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Israel: A Terrorist Success Story
by Rob Miller, Democratic Socialist Party of Australia,
If there was an Academy Awards ceremony for terrorism, Israel would sweep every category—and every acceptance speech would have to thank the government of the United States, whose generous support has made Israel the most successful terrorist state in the world.
How do you measure the success of terrorism? Is it by the numbers of civilians killed, maimed and terrorized or the level of disruption and fear brought to people’s daily lives? Israel scores very highly on both these counts.
Israel has its own special way of recognizing the achievements of its great terrorists—by electing them its prime minister. There are no less than three Israeli prime ministers who have long terrorist histories.
Israel has its own special way of recognizing the achievements of its great terrorists—by electing them its prime minister.
The current prime minister, Ariel Sharon, cemented his place in the hall of fame with his leading role in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, including the massacres by Israeli-backed militias in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla. Earlier in his Israeli army career Sharon was responsible for the slaughter of 69 civilians in the Qibya village in Jordanian-controlled territory in 1953.
The Israeli prime minister at the time of the 1982 invasion, Menachem Begin, was a leader of the Irgun, one of the main terrorist groups in the Zionist movement. In the 1930s and 1940s the Zionists were trying to establish the Israeli state in what was then British-occupied Palestine.
In 1937, the Irgun launched a terror campaign against Palestinian civilians, setting off bombs in markets and attacking buses. In one attack on the Haifa fruit market 74 Arabs were killed and 129 wounded. In 1946, the Irgun set off a bomb in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem killing about 100 Arab, British and Jewish victims.
Another Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, started his career in this same period as a leader of the Zionist terrorist group, the Stern gang. The Stern gang was responsible for the assassination of the UN mediator in Palestine, Count Folke Bernadotte, and a French UN observer in September 1948.
Begin and Shamir both went on to play a crucial role in the terrorist activities carried out during the 1948 war.
Ethnic cleansing was always going to be essential to achieving the Zionist movement’s aim of creating a Jewish state in Palestine. This movement sought to escape the oppression suffered by Jewish minorities throughout history by setting up a state controlled exclusively by Jews, ruling over a country in which Jews were the majority. The process of creating such a state in Palestine would inevitably involve systematic discrimination against the non-Jewish people of Palestine.
Through a combination of lobbying, military force and terrorist activity the Zionist movement was able to win the support of the US and other powerful nations for a UN partition plan which would create a Jewish state in Palestine. The 1947 UN partition plan violated the right of the Arabic-speaking Palestinian people to national self-determination, as it denied them the opportunity to vote on whether or not they agreed to the UN plan to hand over a part of their national homeland to a colonial-settler state.
Ethnic cleansing was always going to be essential to achieving the Zionist movement’s aim of creating a Jewish state…
The UN plan was also grossly unfair in that it granted the 30% of the population who were Jewish 54% of the land of Palestine, including the most fertile areas. Despite the obvious bias of the UN plan in favor of Zionism, it did not resolve the “Arab question.”
In the area allocated to the Jewish state, Jews only barely outnumbered Palestinians (498,000 Jews to 497,000 Palestinians) and at this time the Zionist settlers only owned 6% of the land.
The solution was ethnic cleansing. By waging a war of terror against the civilian Palestinian population, the Zionists were able to occupy 81% of the total area of Palestine by the end of the 1948 war.
On April 9, 1948, the Irgun and the Stern gang attacked the village of Deir Yasseen and massacred 120 villagers. To ensure that the massacre had maximum effect in forcing Palestinians to flee, the terrorist forces raped women and girls, butchered infants and cut open the womb of a nine-months pregnant woman.
This was just one of a number of massacres that terrorized more than 90% of the Palestinian population into fleeing their homes.
After forcing the Palestinian population to flee the villages, the Israeli forces would often blow up the houses to ensure the residents had nothing to return to. To reinforce the point, the Israeli authorities then “legally” confiscated the homes, fields and property of all Palestinians who had not been in their “regular place of residence” on September 1, 1948.
Today there are more than 3.7 million Palestinian refugees registered by the UN and about another 2 million who are not registered. Palestinian refugees are not allowed to return, despite the fact that under international law they have every right to. UN resolution 194, passed in 1948, explicitly affirms this right—but Israel’s defiance of this resolution goes unpunished by the UN and the US.
While the Palestinian victims of Israeli terrorism are left to rot in refugee camps, Israel struts the world stage claiming to be a democracy. This Israeli form of “democracy” is based on driving out more than half the indigenous population of the country and thereby denying their right to participate in any aspect of society.
Meir Kahane, one of Israel’s best known civilian terrorists, openly acknowledged this fact. According to Kahane: “There is no question of setting up democracy in Israel because democracy means equal rights for all, irrespective of racial or religious origins. You can’t, on the one hand, want a Jewish state and, at the same time, give non-Jews the right to become a majority.”
