Last week’s attack on patrons at a Tel Aviv bar has distracted me from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. I speak as a left-leaning American Jew who made Aliyah in 2019 and does not fear a two-state solution or the prospect of trading land for real peace.
I also speak as a resident of Tel Aviv who lives about a mile from the Ilka Bar on Dizengoff Street. My wife and I happened to pass by the scene of the shooting perhaps an hour before it took place.
Lately, exchanges I’ve had with others have focused not on peace, but on numbers and semantics. In response to a video I filmed on Dizengoff Street the morning after the mayhem, one viewer impressed upon me that three, not two, young men died, the third succumbing to his injuries a few days after I uploaded my video to YouTube. (More than a dozen were injured.)
A friend complained to me about the difference between the media’s use of the words “gunman” and “terrorist.” Among Israeli Jews, the words seem synonymous in the context of the Illka Bar attack. In their reports, The Wall Street Journal, BBC, and New York Times, favored “gunman.” Responsible journalistic practice in the Western press apparently holds that only card-carrying members of Hezbollah, and the like, earn the “terrorist” label. I found “gunman” the operative word on two Arab newspaper websites I visited, as well.
The shooter’s rage-filled attack may have posthumously received the blessings of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, but that doesn’t mean it qualified as a terrorist act according to AP, Reuters, the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, or Amnesty International. I read the governor of Jenin argued that the word “terrorist“ didn’t apply in this case, because any unaffiliated Palestinian backed into a corner might lash out in the same violent way. He deemed the Jenin gunman a “Fatah fighter.”
This kind of semantic hair-splitting reminds me of the devastation in Ukraine, which Vladimir Putin has insisted is an “operation,” not a “war.”
Israelis security professionals have called the Jenin shooter a “lone wolf.” The assumption here is that though he may not be formally part of a terrorist cell, his attack represents an independent act of terror, the kind that may be harder to predict and stop. Meanwhile, Palestinians in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank cheered the rampage on Dizengoff Street, and the Palestinian Authority’s Martyrs Fund seems primed to pay the family of the killer a monthly stipend.
The past week, as Palestinians celebrated the month of Ramadan, I read about the meeting in the Negev of the Abraham Accord countries that include Israel, Egypt, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. That was unprecedented news. I read that the Palestinians were not invited. No surprise there. I also read about more violence in the disputed territories. No surprise there, either.
On the Friday morning after the Ilka Bar attack, Dizengoff Street may not have been as busy as usual, but it was far from deserted. People walking about, rather than terrorized, seemed determined to carry on life as usual. I know that was how I felt. During the time I was out and about, the Israeli police tracked down the Jenin shooter/gunman/Fatah fighter/terrorist in Jaffa and killed him.
How many more will die on both sides during the final two weeks of Ramadan remains to be seen. Sadly, as of now, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are low on my personal agenda, and they may be irrelevant to many others.
Again, I speak as someone who does not fear a two-state solution or the prospect of trading land for real peace.