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Israel must take the blame for the repercussions of its policies

Another week and another group of innocent people are killed in a terrorist attack. Five Israeli tourists are killed by a suicide bomber in a Bulgarian holiday resort; Israel promises a harsh response, and past evidence suggests that it will carry out its threats. The world sympathises with the Israeli government over its dilemma.

Go back another week, and a Palestinian is killed during an Israeli airstrike; several others are injured. The attack took place while Israeli heavy armour moved into the Gaza Strip, damaging farmland and firing live ammunition in the area. The democratically elected government of Gaza, ostracised and boycotted by the West for being the wrong kind of Palestinians, may or may not retaliate with the relatively paltry means at its disposal. Either way, it is labelled "terrorist" whatever it does.

All victims of armed conflict and their families demand our sympathy. Nobody deserves to be blown to pieces, either by a terrorist bomb or a terrorist missile fired from an air force jet or drone. The dictionary defines terrorism as the use of violence to achieve political ends, or to influence people about such ends. By any definition, what the Israeli government has been doing to Palestinian civilians with its bombs, incursions, blockade, apartheid policies, illegal settlements, land grabs and settler-violence condoned by Israeli politicians, is terrorism. The aim is to terrorise the people of Gaza and the West Bank into changing their mindset and political affiliations; at best the Israelis would like them to get so fed up that they pack their bags and move across the River Jordan into the "alternative" Palestinian homeland, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. At worst, if they decide to stay put, the Palestinians must abandon any resistance to Israel's illegal and very brutal occupation of their land.

Lebanon's Hezbollah and its Iranian backers have been blamed by Israel and its American backers for the Bulgarian atrocity. It's hardly surprising, but then neither is Hezbollah anger at its immediate neighbour to the south. Let's put aside for the moment the military invasions, death and destruction that Israel has inflicted on Lebanon over the past 30 years or more. Israeli jets fly at low level and at supersonic speeds over Lebanese territory frequently, causing sonic booms over civilian areas. In a country which has seen so much bloodshed as a result of bombs and missiles, one can imagine the impact such explosive noise might have on people going about their daily lives. Targeting civilians in this way is terrorism by any other name.

In the wake of the Bulgaria attack, the former head of Israeli National Security, Uzi Arad, confirmed his country's responsibility for the assassination of the Lebanese Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh four years ago. According to Arad, "Israel is the attacking party as it targeted the terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, and Iran is the defending party". Mughniyeh was killed by a car bomb in Damascus. "Israel rejects the attempt by terror groups to attribute to it any involvement in this incident," the then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said at the time. Really, Mr. Olmert?

Israel is not, therefore, entirely innocent in such matters; it is ready, willing and able to carry out acts of the kind which it labels as terrorism when done by others. What goes around comes around. The sad thing is that in the cycle of violence which has colonialist Israel at its hub, innocent people are always going to be the victims regardless of their nationality. This week it was Israeli Jews; last week it was Palestinian Muslims; who will it be next week?

The chances are that it will be Muslims, maybe even Iranian Muslims, although Palestinian Christians are not immune to Israeli violence. Palestinians are losing their lives, livelihoods, land and homes at the hands of Israel's "security forces" on a daily basis, and it is mostly unreported, as commonplace events usually are. When it comes to such matters, Israel's friends in the mainstream media are always onside.

Western governments try to push their policies aside when looking for reasons why people resort to terrorism as a means of hitting back at those they see responsible for military action in foreign lands. Tony Blair was a master at this, refusing to acknowledge that his government's invasion of Iraq and support for Israeli aggression against Palestinians had anything to do with the radicalisation of British Muslims.

It is time for the Israeli government to take stock and understand that it can't occupy other people's lands, or go around the world killing who it wants to, where it wants to and when it wants to without expecting some kind of payback against its own citizens. We can and should be shocked by violence whoever is responsible, but we cannot any longer be surprised that it has occurred in or related to Middle East affairs, especially Israeli affairs. Israel is, after all, an occupying power and uses its modern, well-equipped, nuclear-armed "defence forces" against civilians all too regularly, with near impunity. If we are honest enough to admit it, the only real surprise is that retaliatory acts don't take place more often.

The blame game and accusations will be followed by counterclaims as sure as night follows day but, as Uzi Arad said this week, Israel went after someone and killed him and now that has rebounded. No country exists in a vacuum and state actions inevitably affect others. Israel has for many years treated international laws and conventions with contempt, claiming some kind of divine exceptionalism for its actions, but the attack in Bulgaria demonstrated that as long as such belligerence by Tel Aviv is allowed to go unchecked innocent Israelis are going to pay the price. That is, of course, totally unacceptable, and illustrates that a comprehensive and just peace with the Palestinians is in the Israelis' best interests as much as the Palestinians'. But why does a state which bases its existence on the dangers facing Jews from anti-Semitism commit acts of its own which stir up anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic feelings in the first place?

The sad thing is that as far as they are concerned Benjamin Netanyahu and his extreme-right coalition government partners can do what they want because of the said anti-Semitism and the rest of us must accept it, even when Israeli actions are just as murderous as those of the kind where they are the targets.

So let's say it loud and clear; enough is enough. Israel must take the blame for the repercussions of its policies. It's time for the world to tell Israel that if it wants to be regarded as a full-fledged member of the international community it has certain responsibilities towards the rest of us, including respect for international laws and conventions. That means putting an end to Israel's expansionist policies in the occupied West Bank, ending the occupation and starting to treat its neighbours as fellow human beings. When that happens, and justice is seen to be done against those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel, perhaps awful atrocities such as the Bulgaria bombing will become a thing of the past. I hope so.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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