Editorial | Bombs Discovered in New York, Life Goes On


A frequent traveler to both New York City and Washington, D.C., I was one of the thousands of commuters forced to change travel plans the morning of Sept. 19 after first responders discovered five explosive devices at the Elizabeth, N.J. train station, and Amtrak cancelled trains up and down the Northeast Corridor.

I rescheduled my meetings in Washington and spent the day in my office right here in Philadelphia. Compared to what could have been, my inconvenience, if you can even call it that, was insignificant.
As it turns out, save for the 29 people injured in a Saturday blast in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan that many are linking to the Elizabeth bombs, as well as the explosion of a pipe bomb in a New Jersey shore town, my experience was not unlike those of other ordinary Americans. The latest exposure to terrorism is far less than what Europeans have recently faced and what Israelis deal with on an almost-constant basis.
This is why I cannot fathom one particular headline emerging from the weekend’s events (also on Saturday, a man reportedly referencing “Allah” stabbed nine people during a rampage in a Minneapolis mall before being shot dead by an off-duty police officer). With a banner of “America under attack,” the headline, found on the website of the Daily Mail, referenced an “unprecedented trio of terror strikes” erupting “on U.S. soil within 12 hours.” “Are they linked and are more coming?” it asked.
Misjudgments happen all the time in media, of course. I’d like to think as an editor that I apply a certain attitude of “there but for the grace of God go I” to these things, but as I walked through a 30th Street Station protected by an earnest if not overbearing security presence — at each boarding gate, a fully-armed officer stood with his assault rifle ready — I wondered what was possibly “unprecedented” by the trio of incidents (four if you count the Minneapolis shooting)?
We were little more than a week past the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, when thousands died after four hijacked airliners brought down both towers of the World Trade Center, plowed into the Pentagon and crashed into an open field near Shanksville, Pa.
What happened last weekend, by contrast, while undeniably scary, was just the sort of outcome you would hope for in a world beset by terrorism of both the homegrown and radical Islamic varieties: Explosive devices were discovered, disabled and, in one case, detonated by law enforcement. A suspect named Ahmad Khan Rahami was apprehended. The injured went home. (According to news accounts, two policemen shot during a gun battle related to the arrest of Rahami were not believed to be seriously hurt.)
Some invoked the brushes with terror to lament the country’s failure to defeat terrorism and the major party presidential candidates vowed to break the so-called Islamic State, which said the Minneapolis shooter was one of its “soldiers.” One of the candidates pointed out that Israel profiles potential terrorists and, if the practice were used here, the incidents in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota might not have happened.
The problem with such rhetoric is that it oversimplifies the problem and draws a false analogy with a state that has been dealing with the scourge of terrorism for more than four decades.
Few, if any, serious people in Israel talk about eradicating terrorism. They contemplate ways to minimize its effects, accepting it as a given that, in a chaotic world, there will always be those who hate you more than they love themselves. So long as there’s someone out there willing to sacrifice his life for an untold number of victims, the threat of terrorism will remain.
To be sure, the Israelis have made remarkable progress in protecting their society. The profiling of likely suspects helps, as does the security fence separating the Jewish state’s populous center from Palestinian areas in Judea and Samaria. Its intelligence apparatus is top-notch as well, aided by cooperation with western agencies and technology funded by U.S. military aid (which will increase to $38 billion in 2018, according to the terms of a new Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel signed last week).
There is probably more that can be done here to protect the U.S. homeland, and Israel provides a ready example of what might be efficacious. But that’s assuming that we, as Americans, are in a state of danger equal to or more dangerous than that of our Israeli brothers and sisters. You cannot prove that assertion when bombs are discovered and disposed of, and an investigation starts bringing people to justice.
The system, in my mind, worked this time. With a fervent prayer that it continues to work, I look forward to life in America, the occasional inconvenience excepted, continuing as well.
Joshua Runyan is the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Exponent. He can be reached at jrunyan@jewishexponent.com.


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