Ever since the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, Israel has been able to convince the West, America and Europe in particular, that its brutal “self-defence” is part of the global “War on Terror”. An active lobby promising votes and electoral finance has played its part well.
In November 2001 the then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon praised the leadership of George W Bush and Tony Blair “in the struggle against global terrorism”. This, said Sharon, “is a fight for basic values, freedom, liberty, security and democracy. It is a fight that every peace loving nation supports for the sake of the security of future generations.” Israel, naturally, feels that it is at the forefront of that struggle, as long as “freedom, liberty, security and democracy” are for Israeli Jews only and not Palestinians.
Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv in April 2008, said that the 11 September, 2001 terror attacks had been beneficial for Israel. “We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq,” Ma’ariv quoted the then opposition leader as saying. What happened in the US had “swung American public opinion in [Israel’s] favour.”
This “mantra”, wrote David Rosenberg in Haaretz last week, was repeated when Netanyahu went to Paris in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher supermarket killings: “Israel and the West are fighting the same fight against Islamic extremism.” Netanyahu, added Rosenberg, has been articulating that line for some time, “but perhaps this time, Europe will be more inclined to listen.”
The Israeli columnist believes that “Netanyahu can only be hoping that last week’s twin terror attacks become Europe’s 9/11 moment, when the continent finally concludes it needs to get tough on terror, just as America did 14 years ago. If so, that could win Israel new friends in Europe, and lift it up from the diplomatic ruins, much as 9/11 did for Israel: the hostile Bush White House suddenly turned friendly and the Second Intifada became a new front in the War on Terror.”
This is not hard to deconstruct. Israel isn’t really interested in “fighting terror”; it needs diplomatic and political cover for its own state terrorism. The “Second Intifada”, implies Rosenberg, was an uprising by terrorists. What the Palestinians rising up against – Israel’s brutal military occupation – is off-limits; it was, so the pro-Israel narrative insists, “a new front in the War on Terror”.
It’s all very convenient for Israel. Furthermore, if one is so inclined, such claims will add fuel to the conspiracy theory fire which alleges that Israel was behind 9/11 (as one of its beneficiaries, as has been acknowledged by Netanyahu) and every major “Islamist” act of terror ever since. Let’s not go down that route, though, no matter how tempting; we need to look at the reality.
Is Israel justified in labelling Palestinian resistance as “terrorism”? A look at some facts would suggest not. Israel was founded on Palestinian land the population of which had been subject to “Jewish terrorism” (as Robin Corbett puts it in his book “Guerrilla Warfare”) and ethnic cleansing. The latter has been ongoing ever since 1948 and carries on today with Israel’s demolition of Palestinian-owned homes in the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and the Negev Desert. Palestinian Jerusalemites are stripped of their residence rights in their city of birth with increasing frequency, as the settler-colonists move in.
A number of UN Resolutions have called for the Palestinians to be allowed to return to their homes and land inside what is now Israel; every Israeli government has ignored them all or been protected by the US veto in the UN Security Council so that the resolutions don’t see the light of day. Given that Israel’s membership of the UN is conditional upon the right of return being fulfilled, this is outrageous. Israel, it seems, can act with impunity and break every law in the book along the way.
Since 1967 Israel has been colonising the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, again in the face of international law, subjecting the Palestinians to a brutal military occupation. Forget the supposed improvements following the Oslo Accords in 1993, because they have changed little on the ground; the fact is that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are all technically and practically occupied by Israel, which is expanding its settlement-colonies and shipping-in more colonists almost daily, in breach of international law.
The same international laws and conventions give people living under occupation the right to resist using all and any means at their disposal. The Palestinian resistance is, therefore, as legitimate and heroic as, say, the French Resistance in World War Two, and the Jewish Resistance Movement against the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. In such circumstances, the occupying power, Israel, has no legal right of “self-defence” against acts of resistance; it will be interesting to see what the International Criminal Court makes of it all, especially Israel’s wars against civilians in Gaza over the past 6 years.
Which, of course, is why successive Israeli governments have sought (and, it must be said, have succeeded) to have Palestinian resistance condemned by Western governments as “terrorism”, and why Netanyahu popped up in Paris at the head of that March of the Hypocrites in the name of freedom of speech. The Israeli ambassador in London has since complained bitterly to the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg about statements made by David Ward MP critical of Netanyahu’s presence in Paris; it appears, therefore, that even Israeli support for freedom of speech in Paris was blatant political opportunism. That is what the post-9/11 statements by Sharon and Netanyahu also represented, and the latter has continued with that shameful precedent post-Charlie Hebdo.
With General Elections looming in both Israel and Britain, we should not be too surprised to see politicians clamouring to demonstrate how tough they are on “terror”, although not the “causes of terror” (to paraphrase Tony Blair) if they stray too close to Western foreign policies. Hopefully, though, as more and more people comment on the double standards and hypocrisy of the anti-Islam and Muslim rhetoric of right-wing politicians in Europe, the even further right-wing leadership in Israel will see its support dwindle, and justice for the Palestinians will move up the political agenda. Truth has a habit of coming to the fore, and the reality of Israel’s “anti-terrorist” terrorism is clear to all reasonable observers. It is an out of control rogue state with extremists at the helm which has latched onto the “War on Terror” in order to hide its own terrorism from public scrutiny. The sooner our politicians in the West realise this and stop bending to the will of the pro-Israel lobby, the better, and safer, everyone will be.