Last week a 16 year old Bedouin girl approached a base of the Border Police, pulled out a pistol and aimed it at the guard. The result was predictable. There were no injuries to the police.
Over the past year, there have been three incidents of Arab bulldozer operators who used their vehicles to cause mayhem in the streets of Jerusalem. Two of them killed pedestrians. All three of the bulldozer drivers died at the scene.
Some years ago there was a wave of individual Arabs attacking Jews with kitchen knives.
What links these incidents is that one or more Palestinian organizations claimed responsibility, but Israeli officials discounted the claims, and attributed them to individuals acting alone.
It is difficult to know what Israel can do to prevent random cases of violence. Intelligence often discovers planning by an established group, and frustrates the plans. Explanations of unaffiliated individuals cite personal rage traced to a relative killed by security forces, sermons at the mosque that incite hatred of Jews, an individual shunned by friends or family who wishes to prove his or her worth, and/or emotional disturbance.
The stories are not all that different from Americans or Europeans who run amok in schools or other public places. Friday's killings in Binghamton were not the last. A domestic dispute in Pittsburgh on Saturday resulted in the deaths of three police officers.
An American incident typically occurs with a firearm, and produces another round of demands to restrict their availability, and predictable responses from the National Rifle Association and its friends. Even if Congress or the Courts revise the conventional reading of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, it might be impossible to account for an estimated 200 million weapons in anything less than several generations.
A wide distribution of personal weapons in Israel, along with procedures to screen those who have them, has resulted in the deaths of Palestinians at the scene of their rampages. Innocents have also died in other episodes, due to imperfections in the screening mechanisms.
Unorganized wrath in Israel does not only occur among Arabs. Baruch Goldstein was an American-born MD who killed 29 Muslims at prayer in Hebron. A soldier, judged unfit to carry a weapon but AWOL and not yet disarmed, took a bus to the Arab city of Shfar'am and killed four civilians and wounded 29 others.
Justifications of revenge and "they started it" are as predictable among Jews or Arabs, as are demands for restricting gun ownership after an incident in the United States.
Literature suggests that there have been mad individuals in all societies and historical periods. The availability of guns increases the damage in America. Organized violence provides the sparks and the rhetoric for unaffiliated Arabs and Jews in Israel. Only the nonviolent mad think that meeting all the demands of the Palestinians will end these incidents.
Events in Finland, Germany, Britain, and Canada, which are relatively free of guns and violence, indicate that no people can feel themselves absolutely secure.
In this season of Passover and Easter, we celebrate different conceptions of freedom. We should enjoy the rituals, but realize that we are singing about aspirations and not reality.
I welcome comments sent to my e-mail address, below.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem