A terror attack born of personal crisis

Op-ed: This is not the first case, and sadly won’t be the last, in which grave personal circumstances led Palestinians to carry out attacks

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

The statement issued by Israel’s Shin Bet security services hours after the Har Adar terrorist attack made a mockery of the accusations issued by several Israeli politicians who charged the Palestinian Authority and its head Mahmoud Abbas with responsibility for murder. The Shin Bet stated that the terrorist Nimer Mahmoud Ahmed Jamal, a 37-year old father of four, had “significant” personal and family problems “including a problem of violence in the family. It also turns out that the assailant’s wife fled to Jordan several weeks ago and left him with the children.”

That is to say, this was not the case of another young Palestinian who had imbibed hatred and anti-Israel incitement via Palestinian media and social media, like hundreds we have seen in the past two years, but rather a different kind of terrorist, older, a father of children, who had undergone a major personal crisis and ultimately combusted and carried out an attack.

This is not the first case, and sadly won’t be the last, in which grave personal circumstances led Palestinians to carry out attacks. It happened in the Second Intifada, and it has continued in recent years. Tensions between husbands and wives, children and their parents all too often bring these people to take extreme steps. They also may act, in part, in an effort to achieve some measure of enduring fame, carrying out an attack that would cause society, and the members of the family with whom they are at odds, to cherish and admire them.

This may sound like cheap psychology, but such is reality.

The message that the terrorist sent to his wife in Jordan also underlines how central his personal issues were to his decisions. “When you wake up in the morning, share this message on my page. Let your conscience rest. You were a good wife, Umm Baha [mother of Baha], and a compassionate mother, and I was the one who behaved badly because of my stupid jealousy,” he wrote.

Ultimately, the terrorist’s motivation — be it personal, nationalist or religious — is less relevant. And yet, politicians from all sides are seeking to profit from it. Some Israeli ministers are pointing to a religious motivation to the attack in order to link it to attacks in Europe, while Hamas has adopted a similar point of view in order to assert that the “lone wolf intifada” is alive and kicking.

It is difficult at this stage, two years after its start, to describe this phenomenon as an intifada. It is more a stream of isolated incidents. The policy of conflict management has proved itself more than once in recent years and has produced a kind of status quo. But within this status quo, the reality of relentless intermittent attacks is not about to disappear.

Incitement against Israel by the Palestinian Authority does continue, and will continue in the near future. And even as it continues, it has to be said, so too does the PA’s activity to prevent attacks. Even after the PA announced an end to its security coordination with Israel in July, the PA’s security apparatuses do plenty to prevent attacks on Israeli civilians, and even on Israeli troops.

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