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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
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The ‘Merely Wounded’ In Terror Attacks

Back in 2009, the now infamous Goldstone Report was first released by the UN’s Human Rights Council.

Judge Richard Goldstone

Judge Richard Goldstone

Back in 2009, the now infamous Goldstone Report was first released by the UN’s Human Rights Council. Regrettably, it took an unreasonably one-sided look at Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, originally choosing to ignore vital aspects of antecedent anti-Israel terrorism. Most conspicuously disregarded by Judge Goldstone was this principal fact: Israel’s purposefully limited military operation had represented an essential self-defense action, one that had also been supported by longstanding codified and customary international law.

In essence, thoroughly unreported was the information that Cast Lead had been initiated reluctantly by Israel, and solely to ward off unending and still-escalating acts of Palestinian terrorism.

To recall the pertinent details even more fully, by the end of December 2008 nothing had been working to safeguard Israel from relentless terror attacks. All attempts at diplomacy had already failed in the face of a hideously recalcitrant enemy, one that was literally and lasciviously intoxicated by opportunities to inflict terror violence. At that time, could Jerusalem have chosen to rely more heavily for protection on the “international community”? The question itself is preposterous, a prima facie expression of an absurdly otherworldly naiveté.

On December 27, 2008, Israel commenced Operation Cast Lead. It was a long-delayed and substantially limited response to eight years of continuously barbarous Hamas terror. Ultimately, the entire operation was over in less than a month. True to established IDF doctrine, the conflict was designed and executed as an inherently short operation.

Most IDF activity had been directed toward destroying the thousands of still-remaining Hamas rockets, and to slowing the massive smuggling of arms from Egypt into Gaza. At the same time, Cast Lead had sought to reduce the incidence of future terror attacks upon Israelis, including so-called martyrdom attacks, not just those randomly inflicted assaults that were being launched, at a conveniently safe distance, by Palestinian mortars and Kassams.

Oddly, even today, the legally unsupportable idea of terror bombing as “resistance” is widely accepted throughout the world as permissible. At times, especially when it is a “suicide bombing,” this tactic is celebrated as “heroic.” What all such plainly romanticized views ignore is not merely the flagrant and incontestable violations of law, particularly violations of the basic or “peremptory” principle of discrimination or distinction (between combatants and noncombatants), but also the core medical and human horror of what these terrorists actually unleash.

For Boston, in the wake of the Marathon attack, and indeed for America, Israel may be a microcosm. Israel has suffered thousands of terror attacks since the start of the misconceived Oslo “Peace” Accords in 1993. Whether perpetrated by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or the Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, these attacks have intentionally killed and maimed large numbers of unprotected civilians, usually women and children.

Typically, post-attack casualty counts refer to those maimed victims as “merely wounded,” but this is a notably grave misrepresentation of what is genuinely being suffered.

What, exactly, does it mean to be merely wounded in an Arab “martyrdom” or more long distance terror-bombing attack?

Today, the authoritative answer to this question may apply equally to the recent victims of the Boston Marathon bombing here in the United States.

By looking back systematically at Israeli terror victims, we can learn more about what actually happened to recent terror victims in Boston, and what could still happen elsewhere in the uncertain American future.

Sometimes, the human impact of terrorist bombings can be made at least partially evident on radiographic images. X-rays of terror bombing victims in Israel have shown hundreds of metallic fragments, ranging in size from millimeters to whole nails, embedded in the victims’ bodies – literally, from head to foot. What had been created originally by civilized human beings for constructive purposes is now being transformed by both anti-Israel and anti-U.S. terrorists into the cruelest of aimless projectiles.

In Boston as in Tel Aviv, nails, screws, nuts, and ball-bearings were included by the bombers to maximize lethal effects and also, of course, to inflict gratuitous pain and suffering on victims’ bodies. These objects, sometimes after being dipped in rat poison, or other available toxins, are deliberately propelled into skin, flesh, and bone with the ballistic force of bullets.

There is more. Usually, the nails fly head first, presenting themselves in a strangely surreal yet also orderly arrangement within the victims’ bodies. Many are embedded “only” to the depth of their entrance sites. Others burrow their way in more deeply, and lodge palpably under the skin, where the examining physician can touch and feel their alien presence.

Others must be removed after hours of meticulous surgical exploration. Still others enter the body far more deeply, perforating and lacerating vital organs at random. In Israel, CT scans of these victims’ heads have generally indicated blood, air, metal, and bone fragments displacing normal brain tissue.

The “lucky” patient who has somehow survived the initial explosive insult will often require subsequent surgeries to repair badly damaged organs. Others, as we have seen in Boston as well as in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, may sustain fractures, burns, amputations, vascular injuries, paralysis, blindness, or brain damage. A collapsed lung or perforated colon, what would ordinarily be considered a major injury, is now taken as a blessing for the merely wounded.

Although some terror-bombing victims may recover physically, and even return to a more or less “normal” life, many more will require an entire lifetime of ongoing rehabilitation. Some will be impaired permanently. All will suffer serious psychological effects that will need expensive treatment. Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety affect not only the actual victims of an attack but also large swaths of nearby populations.

The physical pain experienced by the merely wounded victims of terrorist-bombings may be enlarged by the corollary destruction of human language. This linguistic debasement, which cannot be captured in any precise radiographic images, can still produce a visceral reversion to pre-language human sounds. What Judge Goldstone had failed to hear, in his manifestly uneven assessment of Operation Cast Lead, and what the rest of us may now fail to acknowledge, from our own countrymen victimized in Boston, are those pitiable moans and cries and whispers that evade statistical measurement.

In the end, it is always these thoroughly unscientific sounds, anterior to any learned speech and common to all terror-victim populations, that best explain the true meaning of being “merely wounded.”

About the Author: Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.


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3 Responses to “The ‘Merely Wounded’ In Terror Attacks”

  1. I hope that all the leftist supporters of the Arabs are merely wounded, then they too can experience what thousands of Israelis have undergone.

  2. Ken Kelso says:

    Brilliant article by Beres. People magazine this week on the front page has good articles about the maimed and injured in the Boston bombings.
    Just google,
    After the Boston Bombings: Survivors Speak Out.

  3. Ken Kelso says:

    Giulio Meotti wrote a great book called, A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism.
    It details everything Prof Beres talks about.

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