Denying the right of Palestinian refugees to return is therefore essential to maintaining Israeli “democracy.”
Hollywood has produced numerous films in which “evil terrorists,” usually Arabs, take innocent civilians, usually Americans, hostage and make demands that must be met before the hostages are released.
We all know the script: the ruthless hijackers kill a hostage to show they mean business, the US government refuses to negotiate with terrorists, one of the hostages is a Special Forces-trained superhero who leads the fight against the hijackers, eventually killing them all and setting the hostages free.
These “Hollywood principles” generally reflect the public stance of the US government in relation to terrorism. This tough “no negotiations, blow the terrorists away” stance was exactly that taken by the US and its allies in relation to the Taliban’s offer to negotiate an international trial for bin Laden.
Do these principles apply to Israel?
Israel’s 1948 acquisition of territory by force went unpunished. No doubt encouraged by this success, in 1967 Israel invaded the rest of Palestine and parts of Egypt and Syria, taking millions of civilians hostage. Israel demanded that its “right to exist” be recognized before it would withdraw and release the hostages. The passing of UN Security Council resolution 242 calling on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories had no effect.
In 1973, Egypt and Syria took military action to attempt to free their citizens and territory held hostage by Israel, exercising their right to self-defense under international law. The US response was to provide Israel with all the emergency military aid it needed to defeat Egypt and Syria.
During the 1982 invasion of Lebanon the civilian toll from the terrorist activities of the Israeli army was 12,000 killed, 40,000 wounded, 300,000 homeless.
Over the course of the invasion the Israeli army used a range of terror weapons on civilians including cluster bombs and phosphorous bombs and shells. The use of phosphorous bombs and shells for military objectives is banned under the 1980 UN Geneva convention.
This description of their effect by journalist Robert Fisk explains why: “Dr. Shamaa found that the two five-day old twins had already died but they were still on fire. ‘I had to take the babies and put them in buckets of water to put out the flames,’ she said. ‘When I took them out half an hour later they were still burning.’”
The Israeli army entrusted the dirtiest work of the invasion to their right-wing Lebanese allies, the Phalangists. On September 15, 1982, the Israeli army sealed the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in West Beirut and Israeli defense minister Ariel Sharon authorized a unit of 150 Phalangists to enter the camps.
The Phalangists proceeded to slaughter at least 1000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians over a two-day period while the Israeli army looked on.
Just because Israel is the most successful terrorist state in the world does not mean there is no role for Israeli civilians in carrying out terrorist acts.
On February 25, 1994, Barukh Goldstein, an Israeli settler, massacred around 50 Palestinian worshippers at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron. Goldstein was a well-known leader of Kach, an extreme right-wing Zionist organization.
Wearing a military uniform he entered the mosque and emptied two clips of a machine gun into Muslim worshippers. In the two weeks following the massacre, the Israeli army continued Goldstein’s work by killing another 30 Palestinians.
For the past 34 years Israeli soldiers have held up Palestinian civilians at gunpoint on a daily basis.
While fanatical settlers such as Goldstein are directly involved in terrorizing Palestinian civilians, it is the “ordinary” Israeli settlers who provide a cover and excuse for Israeli state terrorism and further ethnic cleansing.
Protecting these Israeli civilians provides an excuse for the Israeli army to station large numbers of troops in the Palestinian territories. The land on which these illegal settlements are built, and the “security zones” around them, is confiscated from Palestinians. To ensure the settlers can travel freely, “Israeli-only” roads have been built which divide the Palestinian territories and have required the confiscation of even more Palestinian land.
While renowned for its large-scale atrocities, Israel combines this with smaller-scale daily terrorism, which has the greatest impact. For the past 34 years Israeli soldiers have held up Palestinian civilians at gunpoint on a daily basis.
For Palestinians, the people who may kill them are not invisible; they are right in front of them every day pointing automatic weapons at them as they go about their daily business. They are the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoints, who may open fire at a suspicious movement, and the armed settlers, many of whom believe Palestinians should be expelled at gunpoint.
This is not an abstract fear, as most Palestinians have a close relative who has been killed or wounded by the Israeli army or have had their homes blown up or bulldozed by the Israelis as punishment for resisting the occupation.
According to Amnesty International, 2650 Palestinian houses were destroyed by Israel between 1987 and 2000.
The support of the US government has been crucial to Israel’s terrorist success. The US continues to provide Israel with massive levels of military and non-military aid: $US3 billion in 1997 alone and a total $US74 billion since 1949.
With the continuing support of the US government, Israel’s position in terrorism’s number one spot looks secure for some time. On the same day that the Israeli army continued its ethnic cleansing program by demolishing 18 Palestinian houses in Gaza, the US called on Palestinians to stop their violence and crack down on terrorism so that “negotiations” with Israel can continue.
Originally published in Green Left Weekly, Australian socialist newspaper. Visit http://www.greenleft.org.au.