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You Take London, I’ll Take Tel Aviv

Taxicab used in terror attack at Tel Aviv nightclub - Reuters

I watched a video yesterday, before Hurricane Irene moved in on New York, in which a Queens resident who had been instructed to evacuate explained his refusal to leave. He said that he had no idea how much police presence there was going to be in the immediate aftermath of the storm and could not risk leaving his store unprotected in case of looting. This obviously rang a bell in view of the recent violence in London, in which — as Paul Rahe has discussed at Ricochet — Turks and Kurds defended their persons and property with sticks and billiard cues, putting their own liberty at risk in the process. Dr. Rahe’s more recent posting on the subject indicates that the British disease — the willing sacrifice of the citizen’s right to defend himself and his property — has infected the American legal system.

God knows we have a lot on our plate here in Israel, but as I’ve argued many times before, I feel a fundamental sense of security here — a security that appears to be evaporating rapidly in other, allegedly saner parts of the world. It’s based on two fundamental principles: that the right of self-defense is non-negotiable, and that a defense force must have some teeth to be worth the name.

On the first point: steam usually pours out of my ears when the international community instructs us, as it so reliably does, to apologize for our effrontery in defending ourselves. The events in London have given me a new perspective on this. It’s not just Jews or Israelis who are expected to submit to thug rule. Everyone is now expected to submit to thug rule. It’s Robert Fisk’s beating writ large: you’ll take it and like it, because it’s all your fault, anyway.

Here in Israel, we have never had the luxury of forgetting how to identify good and evil, or indeed of forgetting that there are, in fact, two such things. The stubbornness here of a basic, unfashionable moral code puts us into range of a lot of short-range fire (both metaphorical and literal), but gives us a strength that’s more reassuring, in these frightening times, than I can adequately describe.

The second point — that there are people nearby whose job is to protect me, and whom I can depend on to do their absolute best — is brought home for me every time there is an attack, when our soldiers and police materialize out of nowhere to prevent greater harm to our citizens. A friend told me recently about the time she missed a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv literally by inches — she had just turned a corner when a huge explosion took place. She was amazed by two things: the overall calm (no screaming, no swarms of people running in panic) and the “sea of green”: the wave of soldiers who swept in almost instantly to secure the area.

Very early this morning, a 20-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Nablus carjacked a taxi in south Tel Aviv (stabbing the driver in the hand in the process) and plowed it into a police roadblock that had been set up to protect a nightclub, HaOman 17. After hitting several people with the taxi, the terrorist jumped out, screamed “Allahu Akbar,” and started stabbing. He was wrestled to the ground by Border Police.

The suspect is believed to have targeted this particular nightclub because it was hosting an end-of-summer party for more than 2,000 Israeli teenagers, thus marking him as an old-school Palestinian terrorist (c.f. the Dolphinarium nightclub bombing, the Sbarro bombing, the ice cream store attacks, and so on). Not one of the kids inside the club was injured or even aware of what was happening until after it was all over. That none of those children’s families is in an agony of grief this morning is due to the foresight, planning and heroism of the Border Police, who had been placed on high alert to protect the event.

Eight of the policemen were hurt, one critically, as they struggled to prevent the assailant from reaching the entrance to the club. Had the roadblock not been in place, and the policemen less determined, the headlines could be far worse today. This system is not foolproof by any means: we need look only as far back as a week and a half, to the infiltration and multi-pronged terror attack near Eilat to see the consequences of even a partial lapse. But of all the things there are to fear here, being left to fend for myself against the monsters — and then being blamed for doing so — is not one of them.