Government and police spokesmen would have us believe that the carnage in Jerusalem on Wednesday was unavoidable. Husam Taysir Dwayat, the convicted rapist, burglar and drug dealer turned jihadist who mowed down innocent people with his bulldozer on Jaffa Road was not suspected of links to terrorist organizations. The sociopathic, violent criminal who had "returned" to Islam over the past month raised no red flags. There was nothing to be done. No one is to blame.
If the protestations of the government and the police that nothing could have prevented Dwayat from using his bulldozer to murder three people sound familiar, it is because they are. Immediately after Ala Abu Dhaim entered into Mercaz Harav yeshiva on March 6 and massacred eight students, government and police spokesmen said the same thing. There was no way to prevent the attack. No one is to blame.
These statements are no more than easy excuses for incompetence. While it may be true that neither Dwayat nor Dhaim were members of a terror group, it is certainly true that both of these Jerusalemite terrorists operated in an atmosphere that engenders both radicalism and lawlessness. Their decisions to murder innocent people were products not only of their own evil natures, but of an atmosphere of permissiveness that naturally intensifies any latent desire to cause death and mayhem. If they had been operating in a different environment, it is possible they would have behaved differently.
Four months ago, Dhaim was able to enter Mercaz Harav by dint of his job as a driver for the Jerusalem Arab-owned transport company HaPnina.
HaPnina had a city contract to transport school children. Dhaim, who arrived at the yeshiva in a company van, aroused no suspicion when he entered the yeshiva with a large box where he hid his rifle.
After Dhaim committed his massacre, the municipality immediately tried to abrogate its contract with HaPnina. HaPnina sued and the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court issued a temporary injunction requiring the city to continue using HaPnina until the judge ruled on the case. When Judge Hagit Mack-Kalmanovich finally decided in the municipality's favor on June 13, she noted that that the company had ignored a court order to provide documentation showing that its drivers had no criminal records and were qualified to transport children.
If the municipality were more vigilant in overseeing its contractors, it could have discovered that HaPnina was employing criminals well before the massacre. Perhaps then Dhaim wouldn't have been able to enter the yeshiva.
It is a criminal offense to praise acts of murder. When hundreds came to pay their respects for Dhaim and proclaim him a hero, the police could have arrested and interrogated all of them. Among those who arrived at the Dhaim's mourning tent was Wednesday's terrorist, Dwayat. If he had been arrested then, it is possible that police would have discovered that this convicted rapist had recently become a jihadist. It is also possible that Dwayat himself would have been intimidated.
But rather than enforce the law, the police did nothing. Rather than arrest the hundreds who came to praise Dhaim, the police excused their inaction by bemoaning the fact that the due process rights of Jerusalem Arabs made it impossible to destroy the homes of Arab terrorists in the capital without proper legal authorization. That is, they justified their decision to do nothing by complaining that they can't do everything.
The police's permissive behavior is nothing new. In Dhaim's and Dwayat's Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem, as in the Beduin settlements in the Negev and the Arab cities and villages in the Galilee, the police simply refuse to enforce the law. They do not patrol the streets. They do not arrest religious, educational and political leaders who solicit terrorism or incite hatred. They do not enforce building laws. They do not protect state and privately owned land from squatters. Today some 90 percent of Arab construction in Israel is carried out without permits. Whole towns in the Negev have been built on stolen state land. And the police do nothing.
As a consequence of police inaction, thieves, smugglers, terror solicitors and other dangerous criminals are allowed to operate in the open. Fearing the wrath of human rights groups on the one hand and Arab rioters on the other, the police simply do not enforce Israeli law in the Arab sector.
This police passivity manifests itself not only in times of relative calm but also in emergency situations. For instance, at both Mercaz Harav and on Jaffa Road, the police were inexcusably passive. In both attacks the terrorists were only stopped by citizens who took the initiative when the police failed to act.
On Wednesday Dwayat killed two motorists and overturned a truck before a policeman and a security guard climbed into the cab of his bulldozer. And then, instead of shooting him, the policeman simply tried to restrain him. Due to the police's refusal to shoot, Dwayat killed 33-year-old Batsheva Unterman while the policeman was standing next to him in the bulldozer's cab. It was only the intervention of "M.," an unarmed IDF commando soldier on furlough, that ended the carnage.
M. climbed onto the bulldozer, took the security guard's gun and shot Dwayat in the head three times. Another policeman only shot Dwayat after M. had already killed him.
