2009: Free society learns to cope with terror

Just as airports were beginning to relax security measures, the Christmas period brought a nasty shock to the Western world. The Nigerian affair has sent the USA, UK, Dutch and many other authorities rushing to tighten procedures.

Not pleasant. The traveler is delayed. The security checks are often unfriendly, if not costly. Much of the initial individual profiling is necessarily prejudiced and unfair. How does a society cope – maintaining its values, while protecting its freedoms?

On the one hand, technology is improving all the time. I am currently working with an Israeli company that is able to detect malicious intent. By using a combination of sciences – software, hardware and behavioural techniques – the firm has perfected the capability to pick out potentially dangerous people in real time; all this, without talking or touching the target. 

In fact, Israel offers an interesting model to see how democratic countries cope with terror, while preserving democratic and pluralistic standards.

True, the days of suicide bombers have passed (for the moment, at least). Yet, consider the stats for 2009.

  • 15 people were killed in terror incidents in Israel (36 in 2008)
  • 567 rockets / missiles were fired from Gaza (primarily) and elsewhere into Israel (2,046).
  • In the West Bank alone, there were 636 acts of violence (893).

Last night, hours to go before the onset of the new year, a grad missile landed in the quiet dormitory town of Netivot. There is no other country that suffers from such intolerable and inhuman premedidated violence.

And yet, in 2009, Israel conducted a general election, where the vote was open to all citizens. Its entry in the Eurovision Song Contest was led by 2 female singers of different religions. The country has continued to send hundreds of tons of provisions to Gaza almost daily. 

Free press; improved maternity leave for all; sporting successes achieved with players of different backgrounds; all these have been features of 2009 in Israel, and past years.

As Obama, Brown et al seek to clamp down on security lapses (and thus impose restrictions on citizens), it is to Israel that they should turn when wanting to learn how to proceed. 

Wishing all my readers a safe and free 2010.

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One Comment on “2009: Free society learns to cope with terror”


  1. Just a couple of hours ago I was at a neighbor’s party here in western Maryland and the host mentioned he had to fly somewhere this week. The talk turned to the changes in airport security, and after a couple of comments about whether all those invasive procedures make us safer, someone said, “Israel doesn’t do that. They interview people. They figure out who is dangerous. They profile.” Several people also knew that, and agreed that makes more sense. So out here in rural Maryland we know what should be done. Why can’t (or won’t) our government figure it out?


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