At a lonely army outpost in 1994, Israel was shown the difference between radicals and fanatics—and between soldiers and storytellers. But the West didn’t learn.
This fall and winter have seen many of us here in Israel consuming a miserable kind of reality TV: blurry clips of young Palestinian Muslims with knives seeking release in murder and martyrdom, lunging, stabbing, falling stricken to the ground, the action captured by cellphones or security cameras; an imam in Gaza waving a knife and calling on the faithful to render us into “body parts”; a fighter from the Islamic State, our new neighbor, warning us of the violence he and his comrades will inflict when they arrive. The effect was so disturbing that it triggered psychological stress akin to that of a real war, though the fatalities barely added up to a skirmish. No land was conquered or lost, no concessions demanded. With our computers and cellphones, as the director of military intelligence put it, “We’re all brainwashing ourselves.” The battlefield had moved almost entirely inside our own minds.
In the past month or two it has been more apparent than ever that the confluence of unfiltered information, dramatic images of bloodshed, and fanatical interpretations of Islam have converged to become one of the key forces shaping our lives. That makes it worth looking for the moment this force began to make itself felt in earnest. My selection, a subjective one based on my personal experience, can be found on the front page of the Israeli daily Maariv of Oct. 31, 1994.