Last week’s attack on patrons of a Tel Aviv bar 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 swapping land for real peace.
I also speak as a Tel Aviv resident who lives about a mile from Bar Ilka on Dizengoff Street. My wife and I happened to pass by the scene of the shooting maybe an hour before it happened.
Lately, the conversations I’ve had with others have focused not on peace, but on numbers and semantics. In response to a video I filmed in Dizengoff Street the morning after the chaos, a bystander made it clear to me that three young men, not two, died, the third succumbing to his injuries a few days after he was 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 reporting, the Wall Street Journal, BBC and New York Times favored the “shooter”. Responsible journalistic practice in the Western press apparently holds that only card-carrying members of Hezbollah, and the like, deserve the label of “terrorist.” I also found the keyword “shooter” on two Arabic newspaper websites I visited.
The shooter’s rage-filled attack may have posthumously received the blessings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but that doesn’t mean it qualifies as an act of terrorism according to AP, Reuters, the United Nations, the Court International Justice or Amnesty International. I read that the governor of Jenin claimed that the word “terrorist” did not apply in this case, because any unaffiliated Palestinian stuck in a corner could lash out in the same violent way. He considered the Jenin shooter a “Fatah fighter”.
This kind of semantic sharing reminds me of the devastation in Ukraine, which Vladimir Putin insisted was an “operation”, not a “war”.
Israeli security professionals called the Jenin shooter a “lone wolf”. The assumption here is that while he may not officially be part of a terrorist cell, his attack represents an unrelated act of terror, the kind that may be more difficult to predict and stop. Meanwhile, Palestinians on the streets of Gaza and the West Bank cheered the Dizengoff Street rampage, and the Palestinian Authority’s Martyrs’ Fund appears set to pay a monthly stipend to the killer’s family.
Last week, as the Palestinians were celebrating the month of Ramadan, I heard about the meeting in the Negev of the Abraham Accord countries which include Israel, Egypt, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. This was unprecedented news. I read that the Palestinians were not invited. No surprise there. I also read about more violence in disputed territories. No surprise either.
On the Friday morning after the Ilka Bar attack, Dizengoff Street might not have been as busy as usual, but it was far from deserted. The people walking around, rather than terrified, seemed determined to carry on with their lives as usual. I know that was how I felt. While I was on the move, Israeli police tracked down the shooter/gunman/Fatah fighter/terrorist from Jenin in Jaffa and killed him.
It remains to be seen how many more will die on both sides in the last two weeks of Ramadan. Unfortunately, at present, the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are not on my personal agenda, and they may not be relevant to many others.
Again, I speak as someone who doesn’t fear a two-state solution or the prospect of swapping land for real peace.
Filmmaker and children’s book author Marc Kornblatt is the producer/director of award-winning documentaries DOSTOEVSKY BEHIND BARS, STILL 60, WHAT I DID IN FIFTH GRADE and LIFE ON THE LEDGE, as well as web series MINUTE MAN and ROCK REGGA. He and his wife made Aliyah in 2019 and now live in Tel Aviv where, through his independent film production company REFUGE FILMS, he produced OLEH HADASH, a web series about his experience as a new citizen. from Israel, two pandemic-inspired series, THE NARROW BRIDGE PROJECT and TEL AVIV WALKS, and BLUE & RED, RESPECTFUL ENCOUNTERS OF THE GENDER POLITICS, a series celebrating civil discourse across the liberal-conservative divide.