Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Neutralizing Terrorists: Neccessary Morality

The following post was written jointly by Jameel and Lurker:

In the previous post, about the heroic civilians who killed terrorists in action on the streets of Jerusalem, DovBear asked a valid and important question:

M reached over or around armed policemen to shoot the terrorist. What do they police say about that? Why didn't they shoot themselves?

Ah, that is a million dollar question. In the IDF, we learn very clearly that one must neutralize terrorists in light of the bitter experiences of the past 17 years.

Terrorists rarely want to be captured these days, and fight to the end, including wearing bomb vests. They wait till the last possible second when there are soldiers, police, civilians around before triggering their explosion.

IDF counter-terror soldiers are constantly reminded and trained that terrorists must be shot at and neutralized and any movement can be deemed as a threat of detonating a bomb vest or grenade (all of these scenarios have happened, many times). The only way to positively ensure a terrorist's "neutralization" and our safety is when the terrorist is no longer alive; he is confirmed to be killed. For the sake of legality and publicity, the IDF does not use the term "confirmed kill" because it doesn't sound nice, but that's the bottom line.

Unfortunately what is extremely clear to the IDF, is lost on much of the Israeli police and their management. Just 2 weeks ago, former Jerusalem District Police Chief Mickey Levy* wrote an op-ed piece on YNET (see more on JoeSettler about this) decrying the immorality of "confirming the kill" of a terrorist in the field -- and his opinion is what has caused additional victims of terrorism.

The first bulldozer terrorist did his utmost best to squash and kill as many innocent victims while yelling Allahu Akbar. Civilians and policemen shot at him, and his bulldozer stopped moving. By this point, he had already flattened and overturned several vehicles and their passengers, killing one person and maiming several others. After a policeman then mounted the bulldozer, the terrorist regained consciousness and continued to drive, intent on killing more people. Instead of the policeman confirming that the terrorist was dead (properly neutralizing him), he instead attempted to fight manually to "subdue" him. During the policeman's manual struggle, the terrorist managed to continue operating the bulldozer, running over the car of Batsheva Unterman for a second time -- and this time flattening it. Unterman was apparently killed there and then. In addition, her baby son, who had been snatched out of the back seat by a passing pedestrian only seconds earlier, would have been killed as well. It was only at that point, as the bulldozer continued to threaten the safety of even more people, that "M" grabbed a gun from a security guard, reached around the policeman, and shot the terrorist 3 times in the head. That was what stopped the terrorist and the carnage.

In his article, former Police Chief Levy openly acknowledges that because the policeman opted not to shoot the terrorist, the terrorist "to my regret was able to hurt and kill another woman" [Unterman]. In spite of this, Levy insists that "the policeman could not have acted any other way". And here is the explanation he gives for this conclusion: "Had he shot the terrorist while he was unconscious, this could have been perceived as an immoral act. Yet we are a moral people, and in our Book of Books it says 'thou shalt not murder'." [See the footnote below for more information on Levy's moral values.]

This, then, is the thinking that governs the behavior of the Israel police -- straight from mouth of one of the highest ranking police officers in Israel. And this is the reason why the policeman did not shoot the terrorist himself.

[*] A bit of background info that sheds some light on who Mickey Levy is, and his humane, merciful values: There was a publicized case several years ago in which anti-government dissident Nadia Matar of the Women in Green was charged with assaulting a police officer. The officer in question was Mickey Levy, several years before he became the Jerusalem Police Commander. When Matar went to trial, the prosecution put Levy himself and seven other police officers on the stand, and they all testified to having witnessed Matar physically attacking Levy during the course of a violent demonstration at the Russian Compound. When the defense got its turn, they declined to call any witnessess, and instead produced a videotape of the incident in question shot by a Channel 2 cameraman. (Channel 2 had never aired the segment, and Matar had to get a subpeona in order to compel Channel 2 to produce the tape.) The tape clearly showed that the demonstration was completely peaceful, and that the demostrators were even standing on the sidewalk so as not to obstruct traffic. In spite of this, Levy is seen attacking the diminutive Matar without provocation in a most brutal manner, and then dragging her away in cuffs. It also showed that Matar never even raised a hand to him, neither before nor during Levy's assault. The judge immediately dismissed the charges and closed the case. Not one of the eight police officers was charged with perjury or even reprimanded, in spite of a complaint filed by Matar. And Levy, of course, got promoted up the ladder until he became the Jerusalem District Commander, and later the Israel Police Liason in the U.S.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד


Cosmic X said...