At Mercaz Harav, it took the police some 20 minutes to show up in force. Until then, only one police officer was at the scene. And as he heard the anguished cries of teenagers being murdered, he opted not to go in and protect them. He stood outside and did nothing. Dhaim was only stopped when yeshiva student Moshe Dadon and furloughed paratrooper Capt. David Shapira killed him. As luck or providence would have it, Shapira is M.'s brother-in-law.
In failing to act against Arab Israeli lawlessness and the terror it engenders, the police are little different from the government. Like the police, the government turns a blind eye to the radicalization and lawlessness of Arab Israeli society. And when the unchallenged lawless and jihadist atmosphere leads inevitably to massacre, the government talks of how its hands are tied and makes angry, tough declarations not backed by policy. Then it quickly moves to change the subject.
The government's refusal to form a coherent policy regarding the deteriorating situation in Israeli-Arab society was exposed at the Knesset on Wednesday. There, just as Dwayat was on his killing spree, the Knesset was scheduled to vote on two bills written by opposition lawmakers after the Mercaz Harav massacre. If passed, the bills will allow the government to revoke the citizenship of terrorists and their family members and prohibit the families of dead terrorists from publicly celebrating their actions.
The government's Ministerial Committee on Legislation voted to oppose the bills some weeks ago. It only changed its mind in light of the massacre on Jaffa Road. As opposition leader and Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu noted on Thursday morning in an interview with Israel Radio, the government's support of the bills was pure political opportunism. The sudden change in its position made clear that the government has no policies, only postures.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak reacted to Wednesday's attack by loudly proclaiming their support for destroying Dwayat's home. But as Netanyahu noted, they are policy-makers, not spokesmen. Their job is to act, not to declaim about their preferences.
And yet, making loud, crowd pleasing declarations is the only policy the government has for dealing with anything. Both Barak and Olmert know that in sovereign Israel it is legally impossible to simply destroy a house without due process. Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz is still trying to work out how to legally destroy Dhaim's home four months after he attacked. If Barak and Olmert really were interested in destroying terrorists' homes, they could pass a law explicitly empowering the government to do so.
While the police could end the atmosphere of lawlessness by enforcing the laws already on the books, the government can take positive steps to reverse the trends toward radicalization in Israeli Arab society. It can pass regulations barring anti-Zionist propaganda in public school curricula and sanctioning the immediate firing of public school teachers who teach students to hate Israel. It can suspend government funding of municipalities and local councils that do not enforce building codes. It can set up well-paid community police comprised of loyal citizens. The government can prosecute Arab politicians and leaders who treat with the enemy for treason.
But not only is the government doing none of these things, it is taking active steps to legitimize Israeli-Arab rejection of the State of Israel. So it is that far from barring the study of the myth of the so-called Nakba, or catastrophe of Israel's birth, in Arab schools, Education Minister Yuli Tamir is encouraging Israeli Jewish schools to teach the lie to their Jewish students. Rather than take action against Arab leaders who actively work to radicalize Israeli-Arab society and solicit terrorism, the government bends over backwards to appease these leaders in the name of multicultural pluralism.
The government has not sufficed with seeking to appease Arab radicals by embracing their anti-Israeli propaganda as legitimate. It is also actively working to marginalize the sectors of Israeli society that support policies aimed at reversing the trend of Arab radicalization.
M., the hero of Wednesday's attack, is case in point. M., a clearly motivated, resourceful and brave soldier, is 20 years old. At his age, he should have already been in the army for nearly two years. But he was only drafted four months ago. It turns out that the IDF didn't want him. Even as IDF commanders bemoan the dwindling draft rolls as more and more young men and women evade military service, the IDF fought for two years to keep M. out of its ranks.
The IDF opposed M.'s service because in 2005 he was arrested for protesting against the withdrawal from Gaza. Charges were never filed against him. But the mere fact that he was arrested for opposing one of the stupidest and most disastrous government policies the IDF has ever implemented was sufficient to make him politically suspect.
Then, too, by Thursday morning, unnamed government sources were warning that "right-wing extremists" were planning to start attacking Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods.
It is far easier to attack imaginary enemies than to face real ones.
It is possible that both Dhaim and Dwayat couldn't have been stopped. But it is certainly true that given the environment of lawlessness and governmental flaccidity in which they operated, there were no countervailing forces in their lives that might have led these evil men to have second thoughts about murdering innocent Israelis in the name of Allah.
Political bluster will not prevent the next attack. There are policies that Israel can enact today that will make the option of mass murder less attractive to its Arab citizenry. But as Barak, Olmert and their colleagues have made clear, nothing will happen under the current government.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.