At the moment we don’t know the identity or the motive of the person responsible for the Bastille Day terror attack in Nice, France. Speculation about whether this killer, who took the lives of scores of persons gathered to watch holiday fireworks, was a lone wolf terrorist inspired by ISIS is natural but premature. So, too, are any other theories. But while we mourn with the people of France and wait for more details to be released, it’s worthwhile pondering the terrorist’s choice of tactic: using a vehicle as a lethal weapon.
Viewing the horrifying videos being posted online or broadcast on television of the attack, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Nice killer was using a truck to murder people and that his actions are obviously an act of terror. But what that brings to mind is the fact that when Palestinians do the same thing, many in the international community and the media treat Israeli efforts to take out the potential killer as unjustified and often dispute whether the attack was a form of terrorism.
After the erection of Israel’s security fence in the West Bank, the wave of suicide bombings in which Palestinians affiliated with both the mainstream Fatah movement and Hamas killed hundreds of Jews inside Israel during the second intifada came to a halt. Faced with a more formidable challenge to their ability to inflict mass casualties on Israelis, terrorists resorted to new tactics. One of their more popular choices was vehicular homicide. In incidents in Jerusalem and at security checkpoints in the West Bank, Israelis have been subjected to numerous attempted hit and run attacks. At least three were killed in such incidents last year at the start of what is now known as the “stabbing intifada.”
But such attacks are rarely referred to as terrorism in the international media. Outside of Israel, the press has often either ignored them or treated the nature of the incident as questionable even referring to them as accidents rather than terror. They also denounce Israeli defensive measures that aim, as authorities in France did in Nice, to shoot or otherwise disable the terrorist as an unjustified attempt to execute a possibly innocent person.
Part of the reason for this reluctance to label murder as murder is the inclination of many in the international community to treat Palestinian terrorism against Jews as being distinct from terror against non-Jews elsewhere. Those who think Israel has no right to exist assume Palestinian terror is in some way justified. Israelis and Jews are assumed to have somehow asked for it by insisting on their right to live in their ancient homeland.
But as the people of France and the United States have learned in Paris, San Bernardino and Orlando the last two years, terror is terror. Those inspired by Islamist groups make no distinction between Jews and non-Jews when they unleash their hate. Whether they use knives, guns, explosives or a vehicle, terrorism is just as awful.
It would be better if we didn’t have to get used to living in a world where terrorists sought to kill Westerners or Israelis. But just as more people are starting to understand that the war being waged against Israel shouldn’t be viewed as a different category of crime from the terror being visited upon he West, so, too, should we understand that when vehicles are used as weapons against Jews, it is just as much an act of terror as the atrocity that we have just witnessed in Nice.