The worst terror attack in Israeli history was narrowly averted Saturday evening.
Someone—it is not yet known who—managed to drive a car carrying 100 kilograms of explosives, mixed with metal ball bearings to maximize impact, into an outdoor parking lot of the Lev Hamifratz mall in Haifa. At about eight o’clock, when a malfunction in the detonation mechanism caused a small explosion, a civilian summoned police, and sappers were able to defuse the rest of the bombs.
The car belonged to an Arab woman from East Jerusalem but may have been stolen. The bombs could possibly have brought down the entire three-story mall with over a hundred stores and 23 movie theaters. Or according to another scenario, “the attackers could have been aiming to…set other parked vehicles on fire, resulting in a chain reaction of exploding fuel tanks,” which means “the majority of the cars in the parking lot would have gone up in flames. The gas in them could have exploded. This would have been a major terrorist attack.”
Although a shadowy Israeli Arab group called the Galilee Freedom Fighters claimed responsibility, most media reports say the security forces doubt such a group exists. Outgoing prime minister Ehud Olmert implied that Hamas was responsible, claiming the attack had originated in the West Bank “where Hamas wishes to strengthen its infrastructure and status, while continuing its terror activity and [efforts to] cause severe harm to Israeli citizens.” Other suspicions center on Hezbollah. On Sunday evening, Israel’s Channel 1 reported that in any case the attack would have required collusion by Arab citizens of Israel.
Meanwhile, Israeli media and particularly the left-wing daily Haaretz have launched a different kind of attack on Israel.
It started on Thursday when Haaretz reported on six veterans of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza who, in speeches to the pre-military preparatory program of which they were graduates, had complained of alleged moral breaches during the war involving the killing of civilians in difficult or ambiguous situations. Even though the allegations were based on hearsay, the program’s founder and current head, Danny Zamir—a left-winger who previously served 28 days in military jail for refusing to guard a Jewish religious ceremony in the West Bank city of Nablus—published the soldiers’ complaints in a newsletter that found its way to Haaretz.
Haaretz further reported on Sunday that “Testimonies on IDF misconduct in Gaza keep rolling in.” It noted that on Saturday evening (roughly coterminous with the abortive Haifa attack), Israeli TV’s Channel 10 had “show[n] a documentary that included a security briefing by a company commander on the eve of the Gaza invasion.” The company commander’s supposedly scandalous words were:
“We’re going to war. We’re not doing routine security work or anything like that. I want aggressiveness—if there’s someone suspicious on the upper floor of a house, we’ll shell it. If we have suspicions about a house, we’ll take it down…. If it’s us or them, it’ll be them. If someone approaches us unarmed, shoot in the air. If he keeps going, that man is dead. Nobody will deliberate—let the mistakes be over their lives, not ours.”
The soldiers, in other words, were embarking on the most difficult urban combat imaginable, fighting ununiformed terrorists who melt into and manipulate the civilian population at every turn, booby-trapping homes and mosques with explosives. The civilian population, moreover, largely supports and cooperates with the terrorists and is itself known to launch suicide bombings. Those who object to the words “let the mistakes be over their lives, not ours” are presumably nostalgic for Israel’s 2002 confrontation with terror in the Jenin refugee camp, when, purposely avoiding shelling so as to lessen Palestinian civilian casualties, Israel instead lost 23 soldiers fighting in the alleys of the camp.
Nevertheless, Israel’s military police stated that the incidents alleged by the soldiers quoted in Thursday’s Haaretz report will be investigated. The trouble is that—as could easily be foreseen by anyone who, unlike the folks who run Haaretz, is genuinely concerned with fairness and Israel’s welfare—by that time Israel will long since have been tried, found guilty, and hung by international media.
As in, to take one among numerous examples, a widely disseminated AP story that refers jeeringly to Israel’s “mantra” of having “the most moral army,” quotes Israeli far-Left former security chief Ami Ayalon saying that “the IDF’s ethos…was once built on ethics, sacrifice” and “after the Gaza offensive…is based on force alone,” unreservedly quotes casualty figures of the pro-Hamas Palestinian Human Rights Center in Gaza, and quotes rabidly anti-Israeli UN “human rights” rapporteur Richard Falk saying Israel’s actions in Gaza could “constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude….”
All this at a time when Israel’s defensive war against Hamas terror in Gaza is under fire from the UN and a bevy of human rights NGOs, the International Criminal Court is considering war crimes charges against Israel, and Israeli soldiers and officers risk arrest if they step foot in certain European countries. Also worth noting is that recently a film depicting Israeli soldiers—in another war on terror almost thirty years ago in Lebanon—as wanton killers of both animals and people has won huge success and was up for an Oscar.
Seemingly the near-catastrophe in Haifa should be a reminder that Israel, as a Jewish and non-Arab/non-Muslim state smack in the middle of the Arab Middle East, is under very vicious attack and has no easy solutions for how to protect itself. Even in such a reality, of course, Israeli soldiers are human and could commit misdeeds. Patriots would handle complaints—assuming they had some basis other than rumor—quietly and fairly and only publish results once investigations have concluded. But, unfortunately, Israel is also under internal attack from those, like Haaretz, who want it to be besmirched as often and publicly as possible and therefore add demoralization and defamation to the harsh burdens with which heroic Israeli soldiers already cope.