See also

mevaseretzion said...

יישר כחכם

Anonymous said...

With all the Anglo olim living in Israel - why isn't there a bigger push to organize and make (or force) changes that must happen in Israel - such as their police force. When in Israel, my children saw first hand how Israeli police are and it went against ever instinct and bit of teaching they learned about trusting and respecting the police. I had no other choice to answer their questions honestly and basically tell them that they are mean bastards.

Lion of Zion said...

thanks for the perspective. after the first tractor incident i saw many comments accusing israel of brutally killing him instead of arresting him.

"Unfortunately what is extremely clear to the IDF, is lost on much of the Israeli police and their management."

but there is a soldier in the video doing nothing also

Soccer Dad said...

From Ha'aretz:
I took cover and could see the terrorist moving his hand towards the bomb... There were body parts in the area. I fired at the terrorist along with a second policeman. After we ceased fire I could see his hand moving and I thought that he was trying to detonate the bomb. I kneeled down and shot his head." said Commander Mor.

Anonymous said...


Aren't Israeli cops former soldiers who would know better?

Leah Goodman said...

Thank you for this explanation.

Akiva said...

Unfortunately, you fail to note it's worse than this. On some occasions, especially those that aren't well televised, people who have shot at terrorists or attackers in self defense have been prosecuted and gone to prison for it.

So not only mustn't shoot the terrorist, one may not even injure him for fear of going to jail for doing so. Fire your gun - go to jail, is the general understanding among most armed Israelis. Making a hesitation in deciding - is it worth it?

Anonymous said...

Yes, you are right- in these two incidences, it was good that the terrorist was shot. But what happens as fears escalate (which they are bound to do, now) until someone who is merely perceived as a threat is shot at by one of these civilians whose powers of perception may not be spot on? Are you advocating a green light for anyone with a gun license to be able to shoot whoever is behaving suspiciously around Jerusalem?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

LoZ: The soldier who stood by may have been shellshocked or a cadet/tiron.

Yochanan: Not all Israeli cops are former soldiers! In fact, they may have done police service instead of military service as their national requirement. And even those that were soldiers, it doesn't mean they were combat soldiers.

Akiva: For now, the #1 thing on our side is public opinion and pressure. Even if the police would want to go after these people, they can't because (luckily) the police *also* did "viduy hariga"...

Akiva and TafkaPP:

The important issue is responsibility. In a radio interview yesterday, I heard a Jewish tractor driver from Ashdod on the radio saying how scared he is to drive a tractor now. What should he do if he accidentally hits a car? Put his hands in the air? Lie down on the street? There is a definite risk that an innocent tractor driver will be killed -- which is why civilians (and the IDF and police) need to professionally asses the situation, and once they have quickly determined that an attack is in place -- they should attempt to kill the terrorist.

I recall an incident in Gush Katif where a civilian was being shot at by terrorists, and he returned fire. An IDF jeep rushed to the scene and killed the civilian -- mistakenly assuming he was the terrorist.

One needs to quickly evaluate the situation as quickly and accurately as possible...and then act.

Lurker said...

tafka pp: Are you advocating a green light for anyone with a gun license to be able to shoot whoever is behaving suspiciously around Jerusalem?

No. I am advocating for a radical revision of police open-fire guidelines, which currently prohibit confirming the kill of a terrorist in the field -- even if he has already killed people. In the case of the first bulldozer attack, as well as the Merkaz HaRav attack, the carnage was ended by civilians after the police failed to take decisive action. And in both cases, more people would have been killed if these civilians had not done what they did.

It was because of the observation of the existing police guidelines that Batsheva Unterman (who was my neighbor, btw) was killed. See Mickey Levy's article, in which he openly acknowledges that this is why Unterman was killed, and yet still justifies the police officer's failure to shoot the terrorist, since "this could have been perceived as an immoral act".

