politics brought about by constant bombardments in places like Sderot, the double military problems of Hamas in Gaza and Hezbellah in Lebanon, the looming nuclear threat from Iran, and ineffectual and scandal-plagued leadership from Olmert's government.

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