In light of the horrific tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School this past week I found it interesting to see some of the reactions in the media. One response, though, was especially thought provoking.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, in response to the shooting, said that we (meaning the United States) should follow Israel’s lead to prevent another tragedy. The idea being that Israel, in its years of experience with terrorism, has mastered the art of preventing shootings like the one we saw in Florida.
Unfortunately, part of Huckabee’s assumption is correct. Israel has dealt with many terrorist attacks throughout the years, providing Israel with the experience needed for proper prevention techniques that have minimized (but not eliminated) the risk of something like this happening there. Israel’s intelligence gathering, security check points, the strategic cooperation of police and the army all play a part in making Israel as safe as it is.
But there is a MAJOR difference between Israel and the United States, one that really undermines the comparison: the ease of access to guns.
Actually, it is quite difficult to obtain a gun for a private citizen in Israel. There are background checks to obtain a private weapon, and you must provide a valid reason to get approval. As Americans who love Israel and often travel there, we can be taken aback by seeing soldiers everywhere carrying weapons and we might think that this is representative of a society filled with guns, but it is just not true.
While I am not an expert on Israeli culture, I would imagine they have the same percentage of mentally ill people there as here. I also imagine they have the same percentage of their citizenry playing violent video games that are often cited as a primary cause of mass shootings here.
One would have to think that access to guns is why we continue to mourn victims of senseless mass shootings. Until our elected leaders consider laws that would limit who gets guns and what types they get, we will continue to see more senseless shootings.
A few weeks ago, for the first time, Iran and Israel had a direct military confrontation. Iran launched a sophisticated drone from Syria into Israeli airspace, Israel subsequently shot down the drone and attacked the Iranian base from where it was launched. Syria shot down one of the attacking planes (over Israeli territory) and Israel responded with a series of attacks against Syrian anti-aircraft batteries destroying up to half of all they possess.
Neither Israel nor Iran want a major military confrontation (at least, not now), so it must be assumed that Iran vastly underestimated Israel’s response. But it is an example of how quickly a small confrontation can explode unintentionally into something bigger.
Iran and their proxies have men and many missiles aimed at Israel, and Israel appears to be willing to lash out at Iran. Let us hope this latest conflagration is an aberration, that cooler heads prevail.
(Matt Goldberg is director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.)