Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Bulldozer Rampages in Jerusalem - Terrorist Attack??

From the BBC:

A Palestinian man has driven a bulldozer into a bus and several cars in Jerusalem, killing three people, before being shot dead.

Dozens of people were hurt, at least seven critically, in the rampage on Jaffa Road, in the city centre.

A police officer shot the driver of the bulldozer dead after a struggle in the vehicle's cab.

Police said the attacker was a 30-year-old from east Jerusalem, with no known affiliations to militant groups.

The BBC's Tim Franks, who witnessed the attack, said that within a few minutes a stretch of Jerusalem's city centre had been turned into a blood-soaked mess.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the incident a terrorist attack, and condemned it as "an act of senseless murderous violence".


Once the initial shock of such an incident sets in, a few things started to bother me about this incident and the way it has been reported by the media.

1) The report of this as an act of terrorism particularly bothers me. There is no evidence whatsoever that this was a terrorist attack. A horrendous incident no doubt, but an act of terrorism? The official US definition of terrorism is as follows:

The calculated use of violence (or threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear.

There is no evidence that the above definition fits this incident. There is no evidence that the perpetrator was linked to any terrorist organisation and there is no evidence that he had planned a terrorist attack, certainly not as yet. Despite the rhetoric of the media and the politicians it is dubious whether this was a terrorist act at all. In fact, an Israeli police chief claimed the following:

"It looks as if it was a spontaneous act."

Spontaneous, not 'calculated' as the definition above sets out. The reports that I have read suggest that he had recently divorced from his Jewish wife and had no links to any terrorist organisations. I would suggest that his actions are the result of a mental breakdown as opposed to an outright terrorist attack. Obviously it is difficult to judge at this stage but, with the limited information in the public domain, it seems a little rash to cry 'terrorism' regarding this incident when even the police claim it was a 'spontaneous act'.

2) There seems to be little comment on the fact that the police entered is cab and shot him dead. Sure, it was a repulsive act that he committed but he could have been 'neutralised' without resorting to cold blooded murder. I see no reason why the driver could not have been incapacitated in some way, arrested, charged and then imprisoned. Surely this was preferable to a man being murdered in the street by the state? The death penalty should be condemned in all its forms, and this is no exception.

Maybe we will discover that this was part of a calculated attempt to incite fear in the populace for political gains. With the information available at this moment in time, it is difficult to make such a case stick.