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October 19, 2015 6:40 am

Paranoia and Profiling in Jerusalem

avatar by Paul Gross

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Palestinian youth throwing stones at Israeli forces (illustration)

Palestinian youth throwing stones at Israeli forces. Illustrative photo: Dave Bender.

Racial profiling is controversial. Since 9/11, security officials at airports across the world have been more suspicious of passengers if they are obviously Muslim. This is, on the face of it, unfair discrimination. Of the hundreds of thousands of Muslims traveling by air each day, even the most paranoid (or racist) among us would have to concede that this suspicion will almost always be unwarranted.

The principle behind the profiling is this: most Muslims are not terrorists; but most terrorists today are Muslim. If we are talking about the kind of terrorist looking to perpetrate a mass casualty attack, that logic is unarguable.

In the last couple of weeks, the entire Jewish population of my city Jerusalem has become — with grim vindication, guilty reluctance, or both — a racial profiler.

Last Tuesday morning, two Arabs boarded a bus in the neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv, five minutes from where I live. One carried a gun, the other a knife. Two passengers were killed before the terrorists were overpowered. This of course followed a number of seemingly random attacks by young Arabs with knives (and by “young,” I mean mainly teenagers). Israeli Jews, civilians and soldiers, men and women, young and old have been stabbed — a few, fatally.

Leaving work that day, I deliberated whether to catch a bus home as normal, or whether to walk the 40 minutes to my flat or take a taxi. I felt apprehensive, but also angry at the thought of changing my routine because of these young fanatics and the criminals inciting them. So I got on the bus, and noticed three things straight away: two-thirds of the seats were empty (it’s usually standing-room only by the time I get on); I had instinctively scanned every passenger, looking for an Arab face; and everyone glanced at me as I got on to check my own ethnicity.

Since then, as I walk the streets of the city, I do so without earphones; I have to stay alert — and music or the latest podcast are too distracting. I look behind me every few minutes and try to be aware of who’s in my vicinity.

This weekend, as I walked with my daughter to the park, I saw a young Arab boy walking towards us. He couldn’t have been more than 13 years old. Two weeks earlier, it would have been inconceivable that I could think of this boy as any kind of threat or danger. But among the horrific incidents of the past week was the stabbing of a Jewish thirteen-year old by an Arab boy of the same age. (The assailant, Ahmed Manasra, is now best known for being pronounced dead by Mahmoud Abbas, who accused Israeli police of “executing” him in yet another inflammatory slander from the man we keep being told is our best hope for peace. Abbas had to retract the claim after Israel released a video of the boy being treated in a Jerusalem hospital for his gunshot wounds.)

As the boy got closer, I stopped and tried to see what was in the translucent plastic bag he was holding. I relaxed a little as I saw there was only a jar of coffee inside, but I tensed again when he threw me a defiant glare as he walked past. Right now in Jerusalem, every Jew feels like a potential target and every Arab feels like a victimized suspect.

I’ve always been a believer in the principle of Jewish-Arab co-existence in Israel. I’ve supported organizations and individuals that work for that cause. I’ve called out irresponsible or racist rhetoric by right-wing Israeli politicians and rabbis. I’ve condemned Arab members of Knesset and those community leaders who support Palestinian terrorism and incite antisemitism. Even now, I know there are many many Arabs in Israel who just want to do well in life, and it’s no coincidence that poll after poll shows very little interest among Arab Israelis in emigrating to a Palestinian state if (which at this juncture seems more realistic than “when”) one is established.

But right now, in Jerusalem, every Jew suspects every Arab of harboring homicidal intentions. Our simple logic is that of the airport security guards: Not every Arab wants to stab me, but pretty much anyone that wants to stab me is an Arab. It’s unfair and it’s a disaster for relations between the two peoples, but it will save lives. In the current reality, with a Palestinian leadership unwilling to even sit down to negotiate, perhaps that’s the best we can hope for.

