Arab road workers quietly watch crews clean up the aftermath of a terror attack carried out by their co-worker. (Nicole Jansezian)
A day after an Arab construction worker drove his bulldozer on a deadly tear down a busy Jerusalem street crushing pedestrians and cars and killing at least three people, Arab city workers were back on the job Thursday, prompting many a dubious glance from Israeli passersby.
In the wake of this latest attack on Wednesday, Israelis are waking up to the realization that they have a security threat in their midst and not just on the other side of their much-maligned security fence.
“This is someone who works for the government. It’s not someone out of nowhere, out of the [Palestinian-controlled] territories,” said David Bitton, 24. “We have hundreds of them working on the street.”
Bitton said it is a mistake to let Arab workers start working the next day like nothing happened. “You show them that it’s okay, and then they will do it again.”
“The Arabs are trying to show, we don’t need suicide bombers, we don’t need shootings, we don’t need RPGs,” he continued. “We’ll kill you with cars. This is a psychological game.”
Cars, incidentally, were considered the “safe” alternative to a public transportation system targeted by Palestinian suicide bombers, but after people were crushed in their own vehicles a new, deadly variety of terror attack was introduced to Israel.
Several civilians and police officers ran toward the bulldozer, shooting at the driver until he was shot point blank by an off-duty soldier. Israeli television showed amateur footage from cellphone cameras of the deadly encounter.
The bulldozer driver managed to cover about 500 yards down central Jerusalem's Jaffa Street before he was stopped. Along the way he crushed a Mazda, flattening a woman inside the car. Her infant was rescued from the vehicle just moments earlier. The bulldozer came to a stop atop another car, which, when it was extricated hours later, revealed a mere mound of twisted metal and mangled tires with colorful children’s toys embedded in the wreckage. Several other vehicles, including two public buses, were also severely damaged in the rampage.
The attack was at least the fourth carried out by those identified as "Israeli Arabs" in Jerusalem this year. In March, another Arab resident of East Jerusalem shot dead eight students at a yeshiva. Earlier in the year, two Jewish municipal workers were nearly lynched on a main thoroughfare on the eastern side of the capital, and a Jewish security guard was attacked with his own gun in Jerusalem's Old City.
Moderate Arabs turning violent?
Ibrahim Ramzi, an Israeli Arab Muslim who works near the scene of Wednesday's attack, wept after observing the destruction firsthand. He insisted that an action like this can never be justified by the Koran.
“How can any man ever arrive at a thing like this?” Ramzi said. “I want to put this out of my memory.”
While many Israeli Arabs say they can’t even comprehend such attacks and insist that acts of terrorism emanating from their communities are isolated incidents and not the signs of a hostile undercurrent, their words are beginning to ring hollow.
Younger generations of Israeli Arabs are beginning to adopt the Palestinian narrative that refers to modern Israel's establishment as a catastrophe, or nakba in Arabic. Influenced by toxic groups like the Hamas-allied Islamic Movement and many of their own representatives in the Israeli parliament, more and more Israeli Arabs are abetting or directly participating in anti-Jewish terrorism.
Wednesday's bulldozer attack was claimed by an Israeli Arab group from northern Israel calling itself the "Free Galilee Movement," which has publicly taken credit for numerous brutal acts of violence against Israeli Jews in recent years.
While most Israeli Arabs would probably never personally engage in terrorism, Israeli Jews are increasingly suspicious.
“No matter how nice they are and how much you know them, they can’t be trusted,” said Bitton. “We give them jobs, we give them money, we give them support. And this is what they do. I’m not even shocked. There have been threats for a long time about this.”
Israel strikes back
Furiously scrambling to prove to a rattled Israeli public that they recognize and will respond to the emerging internal threat, Israeli leaders tried to outdo one another by suggesting increasingly harsh punitive actions.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Trade and Industry Minister Eli Yishai and Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski insisted that the terrorist's family home must be razed, a deterrence tactic Israel used to employ against Palestinian Arab terrorists.
Olmert also sought to deny the killer's family their national insurance rights, while Yishai called for any family members who knew the attack was going to take place to be exiled to Gaza.
Just hours after the attack, lawmakers approved the preliminary reading of a bill that would authorize the government to revoke the citizenship of any Israeli Arab involved in acts of terrorism. The new law would also extend to any immediate family who were aware of another family member’s intention to carry out an attack.