For a couple of years now we’ve faced a low-level Jihadi uprising in Israel. The tactics are sudden stabbing or (more rarely shooting) attacks in our cities or driving cars and trucks into groups of people. To a certain extent this has been ongoing in some form for over 100 years but there has been an uptick.
London’s Evening Standard newspaper (which is generally not friendly toward Israel) has a reasonable article looking at how Jerusalem is handling this latest terror upsurge, it’s worth looking at.
Israel changes tactics to tackle street terror
Robert Fox reports from Jerusalem on how security forces are using technology and the public to counter ‘lone wolf’ attacks — and gauges what lessons Britain can learn.
Most of the recent attacks in the Old City of Jerusalem have been with knives, occasionally with guns and rarely now with bombs.
The pattern of individual “lone wolf” assaults matches those in the UK, France, Germany and Belgium. Many are carried out by one or two individuals, armed with knives and crashing into crowds or bus queues with hijacked vehicles. Israel is undergoing a continuous update of its counter-terror strategy, involving public awareness, new police and counter-terrorist force tactics and improved surveillance.
You have to have a certain level of poor self-awareness to say “lone” in one sentence and “carried out by one or two individuals” in the next. Two paragraphs on we’ll see “fatally wounded when three men attacked”. Clearly this is a new definition of the word “lone” I was previously unaware of. There’s an entire culture of incitement and centuries of ideology behind these acts, even when one person finally acts on the impulse to murder a Jew.
The fresh thinking has lessons from which Britain could learn as it also faces the threat of street terrorism, although the circumstances are very different. “London and Jerusalem are very different in scale alone,” says Micky Rosenfeld, the senior police liaison officer in Jerusalem. “You can cross central Jerusalem by motorbike in around eight minutes.”
Yes, London is truly gargantuan compared to Jerusalem. Greater London’s population is larger than all of Israel and all of the territories under Israeli control. Motorbike… yes, because traffic is often dreadful and most of the Old City, especially, is closed to cars because the city planning was done 3000 years before Henry Ford was born.
In the past 18 months there have been 12 attacks near the Damascus Gate. Earlier this month Hadas Malka, a 23-year-old border police sergeant major, was fatally wounded when three men attacked officers at the entrance with a knife and home-made pistol. In all there have been 45 victims of lethal attacks since the autumn of 2015. Most were Israelis but two were American and one British. Last April exchange student Hannah Bladon, 20, was stabbed on a tram by a deranged man armed with a kitchen knife.
“Home-made pistol” is a conscious downplaying of what it was. It was a Carl Gustav (designed) sub machine gun which Judge Dan has written about on Israellycool. It is made in small workshops across in Arab towns. Because they keep using manufacturing equipment for this instead of productive industry, Israel keeps shutting down their manufacturing industries (and of course blamed for oppression). Fortunately they aren’t as reliable as they could be. Of note, however is that the UK paper fails to even mention or dwell on the number of terrorists killed while carrying out attacks.
“Unfortunately, I think we really have to learn to live with this kind of terrorism — and just do everything to minimise its effect,” the commander at the Israeli Defence Force’s Counter Terrorist Training School explains. “Their tactics change all the time, and we must change ours.”
I’m not pleased with the “learn to live with this kind of terrorism” quote which apes the Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn. No, we shouldn’t learn to live with this. We should stamp it out and stamp out the Palestinian Authority state agencies that encourage it by rewarding the perpetrators and their families.
The commander, who declines to be named, says the public has to be made vigilant, though not anxious. He ventures that he thinks more public awareness is needed in Britain now.
But there are huge differences between Israel and Britain. He shows us practice videos of attacks at bus queues with crashing cars and knives. In most examples a bystander draws a weapon and shoots the perpetrator.
“We have 30,000 civilians bearing arms, which they are permitted to do after military service.” The large conscript army also provides back-up of manpower in an emergency.
In the UK, public ownership of a side arm is almost entirely impossible since one lunatic shot kids in a Scottish school. Israeli citizens can carry side arms, subject to very strict gun control regulations. These restrictions include owning only one gun, mental health tests, annual shooting tests, restrictions on ammunition (they count your bullets), needs test, storage rules, prior history of training in the IDF especially and on and on. Almost any discharge of a firearm outside of a shooting range results in a police interview.
These rules make American National Rifle Association (NRA) members faint with fear. There is little to no “gun culture” in Israel comparable with America: hunting animals (except for actual survival) is specifically prohibited for Jews. If you have a gun, however, at times of tension you are encouraged to carry it. Despite the restrictions and rules, many people carry sidearms, such as the Mayor of Jerusalem himself.
A few weeks ago, to mark the 50th anniversary of the liberation and re-unification of Jerusalem, I was on a school trip with my kids to Jerusalem. Their entire school went to tour the old city and visit the Kotel (Western Wall). Parents were encouraged to accompany their kids’ classes. I joined my 2nd grade son’s class. At the briefing meeting a couple of days before, the Headmistress gave us the usual list of things to give the kids: water, snacks, sunscreen, hat. She ended the meeting with a final note to parents: “If you have a weapon, please bring it”. For my son’s class of around 25 kids we had the teacher, a tour guide, a paid professional armed guard, four fathers; two armed, and a mother. Three weapons for 30 adults and kids.
In addition, the Old City is crawling with soldiers and police some of whom are young soldiers also on site seeing trips with their units: all are carrying loaded weapons. If one is honest, there can be a little too much security and I’d worry about some of these young kids opening fire but they have all received basic training not just in using the guns, but in how to designate a target and when not to engage (because someone more experienced is already on the job).
Although it only has a population of eight million, Israel can call on a much larger reserve of security and specialist helpers than Britain ever could today. The other clear difference is the huge emphasis on surveillance of mobile phone and internet traffic. Of a national police force of 29,000, some 1,000 officers are involved in internet and social media surveillance, something that wouldn’t be allowed in the UK.
At Israel’s leading defence electronics contractor, Elbit, I am shown its latest communication and surveillance concept. It consists of a huge national data base, known as WIT — Wise Intelligent Technology – which can be summoned by the counter-terrorist commander. Another tool is a pod for a drone or helicopter called Skyeye, a multi-track camera that can be called on by a large number of security units at a time.
The new system allows different types of radio and phone — from UHF, VHF radios and walkie-talkies to the latest smartphone — to talk to each other. Moreover they can track a phone call, its origins and owner in an instant by using the WIT database. In Britain, following a row over identity cards, there is no such national database.
Last week the head of Israel Defence Forces, Lt-Gen Gadi Eisenkot, warned that the situation would get much more complex in the next 20 years. Here he had a powerful message for Britain, which has cut back on its public and armed services.
“We will have to adapt our forces for the future, their research and development platforms. But it is the people who ensure our future — and we will need more committed young people serving. We depend on them, and they should be properly rewarded.”
If the UK really is facing a Jihadi uprising similar to what we have dealt with here for years, your cities will become unrecognisable. We tolerate this in Jerusalem and Israel because they is so precious to us: how much do you love your country and your cities?