The facts are chilling -- and so are the reactions.
The difficult security situation puts people on edge,
especially those charged with preserving public safety. At
any time and in any place anyone, and especially anyone in a
uniform, can suddenly be the object of a heartless and cruel
attack. Sometimes, being quick on the draw can mean the
difference between the death of a terrorist and the deaths of
dozens of innocent victims.
Yet there is always the serious concern that a gun-carrying
guard who must regard everyone approaching him with
suspicion, hour after hour and day after day, trying to do
his job properly with regard to the safety of many people who
depend on him, may harm some innocent person who looks or
acts suspiciously for some entirely innocent reason.
Last week there was an incident that brought those fears into
very sharp focus. A four-and-a-half year old boy was in
intensive care for a week after being shot in the back by a
The family was traveling in their car near Latrun Junction
when a police officer flagged them down. The volunteer, who
was wearing an official uniform, approached them and asked
why the children in the back seat were not wearing seat belts
as the road regulations demand.
The driver became angry. "I told him, `What, you want to give
us a ticket?' " (The fine is NIS 170 per unbuckled passenger,
plus another NIS 170 to the driver for allowing unbuckled
"The children were sleeping in back. I gave him my identity
papers and I told him, `You do what you want!' and we went
back into the car."
The driver had no intention of waiting around to see what the
policeman had in mind, but he left all his identifying
documents behind and there would certainly have been no
trouble finding him. He started his car, drove around the
police car parked at the side of the road and, as he was
preparing to merge into the traffic, he suddenly heard
The mother reports, "The car windows were shattered and our
three-and-a-half year old daughter started screaming. Daniel
did not make a sound, but we saw right away that his shirt
was full of blood."
The family was later told that there were seven bullet holes
in their car. Even senior police officers admitted that there
was no threat to the lives of the policemen at the scene, and
the shots were aimed at the car before the normal preliminary
warning procedures were followed.
There is no doubt that all the responses about the importance
of drilling everyone who carries a gun in the weighty
responsibility that he carries in deciding to shoot are very
important. We heartily agree with those who say that, with
all the gratitude and respect we have for the job that the
security forces do every day, it cannot be a basis for
tolerating such behavior. No one can be forgiven for firing a
weapon in a direction that could have such terrible,
But other commentators go a step further and contrast the
"unimportant violation" of not wearing seat belts that the
driver was charged with to the reaction of the policeman in
shooting them. And here is where we are shocked.
An attitude that minimizes the importance of wearing
seatbelts is part of the problem, not the solution.
Resentment at being forced to buckle up children goes
together with reckless driving, smoking, court-sanctioned
"mercy" killing, suicide parties and suicide bombers, and
more as indicators of the modern breakdown in valuing human
The only way to truly fix this problem is to correct it
systematically, throughout human society, wherever it
appears. There is nothing unimportant about that.