The image is forever embedded in the Israeli psyche. The smouldering carcass of a passenger bus. Charred metal, burning glass, the faded colors of once happy branding, now turned pale, flecked with brown and black. The eyewitness accounts are familiar too. Limbs blown clear, bodies mangled beyond recognition, death, destruction, blood and terror. The targets – soft and easy. Unsuspecting commuters pre-occupied with the morning rush. Blind, oblivious, never saw it coming.
Those images have become a reality once more after a bomb was detonated on a Tel Aviv bus last week, injuring twenty-nine civilians.
It is the first serious bomb blast in Tel Aviv since April 2006, when a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 11 people at a sandwich stand near the city’s old central bus station.
The last bus bomb targeting Israelis was carried out on July 18 this year, in the Bulgarian black sea resort of Burgas, as excited holiday makers boarded a bus on the airport tarmac. 7 people including a pregnant woman were killed in that attack.
As Israelis come to terms with the return of bus bombings to their streets, there were scenes of jubilation in Gaza. Sweet cakes were handed out in celebration in Gaza’s main hospital. Gazans fired exuberantly into the air upon hearing news of the attack. Yesterday, in those same busy streets, suspected traitors were summarily executed; their corpses dragged behind motorbikes in a grand procession for all to see.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri praised the bombing, while the organisation’s military wing took to social media to convey the hope that “we will soon see black body bags” in the aftermath of the attack. This was followed by the tweet, “We told you #IDF that our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are,” even though the attack targeted ordinary commuters, not soldiers or leaders at all.
The aftermath of the attack is predictable. Israel has been here many times before. Even Tel Aviv, regarded as the country’s center of liberalism, will be hardened in its support for a permanent solution to Hamas’s campaign of terror. The world will express sympathy peppered with calls for restraint. Better the suffering be localized in Israel rather than risk aggravating extremists abroad by acquiescing in a stern Israeli response.
The apologists will cite Israeli “occupation” and the “blockade” as the real causes of this latest act of terror. The natural reaction of an oppressed people. Ignoring the fact that war and terror were repeatedly inflicted on Israeli civilians before any blockade and before Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War.
The UN Human Rights Council, which has a “pathological obsession with Israel,” will likely remain silent. Historically, Israeli human rights are of little consequence to the Council. If they do speak up, it will be to caution against Israeli “disproportionality”. To urge restraint on all sides. The usual false equivalence of action and reaction, terror and targeted response. As though assassinations of Hamas generals and air strikes on the infrastructure of terror is somehow comparable with firing rockets at kindergartens and blowing up buses. Then the esteemed Council will return to its usual business. In March this year, it hosted a Hamas politician and in July, Syria announced that it would be seeking a seat on the Council. Almost half of the resolutions it has passed have been against Israel.
We will no doubt also hear from Catherine Ashton, the EU’s Foreign Policy tsarina. She may even do what she did in the wake of the Toulouse Massacre and flavor her condemnation with another obscene rationalization of terrorism by suggesting that Israel is doing the same thing to the Palestinians.
The legend of terrorism will grow. More martyrs for the jihadist scrapbook. More posters for the streets of Jenin and Tehran. Brave resistors. Liberating the land. Standing up to the mighty occupation. Striking a blow for Islam. One dead Jew at a time.
All the while, the rights of Israelis are eroded a little bit more. The right to defend its citizens from rocket fire. 1,644 rockets have been fired this year alone. The right of Israelis to engage with the world without harassment and boycotts. A performance by Israel’s Bathseva dance ensemble in London was recently disrupted by protesters inside the theater. The right of Israeli children to study in peace. The right of Israelis to travel without fear.
Israel loves to cite examples of its successful integration into the international community. Start-up nation, OECD member, renewable energy, sustainable development, more trees, more female entrepreneurs. All good stuff. All achievements to be genuinely proud of provided they do not detract from that one great truth: Regardless of what Israel does, there will always be people who seek to kill Jews simply because they are Jews. And there is not a UN council, a human rights organisation or a foreign state that is capable of preventing that.