Israel’s reported decision to release 82 pre-Oslo Palestinian political prisoners has unleashed a furore among right wing Knesset members who are opposing the move. The prisoners who are mostly affiliated to Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad are set to be released at intervals during the peace talks. Likud MK Miri Regev’s declaration that ‘murderers must not be used as a tool in negotiations’ has been echoed by former settler leader Dani Dayan, who described the move as ‘a terrible mistake, both morally and politically’. Deputy Defence Minister Danny Danon stated, ‘We must learn from our past mistakes and not free terrorist with blood on their hands, neither as a gesture nor as a reward.’
A recurring theme in Israeli discourse is its denial of creating the conditions which propelled Palestinians towards armed resistance. Having secured the title of ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’, Israel deems itself worthy of assuming a moral stance by distancing itself from its own promulgation of terror as befits any given moment, in order to consolidate its role as judge over the oppressed population whose right to self-determination has been annihilated within a prevalent refutation of resistance.
Within this trend, the tribulations associated with the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is naturalised into an alleged concern for security and protection of the illegal state. Israeli history is inundated with an exaggerated preoccupation of morality which, in this case, is also severely displaced. Every atrocity committed by the state has been conveniently classified as necessary due to security concerns, thus branding Palestinian resistance as terrorism. Under this equivocation, Palestinian prisoners have been deprived of the internationally enshrined right to resist, rendering resistance fighters imprisoned in Israeli jails as terrorists. The disassociation pervades a wide segment of Israeli society, which fails to acknowledge the nature of the occupation as the prime motivator for Palestinian armed resistance.
The routine portrayal of resistance as terrorism has expanded particularly within the settler movement and its advocates. The settler movement in itself is an oppressive phenomenon and its criminal action against Palestinian citizens should be classified as terrorism sanctioned by the state of Israel. With settlements becoming a focal and necessary component of expansion, settler leaders are striving to divert attention away from the illegal action of expropriating land, as well as the incited violence, hence an elaborated description of terrorism encompassing everything except for actual violations has been recently enshrined by Naftali Bennett. ‘Military terror’, ‘economic terror’ and ‘diplomatic terror’ have been coined to serve the alleged concerns of settlers. In Bennett’s view, terror encompasses any action which threatens to halt the occupation. In other words, any act of Palestinian resistance against further deterioration of their identity constitutes a terror attack against the illegal state.
An understanding of resistance cannot be separated from the illegality which the Zionist state has unleashed upon Palestinians. In an ideal setting, there would be no occupation, hence no need to free Palestinian political prisoners as part of a deal towards the elusive ‘peace’. Far removed from the ideal, Palestinian prisoners await a possible deal which might secure their release – a relief which nonetheless exposes the indignity of resistance relegated to a bargaining issue.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.