Photo Credit: Lorie Shaull via Flickr
Abolish the Police sign on 38th Street in Minneapolis on Tuesday after the death of George Floyd.

Various American cities are being seized by violent protests and destruction of property. Portland has for three months experienced nightly protests that have involved attacks on local and federal police as well buildings, including a federal courthouse. Kenosha exploded into violence, much like Minneapolis, after the violent interaction of local police with Black men whom officers tried to arrest. Cities like New York and Chicago have experienced looting in high-end districts including 5th Avenue and Michigan Avenue while also experiencing significantly increased numbers of shootings and homicides. New York has so far had more shooting attacks this year than during all of 2019. What does all of this violence mean for America’s future?

While the comparison of the current violence gripping various US cities and the Second Intifada that occurred in Israel between 2000 – 2006 may seem irrelevant, in some ways there are key factors that seem surprisingly similar. In both cases, a relatively small number of people chose violent means to upset the life and living conditions of a vast population. During the Intifada, attacks occurred throughout Israel, with major suicide bombings occurring with a frequency that terrified local citizens. The Intifada and the violent “peaceful protests” in the US have the same goal: to use a small number of events to destroy the fabric of a much, much larger society.


During the Intifada, there were literally thousands of attacks via drive-by shootings, stabbings, bombings and vehicular strikes. Over a thousand Israelis were killed and ten thousand were injured (including this author and his oldest son). Overall, the likelihood of being shot on the road or being blown up on a bus or in a café was miniscule, but the perceived risk through twenty four-hour coverage changed people’s behavior. While 99.999% of bus passengers on a given day safely boarded and got off of their buses, the pictures of a burned-out shell of an Egged bus and reports of the dead and wounded and scenes of crying and grieving relatives were enough to make people swear off taking buses forever. And so it was that the critical tourism industry collapsed, taxi drivers weren’t making money, restaurants were empty, and people were terrified to find themselves around a lot of people like at malls. These economically debilitating outcomes could be traced back to a relatively small number of attacks that through their outcome and the endless press coverage made people scared to do the same things that they had done for years. And this was the ultimate goal of the Intifada—to devastate Israeli society not only through those killed and wounded but to give a mortal blow to the economic viability of cities where people were terrified to get on a bus or go to a restaurant.

Attempts to put guards on buildings and on buses were not overly successful. People get on buses with laptops and phones—how can you quickly screen people and differentiate between a suicide bomb belt and a bag full of the normal articles of life like music players and early cell phones? But even if the bombings and attacks were relatively few in number, their amplified effects were profound. Downtown Jerusalem businesses closed and foot traffic was significantly reduced. Israel was very sensitive to the psychological effects of destroyed buildings and would work around the clock to make the scene of an attack get back to normal as fast as possible. One night around midnight I saw repair crews working on Ben Yehuda Street, trying to make the effects of an earlier attack vanish. On another occasion, my business partner called someone to fix a defective window in our office. The latter told him that he couldn’t come for a week. There had been a suicide bombing, the first performed by a woman, on Yaffo Street and all of the glass makers were working for the government to repair the damage as fast as possible. He couldn’t come until all of the glass panes that had been destroyed by the massive explosion were replaced.

When Israel killed the head of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, in 2004 with a Hellfire missile fired from an Apache helicopter, Hamas swore revenge. Downtown Jerusalem became empty. My partner and I looked from his office window and we did not see a soul on the street. Walking home was little different. People darted around but you would have been hard-pressed to meet ten people during a fifteen-minute walk around downtown. That is the force-multiplier of terror. People self-sensor their actions and activities, and only a handful of attacks is enough to make people believe that going out, getting on buses, or sitting in restaurants is a death wish.

And this brings us to the peaceful violence in the US. The after-the-fact justifications for looting and destroying property include that there is “insurance”. While that may be true in most cases, no doubt that there are buildings and owners that do not have coverage. And even those who do have insurance, will they all rebuild and come back? Can they afford the newer, sky-high premiums? A store owner picking through the rubble of a multigenerational family business might conclude that she will take the insurance money and retire or set up shop somewhere else. Burned out buildings will not quickly be rebuilt by the government as in Israel due to a lack of interest and or funds for the same. Thus, neighborhoods and livelihoods are destroyed, and they may not be coming back any time soon. Riots in Portland night after night have a profound effect on the businesses that can no longer open with their boarded-up windows and empty shelves, on the citizens that can no longer shop as they always have in the past, and on the perception of tourists who conclude that there are other places that might be worth visiting instead of that beautiful city. The anecdotal stories of people leaving Chicago and New York tied with the real number of massively increasing new home starts all point to the fact that people are moving elsewhere. When you don’t have “law and order”, when people can’t be sure that they can leave their houses or safely go to certain areas of their beloved cities, they—if they can—move elsewhere. I have a friend who drives a cab. During the Intifada, I would always ask him how things were going. As his company was associated with several Jerusalem hotels, he said that business was especially bad—no local business and no one coming from the States or Europe to make up the difference. When the hotels started giving discounts to Israelis to come to Jerusalem business picked up a bit, but it was nothing like it usually was before the bombings and shootings.