When you ask whether I'm advocating for civilians "to be able to shoot whoever is behaving suspiciously around Jerusalem", you almost seem to be implying that this is what happened in the cases under discussion. Which is absurd, unless you regard attacking, overturning, and crushing numerous automobiles, buses, and pedestrians with a bulldozer as "behaving suspiciously".

In a society that is beset on a regular basis with armed, suicidal terrorists in the midst of civilian population centers, it is unfortunately necessary to have a significant portion of that civilian population who are trained and licensed to carry weapons and to use them responsibly. I am not calling for a free-for-all. Such armed civilians should be subject to the same guidelines as the police (which, as I already noted, should not be the current guidelines). Anyone who violates those guidelines should be prosecuted.

Lurker said...

And as long as we're on the subject of what it is that I'm advocating, there's one other thing, too: I'm calling for the complete purge from the Israel Police of dangerous people like Mickey Levy. By this I mean two things: (1) People who promote supposely humane, merciful values even for terrorist murderers in the field -- and even if this means paying for these "values" with innocent human life (e.g., Levy's article on Ynet), and (2) people who exhibit vicious sadism and cruelty against good and innocent persons, and criminally persecute them (see Levy's assault on Nadia Matar, and his subsequent perjury in her trial). Mickey Levy qualifies as both of these types at the same time. As such, he is a veritable poster child for the rabbinic adage that those who are merciful to the cruel are the very same people who are cruel to the merciful (Midrash Tanhuma, Metzora 1; Yalkut Shimoni, I Shmuel 121).

Unknown said...

Tafka PP: I'd like to add a few thoughts the subject of guns and licenses.

The truth of the matter is that carrying a weapon of any sort places a tremendous amount of responsibility on the carrier. FWIW, the laws regarding when, how, and why you can even remove a gun from its holster are quite strict in this country.

Every person who goes through the process of applying for a license, and subsequent renewals, must attend a mandatory safety class with a complete review of laws -- from storage to firing.

Here in Israel, most people approach having a gun license with a significant amount of introspection. It is my understanding that due to the nature of the laws, even a legal discharging of your weapon can land you in jail. Therefore most people I know who carry do so with the understanding that even removing the gun from it's holster (let alone firing it) is a last-resort solution to a life-threatening situation.

Every single person I know who carries a gun (and I know quite a few) does so with the sincere hope that they will never, EVER have to use it.

Suggesting that fear will "green-light" illegal and unethical use of firearms is a gross insult to the law abiding men and women who have undertaken considerable additional responsibilities by opting to carry guns in order to protect themselves, their families, and others whose lives might be placed in jeapardy.

Anonymous said...

Lurker- I was asking a question, not accusing you. And I certainly never implied that I was against civillian fire in all 3 previous cases: I'm perturbed why you would interpret what I said that way, I made it very clear (well, I thought so) that I didn't. I stand by my question, I wanted to know what you and Jameel thought, as it wasn't clear from your post. And you answered it, thank you.

Zahava: It is very hard for me not to be rude in response to your very passionate (and completely off the mark to the point I made) response to me, but may I just point out that I've been Israeli substantially longer than you, and in that vein, and being as you know almost nothing about me, you're not in a position to preach to me about what constitutes "a gross insult to the law abiding men and women who have undertaken considerable additional responsibilities by opting to carry guns in order to protect themselves, their families, and others whose lives might be placed in jeapardy." Raising a perfectly valid point for discussion on an Anglo-Saxon blog about gun laws in Israel hardly constitutes me grossly insulting my loved ones, family, and Zahal, now does it?

Funny how "Jameel" seemed to understand the point I was raising in the discussion and responded, yet others choose to jump down my virtual throat: Well, not so much funny, as rather unfortunate.

Lurker said...

Tafka PP -- My understanding of your comments was that you thought things turned out lucky in these two particular cases; but that in the general case, it is too dangerous to allow civilians with gun licenses to use those weapons when a potential terror attack is unfolding. I did not think that you were accusing me.

In any case, I apologize if I misunderstood you, or if I gave the impression that I was jumping down your virtual throat.

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