U.S. Press Ignores Israeli Hero
“Are you guys ready? Let’s roll,” said Todd Beamer before leading fellow passengers in a suicide charge to retake United Airlines Flight 93.
The whole world knows Beamer’s story.
But another hero in the War on Terror has been ignored. He is 46-year-old Israeli shoe salesman William Hazan.
Everyone makes mistakes. It is understandable that U.S. wire services garbled Hazan’s story in their early reports, painting him more as victim than hero.
But it is less understandable why U.S. news outlets failed to correct the error, once the details became clear.
Perhaps the problem is that Hazan – unlike Todd Beamer – used a gun in self-defense.
The U.S. press has a long tradition of spiking stories about ordinary citizens using firearms to thwart criminals.
Americans use guns to defend themselves an estimated 2 million times each year. Yet the mass media rarely report such incidents.
Since 9-11, gun sales in America have gone through the roof.
The FBI ran 455,000 more background checks on prospective gun buyers — as well as 130,000 more checks for concealed weapon permits — in the six months following the attacks than during the same period in 2000-2001, according to the March 9, 2002, International Herald Tribune.
Israelis, too, have been arming for action. But unlike Americans, they have been doing so with the blessing and encouragement of their government.
As previously reported in this column, Israel has issued 60,000 new gun permits to civilians, raising the number of guns in civilian hands by 25 percent.
“There’s no question that weapons in the hands of the public have prevented acts of terror or stopped them while they were in progress,” stated Police Inspector-General Shlomo Aharonisky.
Former Police Inspector-General Assaf Hefetz seconds the motion. “A gun owner who can get within effective range of the terrorist while keeping under cover can prevent many casualties,” he wrote in the Israeli paper Yediot Aharonot.
That brings us to William Hazan.
In my last column, I reported that a terrorist armed with an M-16 and a knife attacked a Tel Aviv restaurant, killing three and wounding 31, and that shoe salesman William Hazan was stabbed in the back by the terrorist.
That much was true.
But then I stated — quite incorrectly — that “[Hazan] drew a gun and shot the terrorist, wounding him. Police then arrived and finished the job.”
In fact, it was not the police who finished the job. It was Hazan.
I made the mistake of relying on U.S. wire service reports — always a bad idea in matters pertaining to firearms. By repeating their inaccuracies, I inadvertently did this brave man an injustice.
An e-mail from a concerned reader alerted me to the fact that Israeli media had published a very different account of the incident.
In an article entitled “Hefetz Urges Armed Israelis to Stand and Fight,” the March 7 Jerusalem Post quotes Hazan thus:
“When the windows of the restaurant burst in from the gunfire, I pushed my wife and the others toward the bathroom, and then crawled out with my gun. As I got up to my feet, I called out for everyone to stay down… suddenly the big guy stabbed me in the back.
“Taking aim, I shot the terrorist three or four times, and he went down. It was easy, textbook even, as I had prepared for facing this situation one day.”
And what about the police who allegedly came to the rescue? The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz explains that a young plainclothes cop named Salim Barakat was parked outside when the attack began.
Officer Barakat shot and wounded the terrorist. But the gunman fought back, stabbing the policeman in the chest and killing him on the spot.
Only then, reports Ha’aretz, did a “civilian on the scene shoot the gunman in the head, killing him.”
That “civilian” was William Hazan.
Officer Salim Barakat died a hero. But he failed to stop the massacre. It was civilian gun owner Hazan who finished the job.
Conflicting early accounts made it tricky to get this story straight. But now that the smoke has cleared, Hazan should receive his due credit.
His name should be on every American’s lips. His coolness, courage, training and preparation should be held up as an example for us all.
Some right-leaning papers — such as the Washington Times and the New York Post — reported this story accurately from the get-go.
But where are the major networks on this one?
Perhaps Hazan is not the sort of hero our mass media wish to promote.
Richard Poe is a New York Times best-selling author and cyberjournalist. For more information on Poe and his writings, visit his Web site, RichardPoe.com.