Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Construction Equipment as Terrorist Weapon: Something New

Terrorist? Criminal? Martyr?

Maybe all three?

The Palestinian who struck a blow against the oppressor (Hamas' view of the matter) has been described as unmarried and as a father of two. Not mutually contradictory statements, but I had the impression that Muslims were generally a little more tidy in their relationships than that.

Whatever Hossam Dawiath's domestic arrangements, he deserves credit for thinking outside the box. Where most Palestinians would strap explosives on themselves, or use a gun, to kill Jews, this innovator used construction equipment: a front end loader, I think, but I'm no expert. Someone called it a bulldozer, which is about the same thing to someone outside the construction industry.

There are at several ways of looking at today's attack:
  • Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri:
    "We consider it as a natural reaction to the daily aggression and crimes committed against our people in the West Bank and all over the occupied lands"
  • Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev:
    A "senseless act of murderous violence," and: "Those who refuse to condemn this act of terror are exposing themselves for what they really are - namely the enemies of fundamental human values"
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's aide, Saeb Erekat
    (Abbas is with Fatah):
    "We condemn any attacks that target civilians, whether Israelis or Palestinians"
    (CBS News)
I'm strongly inclined to go with Mr. Regev's view of this incident. As for Mr. Erekat's statement: it sounds good. Seems to me that all 'Jewish oppressors' have been labeled as non-civilian targets by the liberators, though.

Crushing people with construction equipment, as today's 'martyr' did, or shooting seminary students, as a Palestinian did in March, isn't 'striking a blow against oppression.' Particularly when the targets are so blatantly and sincerely civilian by reasonable standards.

On the other hand, Mr. Dawiath's innovative choice of weapons did have one positive effect, from his point of view. Since death by front loader takes time, the attack took several minutes. As a result, we have video of part of the actual attack: not just the aftermath.

(from CBS News)
video: 0:31 commercial, 1:44 content

Not all Palestinian groups are on the same page. The President's aide seems to say that squashing Jews isn't nice. Three Palestinian terrorist groups say they did it.

Excuse me, that's three "Palestinian militant groups:"
  • Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade
    (loosely connected to Abbas' Fatah movement)
  • Galilee Freedom Battalion
    (maybe connected with Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas)
  • The ever-popular Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
    ("fringe left-wing militant group," as CBS News put it)
It's quite clear that the Palestinian front of the war on terror hasn't changed much.

Israeli police chief Dudi Cohen says: "It looks as if it was a spontaneous act," which doesn't contradict Israeli security people who called it a "terrorist" act. And, apologists for Palestinian terror groups still have to deal with how eagerly three of them claimed responsibility for this crush-a-Jew escapade.

Although Mr. Dawiath's Jew-squashing martyrdom may mark a change of pace from the monotonous routine of suicide vests, guns, rockets, and mortars.

Just what is this Killer-of-the Day?

Terrorist? Criminal? Martyr?

I'll say: all three.
  • His acts were those of a terrorist
  • The acts were certainly criminal
  • Unless something's changed drastically, he's going to be hailed as a Muslim Martyr
I recognize that Palestinians have maneuvered themselves into a position where their standard of living is far below the regional norm. Just the same, I think that they, and all Muslims who don't like the Information Age, need to go through an attitude adjustment.

This is the twenty first century. The world is full of people who aren't exactly like each other.

Live with it.

