By Linda S. Heard
Enshrined in the Israeli narrative is the “terrorist” designation of its enemies. For most ordinary people “terrorist” is a highly emotive label and when it’s prefixed with “Islamist,” it evokes images of hooded, anti-Western extremists lopping off heads or planting bombs in five-star hotels to fulfill the demands of a warped ideology masquerading as religion.
For Israel, the ‘war on terror’ has been a gift to its propaganda merchants. After all, what reasonable person can blame a country under ‘terrorist attack’ for extending its power to protect its citizens from crazed evildoers? Sadly, public perception isn’t generally nuanced enough to take account of a crucial fundamental: Israel is the occupier and the Palestinians its victims.
Conversely, genuine resistance groups struggling against the yoke of occupation have been hobbled by George W. Bush’s black-and-white rhetoric, as they have been tarred with the same brush as Al Qaida and its franchises. Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband slammed the ‘war on terror’ during a recent visit to Mumbai, calling it a “misleading and mistaken” doctrine inviting “invidious comparisons” between diverse organisations.
It just so happens that all resistance groups in the Arab world have been grouped under the umbrella of terrorism, which devalues their just causes. As far as the US and Britain were concerned, Iraqis who objected to their country being bombed, invaded and occupied and who took up arms were all “terrorists.”
Those Iraqi patriots who fought against the illegal invasion in the same way that the French resistance fought against the Nazis and their Vichy regime during the Second World War, should never have been called “terrorists.” Similarly, the Shiite Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah, which was founded during 1982 in response to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, is officially deemed “terrorist” as is Hamas, the Sunni Palestinian faction which Israel initially welcomed as opposition to the “terrorist” Palestine Liberation Organisation.
Notwithstanding, both Hezbollah and Hamas are political organisations with massive popular support among their own people. Both are credited for implementing welfare programmes, including assisting the needy, constructing schools and maintaining hospitals. Both have military wings dedicated to pursuing freedom from occupation.
It seems, therefore, that any Arab who uses violent means to oust American, British or Israeli troops from his land is automatically labelled as “a terrorist.” How convenient! When wielded effectively, the term gets the aggressor off the hook and slanders the victim.
As the president of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, recently pointed out, during a special emergency meeting last week, the UN Charter encompasses the right of all peoples to self-determination. Moreover, the Nuremberg Tribunal established in 1945 set a precedent for the right of resistance under International Law as it confirmed that the anti-Nazi underground acted legitimately.
There is, however, no law that sanctions attacks on civilians. Furthermore, collective punishment is illegal under the Geneva Conventions. So it is undeniable that Hamas, for instance, has acted outside the law by launching rockets unable to discriminate between civilian and military targets. But here it gets murky because if we are to call Hamas “terrorist” then following the same logic, so is Israel.
For over three weeks, Israel has bombarded the most densely populated part of the world with a diverse arsenal. Israeli spokespeople invariably say Israel does not target civilians and uses surgical precision when striking just as it maintained in 2006 when Israel murdered 1,200 Lebanese civilians.
This would be laughable if the results weren’t so tragic. In Gaza, homes, schools, universities, hospitals, ambulances, a media centre and a UN warehouse, housing desperately needed food and medicines, have all been incinerated. More than 1,300 slaughtered; over 5,000 wounded. Almost half are women and children.
How can anyone in his right mind believe this massive death toll was accidental? This is as heinous as the actions of those who strap themselves with bombs before blowing themselves up in a crowded marketplace. Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai, who warned last year that Gaza faces an Israeli-inflicted shoah (holocaust) stuck to his word.
Terrorism, which robs innocents of their lives, is an abomination but so is the death and devastation wrought by states that misuse their military prowess. Television anchors may talk about the war in Gaza but this is a misnomer. It’s a massacre perpetrated to restore the myth of Israeli deterrence, cynically timed prior to an election. If Israel truly wants a war it should allow Hamas to be supplied with F16s, Apache helicopters, missiles and tanks& then go for it!
During the last throes of the Bush presidency, Israel and the US have signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding designed to strip Hamas and other resistance groups of their rearmament capability. Just as they wanted to destroy Hezbollah so they want to terminate Hamas; not because they are Islamist but because they resist their diktats and thwart their goal of cracking this region under their booted heel. In short, the enemies of the US and Israel are all “terrorists.”
Without the unswerving determination of Palestinians to resist over the past six decades there would be no cohesive Palestinian nation; only scattered refugees with no land, no national identity and no hope. And if Hezbollah had never existed, today, Lebanon would form part of a Greater Israel. Justice is the only weapon that can truly kill resistance. The international community should try it.
Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at email@example.com.