An explosion at the border between Niagara Falls, Canada and New York. By the Rainbow Bridge. All thoughts turn to terrorism.
Some extremist imported from overseas? A homegrown fanatic? Or a lone wolf?
In the end…none of the above.
Reflecting the fear of terrorism hitting close to home, herds of police cars and military vehicles streamed to the border where the explosion happened, Amtrak service between New York and Toronto was suspended, cars coming into area airports were screened for explosives, and police were posted at entry points to New York City.
All this because of the possibility of a terrorist incident.
It was an impressive response – and not at all an overreaction. The fear of this kind of attack is understandable, especially when many are concerned about a spillover from the fighting in the Middle East among Israel and Hamas + Hezbollah + Houthis + Iran.
There is an important takeaway from this incident which is worth highlighting.
No one wants terrorism threatening their borders or their homeland. This threat is what Israel has been dealing with for decades, culminating in the massacre of October 7 when terrorists from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad raided communities in Israel, killing more than 1,200, wounding thousands, and capturing more than 240 hostages. Add to that ongoing rocket and drone attacks from Gaza, from Hezbollah in Lebanon, and from the Houthis in Yemen – and you have a country not only under siege but vulnerable and violated on an ongoing basis.
We see our reaction in the United States to the possibility of a terrorist incident…what would be the response if this was an actual attack? What is appropriate or proportionate when confronting an existential threat?
We know what the response was to September 11th, whether or not the outcome was fully what was predicted or desired. We took the fight to the enemy on the other side of the world because we understood that these extremists were not going to leave us alone and the threat was real and ongoing.
The difference in Israel is that this ongoing threat is right on its borders, its people have no place else to go, and the enemy is committed to Israel’s destruction. It doesn’t take the massacre on October 7 to prove that point; the leaders of Hamas (and Iran) say so again and again.
Israel is not starting this fight. Israel is responding and defending its citizens. No sane country would allow such a threat to continue on its borders. No matter the cost, they would root out terrorists and others seeking to do them harm.
So…why does this matter for those of us in the West…or, more specifically, in NJ?
It’s simple. In the words of Winston Churchill: A fanatic is someone who can’t change their mind and won’t change the subject.
Extremists like Hamas or Palestinian Jihad aren’t interested in any kind of peaceful solution – and they won’t stop at Israel’s borders. This evil ideology is based on harming others who don’t share their same values or point of view. That’s why we are so anxious here whenever there is an incident in our own part of the world – are they coming for us? Again?
So, while this war is tragic…and there is so much more that needs to be done to enable a brighter, safer, more secure future for both Israelis and Palestinians – this current fight against Palestinian extremists is just. And it should matter to all of us who wish to live their lives in safety and peace with our neighbors and in our communities.
Jewish Federation of Ocean County