An Israeli teenager has been arrested after he donned a mask and prowled the streets of his town with a big rucksack and toy gun for a school project. The boy, 15, was seized by police in the southern town of Ashdod suspecting he was a Palestinian militant. The student was quoted as saying he was researching police reactions in the town and “just wanted to get an A+”. The stunt was considered highly risky in Israel, where attackers are often shot by police or civilians.
The youth was later released on bail and was not charged.
“It’s fine – he tested the police reaction,” [Ashdod police commander] Elgaret said. (From the BBC, “Israel teen ‘gunman’ wanted an A+”
Contrast that response to that in Boston, where the police said Star Simpson was “extremely lucky she followed the instructions or deadly force would have been used,” and where she was then charged with wearing a fake bomb.
In both cases there was a failure of judgement on the part of the kid. In the Israeli case, the failure was substantially larger: he tried to look like a terrorist, rather than doing so accidentally.
But in Israel, the police didn’t over-react, and didn’t charge the student.
The Israelis have regular incidents of terrorism, they know that being tested is an important part of maintaining their readiness. Much more importantly, their leadership that knows that panic and terror are exactly what the terrorists want. What societies facing terror should want is exactly what the Ashdod police displayed at all levels: a professional and restrained response.