Victimology expert talks terrorism in Israel

Edna Erez gives a lecture
Criminology professor Edna Erez, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, gives a lecture about Israeli victims of terrorism to a crowd from the Israeli-American Council. Photo by Jacqueline Hyman.

When criminology professor Edna Erez, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, visited Israel to interview terrorism victims, an Israeli attorney told her that terrorism is a matter of “ideology, not criminology.”

At a talk recently in Rockville, Erez, who specializes in victimology, said that terrorists often target random people.

She told about the 1992 murder of Helena Rapp, which caused an outcry in Israel. Helena, a 15-year-old Jew, was attacked by Fuad Amrin, a Palestinian from Gaza who happened to be in Helena’s town of Bat Yam, because that was where the taxi he was riding in was headed.

The press at the time reported that Helena was waiting for the bus to go to school. Amrin stabbed her to death and tore her heart out of her chest.

One girl Erez interviewed had survived a suicide bombing. She said the girl told her that she had always been careful not to stand next to soldiers, who are frequent targets of terrorist attacks.

Instead, “she was sitting on the bus across from the suicide bomber,” said Erez, who spoke at the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington. Her talk was sponsored by the Israeli-American Council.

There are three levels of victims, she said. Primary victims directly affected by the incident.  Secondary victims, such as family and friends, take care of the primary victim. Tertiary victims are indirectly affected and may be eye witnesses or hear the victims’ stories through the media.

There are about 8,000 victims of terrorism in Israel, Erez said. Soldiers receive better treatment and benefits than civilians when subjected to terrorist attacks.

She said that when a Palestinian attacks an Israeli out of ideology, it has the opposite effect of the attacker’s intent. She said there is a “direct line” from terrorist attacks to Israeli legislation or military reprisals.

“All the restrictions, all this oppression on Palestinians, is the result of terrorism,” she said, adding, “What terrorism has done is it has made people more entrenched in their political views.”

Throughout the lecture, the audience interrupted Erez with questions.  Several people said they were concerned that the pro-Palestinian narrative often overtakes the stories of Israeli victims. “From the Israeli side, we have very bad public relations,” one person said.

“It’s important to have a full picture,” Tamar Epstein said. “It’s just critical that we hear the [victims’] stories.”

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