A 75-year-old Palestinian was fighting for his life over the weekend in an Israeli hospital, and a second person who was in the truck that was attacked on Wednesday night is recovering from his wound. The two were victims of a drive-by shooting, that apparently Jews perpetrated.
There have been at least five similar attacks in the past few months. In the worst of these, which took place in July, an entire family was murdered: three killed, including an infant, and four wounded, all from the Tameisi family, from the village of Idna. Hilmi Tameisi lost his son, his grandson and his granddaughter's husband. They were on their way home from a wedding. The survivors in the attacked car said the two assailants wore yarmulkes.
A month after that terrible murder, the same squad, or a similar one, struck again: Haider Kanaan, a truck driver from Hizma, near Jerusalem, was murdered. In July, three Palestinians were wounded on the road leading to the settlement of Mikhmash. In April, two Palestinians were wounded in the Hebron area, while in June another truck driver, Awani Hadad, from Hebron, was killed on the road to Ma'aleh Adumim.
The method is familiar from the attacks perpetrated by Palestinians: People in a passing car open fire. They appear, ascertain the victims' nationality, shoot and flee. The tragic results are the same. But the response is radically different.
For some months now a Jewish murder squad, or perhaps more than one, has been rampaging, and the security forces have not succeeded in capturing it. There is of course no information available about the undercover means that are being applied in the investigation - a gag order has been imposed on some of them - but in the sphere of overt means there is nothing to compare with the methods used in investigating Palestinian terrorism.
Settlements suspected of being the staging ground for the Jewish assailants have not been placed under curfew, nor are roadblocks set up at their entrances. No one shows understanding for the distress of the Palestinians whose friends and relatives were murdered, in much the same way as when settlers set ablaze Palestinian fields and other property in the wake of an attack, and the police and the army turn a blind eye.
Talk of security on the roads refers solely to security for Jews. No roads are made available exclusively for Palestinians, Israeli vehicles are not held up for hours at roadblocks on the pretext of searching for suspects, and no one conceives the possibility of liquidating the leaders of the terrorists. The Palestinians can only dream of establishing a new outpost at the site of a murder.
Most of the Israeli media play down the reports of the drive-by shootings Jews perpetrate. There are no headlines and photographs to stir the blood. The victims remain anonymous and the bereavement of their families is not addressed. From the Palestinians' point of view, the list of the victims of Jewish terrorism needs to be added to a much longer, and no less painful list consisting of the innocent victims whom Israeli soldiers shot during the past year. A woman who worked in a hospital who was shot to death when she returned home, or a child shot in his grandfather's car at a roadblock are also victims in the Palestinians' eyes - even if they were killed by soldiers in uniform.
On the face of it, uncovering the Jewish murder squads should be a relatively simple matter. We are not, after all, talking about a needle in a haystack. One doesn't have to run an espionage agency to guess the potential population from which the Jewish terrorists come is relatively small in size and that its address is probably across the 1967 Green Line. And it's very possible that the address can be pinpointed even more precisely: in the extremist settlements. Just a few days ago, on October 10, two settlers, Moshe Hershkowitz and Levy Zussman, were ordered to be remanded in custody after being caught carrying weapons in the Arab village of Jaljiliya in the West Bank. A few leaders of the extreme right immediately protested the remand decision. Imagine what would have happened if two armed Palestinians were found between homes on a settlement in similar circumstances.
The Shin Bet security service, despite its reputation, has been unsuccessful in apprehending the Jewish terrorists. It may be making a big effort, but to no avail. Those who are demanding 100 percent success from the Palestinians have to explain this failure. Official Israel has not always rushed to condemn the attacks on Arabs, though it demands such condemnation from the Palestinians after every terrorist attack on Jews, not to mention its firm demand that the Palestinian Authority arrest the perpetrators and place them on trial and to fight terrorism.
True, there is no basis for comparison: the dimensions of Palestinian terrorism are far greater. But Israel, it should be recalled, is a developed country with security services that are among the best in the world and with means of investigation and freedom of movement that are lacking on the Palestinian side. Yet amazingly, when it comes to homegrown terrorism, which is very similar to the kind of terrorism that Arafat has to fight, the rules of the game suddenly change.
Finding the perpetrators of the drive-by shootings against the Palestinians should now be in everyone's interest: the settlers, who need to remove the moral stain with which they are tarnished; the government, which should have an interest in showing Arafat how to combat terrorism; and of course, everyone who holds human life precious. In the meantime, there are no signs that this is the way things are seen in Israel.
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