"Guns don't kill people," the notorious ad by the National Rifle Association proclaims. "People kill people."
And thus it was that one of those trigger-happy people - equipped with an arsenal easily purchased in his native United States - immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return, and began killing people he didn't like. A Palestinian from East Jerusalem here, a Palestinian from the West Bank there. Now and then, he would try to sabotage or detonate an explosive device, or spike someone's juice.
Yaakov (Jack) Teitel, serial terrorist, the son of an American dentist who decided to take an eye for a tooth, fit the general profile of a suspect drawn up by the Shin Bet security service and the police, but it took 12 years of terrorist acts before he was caught.
One of the aliases Teitel assumed was "Red Hand"; perhaps he was fantasizing about being in the Red Hand Gang, the one featured in a 1970s adventure show on NBC. Only that bunch of kids and their dog would leave red hand prints as their marks after solving crimes, not after committing them.
Had he stayed at home in Florida rather then loving Israel to (other people's) death, there's a decent chance Yaakov Teitel would have taken his arsenal to some university or to a gay club, and ended his life in a hail of bullets there; the police and the FBI would probably have shown him little mercy.
The Shin Bet and the police's anti-terrorism unit, by contrast, took Teitel in unharmed, although he was carrying a loaded pistol when arrested. One wonders whether the same operative guidelines are applied when detaining an Arab terrorist.
Teitel doesn't seem to have much in common with the Jewish Underground, which targeted Palestinian mayors and attempted to launch an explosion on the Temple Mount in the 1980s. Like Baruch Goldstein, and even much more than Yigal Amir, Teitel was a lone operator.
At the Shin Bet, the one person who ostensibly knows the most on such subjects, said cautiously yesterday that there is no positive evidence of a Jewish underground in the West Bank now, but there is also no evidence to negate that possibility completely.
But the apparent fading of the underground phenomenon is of little comfort. Groups are easy to apprehend. They meet, they talk, they scheme, they leak, they get infiltrated, and this applies both to criminal and terrorist organizations. However, it's nearly impossible to apprehend an individual bent on violence in advance - especially when he chooses unsecured targets. He might be caught after the fact, at the cost of an enormous technological and forensic investment, in putting together pieces of intelligence and evidence from the field.
Undergrounds are so 1980s. Teitel is the "new terrorist": self-taught and able to operate personally imported weapons, with no co-conspirators or chain of command between him and his God.
As long as this is the case, the Shin Bet experts will have trouble apprehending terrorists like Teitel ahead of their next attack. And before they or the police can say "Yaakov Teitel," a new terrorist will rise only to lay low, once again.
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