Today's attack in the news:
  • "Jerusalem 'bulldozer terrorist' was Palestinian father-of-two Hossam Dawiath"
    TimesOnline (July 2, 2008)
    • "A Palestinian father-of-two has been named as the driver of a bulldozer that careered through Jerusalem today, crushing cars and repeatedly ramming a public bus.
    • "Three people were killed, including the mother of a young baby, when Hossam Dawiath commandeered the bulldozer from the light rail construction site in west Jerusalem where he worked, and careered the wrong way up the busy Jaffa road.
    • "First of all Dawiath, a 31-year-old resident of the east Jerusalem village of Zur Bahar, drove over several queueing cars, crushing them and injuring the people inside...."
  • "Deadly Road Rampage Rattles Jerusalem"
    CBS News (July 2, 2008)
    "Palestinian Construction Worker Plows Into Cars, Pedestrians; Dozens Injured
    • "(CBS/AP) A Palestinian driving an enormous construction vehicle went on a deadly rampage on a busy Jerusalem street Wednesday, plowing into a string of cars, buses and pedestrians, killing at least three people and wounding at least 45 before he was shot dead by security officers.
    • "The violence, the first major attack in Jerusalem since March, wreaked havoc and left a large swath of damage on Jaffa Road, a main thoroughfare in downtown Jerusalem. Traffic was halted, and hundreds of people fled through the streets in panic as medics treated the wounded.
    • "Three Palestinian militant groups took responsibility for the attack, but the claims could not be independently verified and Israeli police referred to the attacker as a "terrorist" acting on his own. Israeli police said the man was a bulldozer operator who worked in the area for a local construction firm...."
  • "Jerusalem bulldozer 'terrorist' kills 3 in rampage"
    CNN (July 2, 2008)
    • "JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli authorities are investigating why a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem rammed his bulldozer into several cars and buses Wednesday, killing three people before Israeli police shot him dead.
    • "Israeli authorities are labeling it a terrorist attack, although they say there is no clear motive and the man -- a construction worker -- acted alone. It is not known if he had links to any terrorist organization.
    • "Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told CNN the bulldozer operator drove down a busy thoroughfare in West Jerusalem, crashing into four cars and two buses, before heading toward a crowded market.
    • " 'We believe he acted on his own and tried to kill as many people as possible,' Rosenfeld said. ...."

A few related points:
  • A comment on a previous post, about a Muslim community's reaction to a cute puppy (they were offended), brought up an important point.
    • We all need to be patient.
    • Not stupid: patient.
    • I think that, in many cases, people who are Muslims are also going through a sort of cultural fast-forward. In a single generation, they're making a transition from a culture that was ancient in the times of Abraham, to the beginning of the Information Age.
  • Hossam Dawiath's unauthorized use of equipment may have unhappy consequences for his fellow-Palestinians.
    • Employers in Israel have been providing jobs to Palestinians. It's no charity: both sides benefit in this trade of time and effort for money.
    • After Mr. Dawiath's demonstration of what can happen when the implied trust between employer and employee is broken, I suspect that the wisdom of hiring potential mass-murderers will be reviewed.
    • If Israeli employers decide that the risk of getting killed is greater than the benefit of getting a particular task done, Palestinians who wouldn't go on a killing spree will suffer.


Anonymous said...

This is not a new terrorist tactic. The Israeli army used it on an unarmed young woman -- Rachel Corrie -- 5 years ago.

Brian H. Gill said...


Good point. And, good procedure: you backed up your assertion with a name, and a URL.

I see that peace activist Rachel Corrie's family sued the manufacturers of the vehicle that she put herself under, during a protest. ("Family of American Woman Killed by Military Bulldozer Files Suit Against Catepillar[!], Inc." Common Dreams News Center (MARCH 15, 2005)). American courts being what they are, they're probably still waiting to see how much they get.

The New York Times (hardly a rabidly right-wing paper) had an article ("Israeli Army Bulldozer Kills American Protesting in Gaza" (The New York Times (March 17, 2003)), which says, in part: " An Israeli Army bulldozer today crushed to death an American woman who had kneeled in the dirt to prevent the armored vehicle from destroying a Palestinian home in the southern Gaza Strip, witnesses and hospital officials said.

"The Israeli military said the driver of the bulldozer had not seen the woman, and called it a 'very regrettable accident.' ..."

I'm sorry to learn of her death, but I don't see her choice as an act of terrorism.

It's a subtle distinction, but committing suicide by kneeling in front of a bulldozer, where the operator can't see you, isn't quite the same as sitting in a car on an urban street, and having a bulldozer operator intentionally crush your car, with you inside.

I don't excuse every action of the Israeli government - but I don't brand a peace activist's suicide-by-bulldozer an act of 'terrorism' by the Jews either.

Brian H. Gill said...

Muslims Against Sharia,

Thank you for that comment. From what I've heard, the informed speculation now is that the driver of that machine acted on his own - claims by terror groups notwithstanding.

It's still a terrible loss of life.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of whether or not he acted on his own, everyone who claimed responsibility should join him immediately.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.