Our country is engaged in a terrible and critically important task, protecting against Terrorists. We have too often been witness to unholy horrors in the form of mass-killings. Terrorists, home grown or imported, have proven our need for better control of our borders and our guns. But we do not have to start from scratch in our efforts to solve this problem. We can draw on the experience from one of our closest friends and allies: The State of Israel.
Protecting Against Terrorists the Israeli Way
In 2000 I had the opportunity to travel to Israel. It was slightly more than a year before 9/11. What I found when I arrived was a very sophisticated set of methods and practices that the Israelis have developed in their quest to keep their citizens safe. We would be smart to study those methods and learn as much as we can from them.
When it comes to being vulnerable, you would be hard pressed to find a country more at risk. In response to the threats they face, they have developed methods designed to weed out those that would do harm to innocent people. Yet even with all of their efforts, they are still subjected to successful terrorist attacks far too often. Even so, they can teach us a lot about what does and does not work.
Very Few Are Armed
The first thing that caught my eye was the number of weapons visible in plain sight. In contrast to the USA, I saw people everywhere with tactical and assault weapons strapped to their bodies. They were protecting against Terrorists by clearly showing their ability to respond rapidly and with force.
But those carrying the weapons were not average citizens. They were soldiers and security personnel, properly trained and clearly positioned as an obvious show of force. The average Israeli citizen does not carry a gun or weapon of any sort. When I asked one of my hosts why this obvious contradiction, his answer was simple: “Armed citizens wind up killing more, not saving more.”
The current presumptive nominee for the Republican party has railed non-stop about his intention to “Build a wall”. He claims it will keep out those hell-bent on doing harm. Israel has walls too. Yet even with their walls, they still permit people to cross into Israel on a daily basis. They have learned that just having a wall doesn’t do any good. In fact it does more harm. So they use their walls to provide a focal point, a choke point if you will, that allows them to carry out the procedures that really work best.
Israel has a daily flow of people coming from “outside”. Those people come to Israel to work, to play, to visit. They aren’t shut out, they are invited in. In fact, an outsider’s privilege of being invited in also gives Israel a very effective tool. When the number of threats climb, Israel will shut down those visits. When that happens, the good people that depend on their ability to travel into and work inside Israel will put intense pressure on the wrong-doers. Thus the “outsiders” are the ones that provide the most effective control on those with no good intent.
When you enter into Israel, even from a friendly origin such as the United States, you are subjected to a series of Interviews. Two security officers pepper you with questions. They stand on nearly opposite sides of you and bombard you with question after question. Simple things, difficult things, even embarrassing things. They carefully note your answers and your response. When it’s all done, you realize they both asked you the same questions, just out of sync with each other. When they are done, they compare your reactions and answers to get a better analysis of your true intentions.
What they don’t do is deny entry based on external attributes. They don’t reject you just because you’re Muslim, non-white or female. They use their technique of psychological profiling to peer inside your soul to determine your real goals. They’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what God you worship, the color of your skin or who you love. They’ve realized that terrorists come in all packages of all faiths and heritage. They’ve learned that protecting against Terrorists can only be done by making good judgments. And you can only make good judgments when you understand someone on a deeper level than just superficial details.
Living in Confidence
Something that Israelis do that might not be all that obvious at first is to live wide open and in complete confidence. Even though they are bounded by countries that wish their total and utter destruction, people living in Israel … live. They have active social lives. They go about their business, shopping, visiting, enjoying the benefits of their country without skulking around in fearful withdrawal.
Israelis know that Terrorists exist. They know that protecting against Terrorists means not just stopping them from committing horrific acts, but also means to live their own lives free from the control and manipulation the Terrorists intend.
We in the United States can learn a lot by studying how Israel has undertaken their own terrorist threat. We can learn how to effectively protect against foreign threats by correctly judging them and not by using bigotry or prejudice. We can learn that embracing all religions, all genders, all races and all lifestyles is our best protection against creating homegrown terrorists. We can learn that protecting against Terrorists is a job best left to the professionals that are trained and equipped to respond. We can learn how to live in peace, not in fear and definitely not by dividing ourselves into categories that have no relationship to real threats.
We can also learn that we will never be 100% effective in our efforts. As long as there are people in this world that hate us and wish us harm, we will suffer deaths and horrors. But we can accept that it is an ongoing process, fraught with difficulty, and never cease in our goal of protecting against Terrorists in every way we can.
See something? Say something.