Monday 8 November 2010

The Irony of Israel's Benefits From International Terrorism

The scourge of international terrorism has affected the daily lives of many people around the world. Something that was once only the concern of those living in the Middle East or Northern Ireland has become the greatest threat to world peace in a few short years. This phenomenon affects more people around the world than the most widespread war. Even where terrorists do not succeed in detonating their devices or causing the death and destruction that they had intended, they do succeed sowing fear in the hearts of people trying to go about their everyday lives. This fear is enough to cause great disruption and inconvenience to all concerned, and to cost large sums of money while countries work to secure the lives of their citizens.

Not very long ago, terrorism was limited to certain countries around the world. Israel was viewed as being one of these countries. After her Arab neighbours failed to wipe the Jewish state off the map in wars in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1974, the tactics changed. Instead of using their armies for a direct confrontation with Israel, the Arab enemies decided instead to strike at the soft underbelly of Israeli civilian life. Numerous attempts were made to strike at innocent people going about their daily lives by planting bombs in coffee shops, on buses and in markets. There were even strikes against Israeli targets abroad including attempts on Israeli embassy buildings and an attack on the Israeli Olympic delegation to the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. Some attacks were not only reserved for Israelis, but were aimed at the wider Jewish population. The hijacking of Air France flight 139 which precipitated the raid at Entebbe in 1976, the hijacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985, the attack on the Jewish Centre in Buenos Aires in 1994 and the Mumbai attack on Chabad House in 2008 are only a few examples of attacks aimed at Jews around the world.

More recently, the attacks have spread in their reach to include not only Israelis and Jews, but members of the free world in general. The most visual symbol of these attacks was the destruction of the World Trade Centre on September 11th, 2001. Many other similar attacks have been carried out including attacks elsewhere in the USA as well as in London, Madrid, Mumbai and numerous other attempts that have been partially successful, or successful only in creating further fear and anxiety.

One may conclude that a country like Israel would suffer substantially from the activities of international terror groups. For those who have not visited Israel previously, it would be easy to surmise that the threat of terror causes people to be fearful in their everyday lives, and has a negative economic impact on a small democratic country in a sea of enemies. Ironically, the opposite is true. Terrorism has had a substantial negative effect on Israel and its citizens, particularly the loss of innocent lives and the injuring and maiming of thousands of others. Perversely, however, Israel has also gained a great deal from international terror.

The first thing that Israel has gained from dealing with terror is resilience. The people of Israel have shown a willingness to get up and dust themselves off after each and every terror attack that they have had to endure. More than that, people have been determined to continue with their daily lives as normally as possible, despite the ever-present threats from terror that exist. A classic example was demonstrated by the bus drivers on Jerusalem's line number 18 who came under concerted attack in 1996. Despite the fact that the drivers of the number 18 buses knew that the buses on their line were under threat, they took a philosophical view on things by insisting that they continue to carry out their duties in order not to give in to the threats of terror. During this period, they were witnessed praying together at the bus station in the morning before the start of their shifts. This same resilience has been shown by security guards who secure the entrances to shopping centres and other public areas, and many others like them.

In order to confront the threat of terror, Israel has been forced to develop tactics and technologies which help to secure the country and her citizens. These tactics and technologies continue be improved upon, and have shown themselves to the be the most sophisticated anti-terror capabilities in the world. At one time, the only consumer of these capabilities was Israel. As international terror has spread around the world, the number of customers for the anti-terror devices has grown dramatically. There is practically no country in the world today that is not forced to deploy security systems in its airports or other places considered to be a terror threat. Israeli anti-terror systems have shown themselves to be effective in the fight against terrorism, and present an obvious choice for other countries wishing to take advantage of systems that have proven themselves in the line of fire. Out of this has grown a massive industry satisfying the security needs of numerous countries.

Today, many security systems that are deployed around the world are Israeli systems, or are based upon ones developed and used in Israel. More than this, the job of securing major public events such as Olympic Games, UN General Assembly meetings and other major events has turned into an industry of its own. The leading participants in this industry are Israelis. Not only do they come with creativity, innovation and leading-edge technology, they also come with hands-on training and experience in securing the State of Israel. Security has become a large export industry for Israeli companies and individuals. Each time the security level is raised for any reason, Israeli companies are benefiting financially from the increase security requirements. Israeli companies are major beneficiaries of the enormous sums of money spent by the US Homeland Security and many other countries.

Each time a major terror attack takes place around the world, it allows the residents who are the subject of this attack to gain a better insight and understanding into the experiences and fear which plague Israelis all the time. It is a fact that those who have not been through similar experiences have less ability to understand the Israeli situation, and why Israel is often forced to act in defence in the way that she does. Those who have suffered from terrorism somehow have a closer and easier understanding and empathy with Israel and her citizens. Each time a terror attack takes place, there is a greater population of people who understand this evil phenomenon, and the Israeli situation.

Although it is my sincere hope and prayer that international terrorism is eliminated once and for all, it is currently the reality that terrorism is serving some perverse advantages for Israel. I do believe that Israelis are adaptable enough to find the next best thing when terrorism is finally eliminated for good and, with it, the security industry that has been built around this. Until then, Israel will continue to be well placed to help satisfy the world's security needs.

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