Ed note–the fact that this bombing took place on Memorial Day in Israel, where there those who lost their lives to war or to terrorism are remembered is cause for concern regarding this bombing. Israel is BIG on symbolism when carrying out attacks of this type, and the fact that it took place on a national holiday in the Jewish state where victims of terror are remembered is something all should be interested in.
Times of Israel
On Monday, Patriots’ Day, the day that commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord that launched the American revolution, two explosions tore through the crowd at the finish line of the Boston Marathon just a few miles east of those famous battlefields. Runners and their families were maimed by shrapnel, children lost limbs, and one of the city’s signature events was forever changed.
Monday was an important day for Israelis, too. It was Memorial Day, the day we commemorate our terror victims and war dead.
So it was that for this Israeli, temporarily living in the United States, the Israeli calendar briefly framed this moment of American pain, and brought into stark contrast how the two nations deal with the jarring anguish of terrorism.
“Who did it?” The question loomed over the wall-to-wall reporting, the social media conversation, the utterances of American leaders.
“We still do not know who did this or why,” US President Barack Obama explained in a national address from the White House some three hours after the bombing. “People shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts,” he added, and vowed, “We will find out who did this; we’ll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”
It was a message that conveyed both the legendary reserve of the man and the anxious need to deliver a coherent message despite the lack of meaningful information that could put the attack in context. But instead of clearing the confusion, the White House only highlighted it. As CNN and others pointed out Monday evening, Obama’s message failed to mention the word “terror.”
The White House quickly regrouped from this error, informing NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett, among others, that, in Garrett’s words, “The president does consider [the Boston bombing] an act of terrorism and has ordered everyone in the federal government to treat it as such.”
Was the misstep a simple oversight, or, as with the attacks on US installations in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, another instance of the administration initially failing to see a planned assault for what it is?
Israelis, of course, would not have made that mistake, not even by accident. The details of the bombing – an initial explosion that attracts concerned bystanders, followed by a second explosion seemingly timed to strike the crowds rushing to help – are completely familiar to Israelis.
Israelis enjoy a similar advantage when it comes to both the “who” and the “why” that the Americans are now scrambling to discover. Israel’s horizon is smaller. When a terror attack strikes an Israeli city, there is no doubt, broadly speaking, who perpetrated the attack, and why. There is context to the violence, a narrative that frames the attack within the larger national experience. It is easier to be resilient when you understand the cause behind your suffering.
But America is bigger, much bigger, and targeted by a wider range of potential threats, from homegrown white supremacists and anti-government militias to Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and other terror groups from the Muslim world, and even vast crime networks sustained by the drug trade.
A Rorschach test for American anxieties
In that haze of uncertainty, the bombing served as a kind of Rorschach test for American anxieties.
Thus when the conservative New York Post reported early on that “Investigators have a suspect — a Saudi Arabian national,” the report generated a firestorm of anger and condemnation online.
When the basic facts were confirmed by other news sources – that a 20-year-old Saudi national was indeed being questioned by law enforcement – news outlets stressed that the young man was not actually under arrest and was not at this time a suspect.
“He was seen fleeing the scene,” explained one news outlet. “But to put that in context, a lot of people were running away from the site of the explosions.”
The widespread suspicion that the bombing was perpetrated by a Muslim group was felt in the Muslim world, too, at times with equal anxiety.
“Please don’t be a ‘Muslim,’” one Libyan woman posted on Twitter, and saw her tweet shared hundreds of times by fellow Muslims.