Many of those involved in the destruction, rioting, and looting in places like Portland, Minneapolis and St. Louis have stated that they wish to be done with capitalism and the United States as currently understood. Though one might see “only” a couple thousand rioters in a land of 330 million, the acts of destabilizing the foundations of society are enough to make life for a large number of people uncomfortable and unpleasant. While large corporations like Target, Apple, and Best Buy, might lick their wounds, clean up the glass and restock their stores, the local mom-and -pop pharmacies and auto dealerships might not be able to do the some or might choose not to reopen. Small-scale violence and destruction can change the life patterns of millions of people, from those who buy guns (estimated 5 million first-time buyers in 2020) to those who choose to move or do their shopping and vacationing elsewhere.

During the two recent political conventions, the Democrats chose not to discuss the violence in various American citizens, while the Republicans made the issue of “law and order” front and center in their party’s approach to November 3rd. While one might belittle the activities in a handful of cities by a few thousand protesters (violent or otherwise) here and there, the multiplicative implications for the millions who don’t feel safe, who worry that such activities will reach their neighborhoods, and who fear that this behavior of destroying property and looting will spread beyond its current locations is felt by tens of millions of American citizens. And such a response is not paranoid but as in Israel quite natural. Think of going to the doctor for a routine checkup. At the end of a few hours of tests and activities, she says that your fine, fit as a fiddle, except for a couple of cancer cells in your small toe, everything is just fine! Would you feel reassured? Would you go home feeling great? Of course not. You would immediately demand a plan to get rid of those cancer cells before they can grow and spread. And that’s what America is looking for from its leaders—how do we stop this violence and lack of basic order? The Democrats put the blame on the police and some suggest defunding police departments. It is no coincidence that the major violence is occurring in Democratic cities and states. The Republicans recognize that there are some bad police officers, but in the whole a society needs police and order to function properly. It would seem that many Americans agree with the Republican approach, and even those in the cities where police harming of Black citizens led to violence and rioting, many locals publicly state that they are opposed to defunding police. One thing that those proposing reducing or getting rid of police may not appreciate is that there will be no security vacuum. Some will move but those who stay will buy guns and those who can afford it will pay for security services. Our kids were in South Africa last year and told us that the neighborhoods they visited were all patrolled by private security companies. And one can assume that such “contractors” will be far less disciplined in dealing with potential criminals than governmentally-trained and monitored police officers.

The election in November is a referendum on America’s future. Without a stable society, nothing useful can grow. Democrats for months called the violent demonstrations and destruction “peaceful protests” as most of those engaged in rioting and looting are their constituents. But a society cannot exist or continue if store owners are unsure if their property will be around tomorrow morning. And citizens cannot live their lives if they no longer feel safe in their homes or have guaranteed access to stores that they have relied on for years. Picture taking a bridge to and from your job every day and you aren’t too sure from day to day if the bridge is going to collapse while you are on it. You would become paralyzed with fear and doubt, and that reaction is what has gripped large parts of urban America. Those who can flee do so, while those who stay recalibrate their lives to take into account reduced safety and access to stores and locations that had made their communities successful. “Law and order” is more than a slogan—it is the basis of a flourishing society, and Americans will soon vote to show how much stable neighborhoods and thriving businesses mean to them.

Americans on the whole do not tolerate police violence, and I have yet to read or hear someone praise the actions of Officer Chauvin in Minneapolis. But Americans very much value stability and order. If order is not restored to American cities, communities will not grow, and people will start to think more and more as how to protect themselves from the violence and destruction that seems to be moving closer to their homes every day.


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Dr. Alan Bauer and his son were wounded in a suicide bombing in central Jerusalem on March 21, 2002. Dr. Bauer lives and works in Jerusalem