Purim security alert – one-sided or two?

The Israel Defense Forces spokesperson’s office has sent out this notice:

In accordance with the decision made by the Minister of Defense and as part of the security measures adopted by the defense establishment, a general closure will be implemented in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. The closure will begin today, Tuesday, March 18th at 12:00 am and will be lifted on Saturday, March 23rd, 2008 at 12:00 am.

The reason for the closure, the notice says, is that

“The IDF regards the Purim holiday as a highly sensitive period in terms of the security risk.”

Another reason for the closure is reportedly fear of attacks at the end of the 40-day Islamic mourning period for Hizballah terror chief Imad Mughniyah.

The IDF notice does not say that the reason that Purim is “highly sensitive” is that it is the anniversary of the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians by a Kach ideologue from Kiryat Arba. But the high security alert is evidence that the army and security agencies have learned that symbolic dates – anniversaries, the end of mourning periods – matter greatly to the extremists of the other side.

A critical question is whether they have learned that precisely the same kind of dates matter deeply to Jewish extremists. The murderer in Hebron chose Purim because he regarded it as a holiday of vengeance. (And he was able to act because Israeli security services ignored experts’ warnings of the risk of Jewish terror.) The march into Jabel Mukaber earlier this week took place at the end of the seven-day mourning period after the funerals for the Merkaz Harav terror victims. The risk of further efforts at revenge by the radical right is significant. One hopes that the utterly ordinary-looking men whose names are secret are keeping a close watch.

Post-script: Uzi Benziman writes in Ha’aretz today (English, Hebrew) on the multiple failures of the police, from the October 2000 riots to the Merkaz attack (where the cop who arrived stayed outside instead of killing the terrorist) to the Jabel Mukaber farce. Worth reading, but I think Benziman errs by placing the failure of one policeman in the list with October 2000 and Jabel Mukaber. Those cases show that Israel’s police (like police forces elsewhere) are too quick to use lethal force against those defined as the “other,” the outsiders, and to reticent to act against violence by people who are like “us.”

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