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Sunday, October 10, 2010

What would you have done? [updated]

You buckle your young son into your car and drive away from your home to run the kind of errands that pretty much every parent on the planet runs as a part of their regular schedule of responsibilities.

As you are coming down a hill near your home, you round a corner and find the road blocked by a large group of masked teenagers who begin pelting your car with stones as soon as they spot you. 

In a peripheral part of your brain you note that there are nearly as many video and still photographers as there are stone throwers... and even though these media personnel are 'adults', they are too busy recording the attack on you to exert any influence over the stone throwers or prevent their actions. 

[In retrospect you realize that the presence of the photographers is likely an encouragement to the attack, or perhaps even the primary reason for it, but that dawns on you only much later when you are in police custody.]

In an instant several instincts begin fighting for control of the situation:

1.  Your instincts as an experienced, licensed driver dictate that you must avoid hitting pedestrians at any cost.  So upon seeing the road blocked with living, breathing people, you swerve towards the sidewalk.

2.  Your Parental instincts trigger your fight or flight reflex and almost as soon as you swerve towards the sidewalk, you realize that once you hit the curb you will be trapped and will become an easy target for the stone throwers.  Your only hope lies in keeping the car in motion and getting past the attackers... so you swerve back towards the center of the road and gun the engine.

3.  The act of trying to escape the attack brings your car into violent contact with one of the attackers, and the impact throws him up over the hood of your car... and onto the ground.  The experienced driver in you again cries out that this is one of the worst sins a driver can commit, and your foot goes from gas to brake.

4.  Almost instantly the sound of rocks on your vehicle goes from a clatter to a roar as your semi-stationary vehicle becomes an easy target.  Glass begins to break as the attackers find their range.  Even though your mind still registers the teen you have hit as a pedestrian, your foot now goes back to the gas as you realize that any moment one of the softball-sized rocks will find your head, or the head of your son... at best injuring one or both of you.  And at worst... well the mind can't abide that.

5.  After you pull clear of the crowd of rock throwers and are out of range, your mind pops back out of the rabbit hole into which it had fallen and begins to wrestle again with the idea of the pedestrian who moments ago was sprawled across your hood and windshield.  In the pantheon of driving infractions, the only sin as grave as hitting someone is leaving the scene of the accident.  But the injured teen's accomplices are moving towards you again, yelling and gesturing threateningly with the rocks they have in their hands.    In a moment they will certainly resume the attack... so you pull away.

As you do so you do a mental check of your own status and that of your son.  Have we been hit?  Did any of the broken glass cut us?  Is the car still functional enough to take us to safety?  Are there more attackers up ahead?! 

After these immediate issues are resolved you report the incident to the police (as it has surely been reported by others) and in short order you find yourself in police custody... unsure of where you stand in the eyes of the law.

While this is exactly the kind of thought problem that many Israelis go through in preparation for driving anywhere near Arab populations, what I've written here is not some hypothetical scenario.  It actually happened exactly as I've described it.

Want to see for yourself?  Here is how it played out (courtesy of one of the media cameramen who was at the scene in Jerusalem's City of David neighborhood):


So I ask you; after reading this post and viewing the video... and given that you have the benefit of unlimited hindsight and time to ponder all the variables... what would you have done?

Afterthought:  It occurs to me that many people reading this will have no idea about the status of the East Jerusalem Arabs who perpetrated this attack.  Therefore I offer the following,  plus a link to a source of not-entirely biased information:

"Following the 1967 war, Israel conducted a census in East Jerusalem and granted permanent Israeli residency to those Arab Jerusalemites present at the time of the census. Those not present lost the right to reside in Jerusalem. Jerusalem Palestinians were permitted to apply for Israeli citizenship [emphasis mine], provided they met the requirements for naturalization such as swearing allegiance to Israel and renouncing all other citizenships which most of them refused to do.  At the end of 2005, 93% of the Arab population of East Jerusalem had permanent residency and 5% had Israeli citizenship.

