Understanding Terror Means Connecting the Dots


David Harris published  a letter on terrorism in the New York Times, in response to a New York Times article on the Brooklyn Bridge terror attack.

To the Editor:

Re “How to Find the Bridge? First, Pay Your Respects” (news article, December 28, 2009):

The article on the Ari Halberstam Memorial Ramp states, “The shooting was considered an act of terrorism.”

Yes, the 1994 shooting of Ari Halberstam was an act of terrorism, but, astonishingly, it was not labeled as such by the F.B.I. until December 2000.

Despite the efforts of elected officials and, above all, Ari’s mother, Devorah Halberstam, the F.B.I. insisted on attributing the horrific crime to “road rage.” Only in 1999 did the F.B.I. initiate a review of the case.

Six years after the shooting, it finally acknowledged the obvious — this was a planned attack to kill Jews, and the van carrying Ari Halberstam and other religious youngsters was an inviting target.

Our country at times still has difficulty connecting the dots and understanding what constitutes terrorism. Witness, for instance, the fatal shootings at Fort Hood in November, and the painfully slow recognition of the killer’s motives, not to mention the pattern of missed signals preceding the attack.

The Halberstam tragedy is a case study in what can go wrong with a terrorism investigation.

It should not require a victim’s determined mother to set the record straight and try to wake up America.

David Harris
Executive Director
American Jewish Committee
New York, December 28, 2009

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