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  • HaDaR

    Mohammedans are NOT a race, besides the FACT that races do not exist.
    Discriminating and profiling people because of their SUPREMACIST AND MURDEROUS IDEOLOGY is good.

  • duPont

    It is the greatest sadness that Jerusalem, a city that should bring us all together to enjoy our respective religions peacefully is now a city under siege by Islam, a religion that forbids any other religion from being honored and practiced. Let us not forget that prior to the Israeli War of Independence, Jews were not allowed to visit the Western Wall. Jerusalem was shut off and religious sites left fallow. We cannot allow that to happen again. The Arabs have no rights in Jerusalem yet the Israelis have gone to great lengths to keep their sanctuaries intact, eg., Al Aksa Mosque, albeit unappreciated by the Arabs. It has been clearly demonstrated that Arabs cannot and should not live in the western world. They can’t get along with anyone and should continue to live in their own countries. They are disrespectful of everyone and teach their children hatred, murder and mayhem. It is a tragedy that the rest of the world is allowing Jerusalem to be trashed by Arabs who have already brured Josephs tomb. I really have to question the overall intelligence of the UN and governments of other countries when they continue to believe the lies the Arabs tell them all the while looking them straight in the eyes.

  • glenda urmacher

    I have been traveling to Israel for over 54 years, and I said it then, when asked why I don’t live there, and I wiil say it now, I will live in Israel when there are no muslims there.
    They hate us, they kill us, and even the moderates agree in their hearts, that the crazies will win, and they will benefit.
    No, Israel is a Jewish country, and all the muslim should be expelled to the 23 other muslim countries of the world.
    Let the arab oil sheiks support them!
    They are brethren!
    I did not have children to be stabbed in the streets where we live, go to school, and work.
    And it is the fault of the U.S. and the EU countries for supporting these nutcases.
    When people have to work for a living to feed their families , they don’t have time to hate, to kill.
    Not on the grand size of what has been going on for the last 60+ years.
    And Israel is crazy to go along with it.
    She should not listen to the morons in world governments, my own included.

  • Hitler’s Mustache:Part II
    Please note that no misbehavior by me prompted any of this.

  • Hitler’s Mustache

    I heard,and saw in print that prior to WWII, this style was more common and fashionable.
    The appearance of being in partnership with a mindset is brought by our dress and companionship. So, think it not strange, concerning the worry.
    A man I knew who was fairly friendly here in the U.S, assaulted me in his store. He did so in praise of the meccan diety. Why,by his knowing my religion and national background.And because he saw religious books of judeo- christian ethic in my hands,which he knocked to the floor.

    A passerby called security. I was escorted out of the mall. This probably because I bearded, and comparatively poorer was probably partly to blame. No questions were asked of what prompted this. The common idea of beards being of those who are unkempt probably aided this merchant’s position.

    The concern for security is partly just. Yet,We must have fact. Difficult,

  • reuven

    I object to the use of the term race when what is really meant is ethnic identity. There is only one human race alive on Earth at this time. Further the Arab claim that we are racist ties in with their attempts to equate the democratic State of Israel with apartheid era South Africa.

  • Mickey Oberman

    I feel very sorry for Israelis who have to live with such horror.

    You say, Mr. Gross, “In the current reality, with a Palestinian leadership unwilling to even sit down to negotiate, perhaps that’s the best we can hope for.”

    Has anyone considered doing to the Arabs what they would most certainly do to the Jews if they could?
    Drive them out of the country. They are invaders and occupiers, barbarians and savage murderers. They have no desire to be at peace with the Jews.
    That innocent Arabs might suffer is true but that suffering has been brought about by their leaders and their fellow Muslims. Not by the Jews.

  • Pinchas Baram

    good article, Paul. but I’d also suggest you learn basic krav maga, and/or buy a handgun or at least have a can of pepper spray. your daughter will feel both safer with you, and prouder of you.