Today in terrorism: 13 October 2015, A pox on both your houses

The neverending back-and-forth between the Israelis and the Palestinians was captured in a single day back in 2015.


There are several reasons why throughout my intelligence career and into my anything-but-retirement I have never become well-versed in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Firstly, it has been going on for almost three-quarters of a century meaning that had I taken interest in it in my early years as an analyst I would have already needed to consume 35 years of data and literature, a daunting task.

Secondly, there is no feasible end in sight as of 2019 and I am not keen to work on such a hopeless issue.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, individuals and groups on both sides in this campaign are equally disreputable and equally to blame for the lack of progress. A citation penned by William Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet from more than 400 years ago is also apt to describe the Israelis and the Palestinians: ‘A pox on both your houses’.

The neverending back-and-forth in this war was captured in a single day back in 2015. That Tuesday was witness to no less than five separate terrorist attacks carried out by Israelis AND Palestinians.

Here is the list:

  • A Palestinian man stabbed an Israeli man in a bus station near the city hall of Ra’anana, leaving him with light stab wounds. Civilians overpowered the attackers and he was arrested by the police;
  • Baha Aliyan and Bilal Ranem, two Palestinians in their early 20s, boarded a bus in East Jerusalem and started attacking and stabbing the passengers. One of the assailants tried to take control on the bus and locked the bus door to prevent the passengers from escaping. Police arrived, killed one of the assailants and neutralized the other, who left two dead and sixteen wounded;
  • Alaa Abu Jamal rammed into a crowd of people waiting in a bus station in West Jerusalem, then went out of the vehicle and started stabbing the victims until he was neutralized by a security guard and was killed. One Rabbi died and another four people were injured, others were treated for anxiety ;
Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky, 60, murdered in vehicular attack in Geula neighborhood in Jerusalem (Photo: Shmuel Drey)
  • A Jewish man searched for Arabs near an IKEA in Kiryat Ata and stabbed a man who he thought was an Arab but was Jewish, leaving him with moderate wounds. The attacker was subdued and the police arrested him;
  • The following day 23-year old Ahmed Shaaban stabbed a 50-year-old woman in East Jerusalem, leaving her with moderate to serious injuries. He then tried to board a bus but was shot dead by police.

The death toll from these attacks was miraculously low (four) with another 25 injured. It could have been much worse even if the assailants only used knives instead of firearms. Yes, four of the five were at the hands of Palestinians but it does not excuse the one where an Israeli Jew engaged in an act of political violence. I found it interesting that a local paper which reported the incidents went to great lengths to describe the Palestinians as ‘terrorists’ but pooh-poohed the one Jewish attack as “unclear whether the stabbing was a nationalistic incident or a criminal one”. Not exactly bias-free media.

Criticism and invective

I have learned that in this longstanding maelstrom of violence the proponents of each side have little time for compromise or dialogue. I also know that the fact I have described it as the fault of each side will lead to criticism and invective.

I am not too concerned about that: terrorism is terrorism after all.