As residents, East Jerusalemites rejecting Israeli citizenship have the right to vote in municipal elections and play a role in the administration of the city. Residents pay taxes, and following a 1988 Israeli Supreme Court ruling, East Jerusalem residents are guaranteed the right to social security benefits and state health care.[emphasis mine]"   [source]

Of course, just to prove that there is always another way to view just about any incident, here is a decidedly different conclusion drawn from the same set of facts I presented.  I guess it all depends on your agenda.

Posted by David Bogner on October 10, 2010 | Permalink


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I watched the video a couple of times. The driver did about as well as he could have done. If he had been to a driving school that taught about evading rock throwers, then I guess there was a better way to handle it. Driving straight through sounds safer for both parties. I don't think there is such a driving school.

But the video doesn't enable us to reconstruct the driver's thinking. The core events happened so fast that the driver had to react, not to plan.

The video doesn't show us whether backing up was a realistic option.

Posted by: Freddy | Oct 10, 2010 2:13:14 PM

Oh, and the driver didn't leave the scene of an accident. He left the scene of an attack. I don't know the nuances of Israeli traffic laws, but there should be a difference.

Posted by: Freddy | Oct 10, 2010 2:14:26 PM

Freddy... You make a couple of good points. As far as backing up, I'm not sure the dirver had time (not clear from the film) but it begs the questions, should he have had to if the possibility existed? Doing a three (or more) point turn would have given the attackers a few seconds of easy access to a mostly stationary target. To what extent are we obligated to avoid hurting others if it will increase the risk to ourselves? Just thinking out loud. Oh, I also wanted to mention that the version of the film found in the post I linked to at the end is carefully edited to minimize the stone throwing and maximize the interaction of the car and the boy.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Oct 10, 2010 2:30:13 PM

i suppose that james bond-esque factory installed pepper spray/mace dispensers both front and rear are not an option? i'd say go for the flame throwers, but that would look bad on camera...i have no idea what i would do in a situation like that - skidding on ice here at home is enough to make me woozy...luckily the attacker - i mean protester - had enough energy to argue about being put in the car (i assume he was screaming that he wanted to get out and have some more fun rather than wasting the afternoon in the emergency room?) and hopefully suffered nothing more than a few bruises from his brush with fame.

now. what is one REALLY supposed to do in an instance like this? and what did happen legally to the driver?

Posted by: debbie | Oct 10, 2010 3:08:52 PM

Did the victim jump onto the hood of the car? I watched the video twice and it looks like it from a certain angle. Could this have been a planned accident? Notice also that the victim looses his face mask and becomes a little boy pretty quickly.

Maybe I'm just being unjustifiably cynical.

Posted by: Shoshana | Oct 10, 2010 3:56:43 PM

After reading Shoshana's comment, I watched the video again 3 times and she's right. It does seem as if the boy ran straight toward the car and then jumped up on it. I've heard accounts in the past of "journalists" encouraging Palestinians to stage incidents in which it would appear that they were injured by Israeli soldiers. Could something similar have happened here?

Posted by: Raizy | Oct 10, 2010 4:16:46 PM

What should also be noted is the state of the rear window, which is visible for a second as the car drove away. Pretty smashed up. Also, it was clear from the way the car was swerving before the accident that it had already gotten pretty difficult for the driver.

Posted by: Jordan Hirsch | Oct 10, 2010 4:42:56 PM

The boy did run towards the car, but it doesn't look like an attempt to actually (plannedly) jump onto it. The boy was just not thinking, too concerned to somehow go after a yellow license plate and hit/smash/attack/provoke/damage it by all means, that he "forgot" that you just don't approach a moving car frontally. Stupid child, heated up by the stupid mob of boys and teenagers, ratio totally dropped in the gutter. His parents should be sent to jail... no, really. They are legally in charge of his wellbeing, and allowing him out in the streets, all masked up (is it legal in Israel anyways?), is not exactly covered by the concept of "well being". Or is it in East Jerusalem?

I'd LOVE if someone could actually translate what the mob is shouting... my Arabic is too basic to understand the cries.

Posted by: a. | Oct 10, 2010 5:21:13 PM

P.B. I'd like to know... who ordered the media people to the scene? It looks so unspectacular a location, someone must have tipped them off.
And where is Green Helmet Guy when one needs some extra drama anyways? I'm sure he would have been the cherry on top of the icing.

(Do I sound very sarcastic.)

Posted by: a. | Oct 10, 2010 5:25:17 PM

A video that raises more questions than any answers implied here.

1). Who was in the red car at the beginning, and why was a kid about to make a throwing motion, then stops?

2). The kid who leaps on the hood, somersaults and falls appears to be not obviously severely injured. Indeed, he appears to be resisting pretty strongly at being placed in the suv backseat. Curious in and of itself...

3). David, you use the phrase "media cameraman." Yet the logo at the very start of the video is "facebook."
You have a number of times in the past placed the "media" as a source of blame for a bit of this activity. Recognize here and now that technology has created this phony, incomplete aura of "citizen journalism." Are all these folks with cameras accredited members of professional news outlets? Maybe some- and perhaps there are those who are freelance "stringers" who sell their footage to media outlets. And thus egg these kids on for their own profit.

But youtube, Facebook etc. has created something of a monster. Now anyone with an i-whatever can claim "journalist" status. Without any training, discipline, judgement or restraint. And therefore they can create situations ("Go on! Throw it! Screw CNN! You'll be on youtube and can watch it with your buddies- guaranteed!") that absolutely no reporter for the NY Times, Ha'aretz, Jerusalem Post, Reuters, CNN, whoever would countenance doing. And it probably wouldn't pass any responsible editors' "smell test."

Yet... we too quickly and easily lump these folks under the all-encompassing phrase "the media." And instead of sober reflection and conclusions based on judgement and careful study of the facts, we make assumptions.

I realize that this response has veered in a different direction than your original question. I can't imagine that I would do anything differently than the driver as shown. And I suspect that the Israeli police- if they're at all reasonable- upon review of the footage would recognize that as well.

As always David, stay safe...

Mike Spengler

Posted by: Mike Spengler | Oct 10, 2010 7:21:23 PM

I probably would have given myself 10 points for every one I could hit.

Posted by: Chantal | Oct 10, 2010 11:58:48 PM

I encountered a similar situation to this one (though media-free and with more, older attackers in their late teens/early twenties) near Beit Sahour on the first day of the first Intifada. Fortunately, I wasn't driving. My colleague who was had the presence of mind to just put his foot down as hard and fast as possible. Had he hesitated, I very much doubt that either of us (or my daughter - I was 8 months pregnant at the time) would have been here today.

Posted by: Israelinurse | Oct 11, 2010 12:31:17 AM

Whether bullets or rocks(both can be fatal), the worst thing is slowing down or coming to a stop. Throwing rocks the size of baseballs indicate the intent to kill.

Posted by: Ed | Oct 11, 2010 2:28:00 AM

yeah i would have backed up.
...well i meant after i had hit the kid :)

ok, fine - I am being evil in my joking.

Actually, I would have been driving like a mad woman to get out of there and probably, and not intentionally, hit many more people.

Posted by: weese | Oct 11, 2010 8:55:57 PM

I think if you can, you back up, because why would you drive into that?
but I don't think that you have any obligation to protect people who are actively attacking you.

Posted by: LeahGG | Oct 11, 2010 10:28:19 PM

I think that photo was in the Commercial Appeal (my local paper in Memphis) today. I think it's a matter of time before there is considerable media commentary (without the proper context, of course...).

Posted by: sheldan | Oct 12, 2010 12:34:25 AM

Sorry, but once the "pedestrian" picks up the rock, the title pedestrian no longer applies. Let's substitute the correct word - terrorist, or attacker. And like when the game is taking place in an American League park and the rules are different, same thing applies here. The driver no longer has to apply the rules of Western civilization, because these "people" are living in the Middle Ages. Act accordingly. If it's kill or be killed, the TORAH directs us to kill.

Posted by: Marsha in Englewood | Oct 12, 2010 12:35:31 AM

Is it just me and my vivid imagination?
Or does the second video show blood on the white rag that is being pushed on the boy as he is forced into the car?

Posted by: Dina | Oct 12, 2010 5:48:41 AM

Can't help wondering how many of them are yelling "pretend to be dead! pretend to be dead!"

Posted by: Tanya | Oct 13, 2010 3:43:21 AM

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