Chapter 8. Violence and Terrorism
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable" John F Kennedy, March 12, 1962
Terrorism and violence are thought by some to be the main if not the sole issue to consider in formulating a solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. The following pages of analysis will address terrorism and violence as symptoms of an underlying disease. I believe this perspective is more logical and actually more hopeful since it deals with violence not as an inevitable or unanalyzable phenomena. It will become obvious that the only way to tackle violence is not only dealing with its roots but even dissecting the seeds from which the whole originates. Put another way, treating a patient by treating symptoms is far less effective than finding and dealing with the etiology of the disease.
Seeds and Roots of Terrorism
First, it is important to apply a uniform definition of such inflammatory words as terrorism, genocide, and murder. This is important because significant violence against civilians, including war crimes, are sometimes ignored simply by applying a different label to it other than terrorism. Conversely, there are many groups that engage in legitimate resistance but are labeled terrorist by their foes. Since the word terrorism is in vogue today, let us begin by dissecting it and understanding its meaning.
Although the English term terror dates back to the 14th century, the noun terrorism, meaning the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion, was not used until the last decade of 18th-century France. Robespierre, a leader of La Terreur, justified the Reign of Terror with these words: "In times of peace, the springs of popular government are in virtue, but in times of revolution, they are both in virtue and terror" 1. Terrorism as used by some governments, such as Israel and the United States, is intentionally not well defined and as such acts of terror can be considered self-defense in some situation and as collateral damage in others.
United States President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13224 "Blocking property and prohibiting transactions with persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support terrorism" (September 23, 2001, with an expanded list in November 7, 2001). Under this order, the president designated as "terrorist" several resistance movements including: the Kurdistan Worker's Party, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), Lebanese Resistance Movement (Hizballah), and the Columbian Leftist insurgents.
Here is how the US government defined terrorism under this law:
The term 'terrorism' means an activity that —
(i) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, property, or infrastructure; and
(ii) appears to be intended —
(A) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(B) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(C) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, kidnapping, or hostage taking.
If taken literally, under this law, we would classify as terrorism the United States nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We would classify as terrorism the US-led sanctions that killed over one million Iraqis in 11 years according to the United Nations, as well as the bombing done in 1991 that decimated the infrastructure in Iraq. We would describe as terrorism the siege of Palestinian towns and villages by the Israeli Army and its intentional shelling of infrastructure and neighborhoods.
The neo-conservatives in the Bush administration characterized the events of September 11, 2001 were so unique and world transforming to warrant putting in action the plans (hatched earlier) of an endless "war on terrorism." Yet, many questioned whether the events of September 11, 2001 were qualitatively or quantitatively a historically unique violent occurrence. Even if we limit this to the Continental US, the most civilians killed were the millions of native Americans by the European invaders. Native Americans used to be called savages and barbarians before the word terrorist came into widespread use. This carnage on the North American continent is followed by the countless thousands killed in the slave trade and in the US civil war. These massive deaths were far more horrific as man-made catastrophes than anything since in North America. Serious and honest introspection on the ramifications of these events has yet to occur as evidenced by the strong movement against reparations for slavery while accepting as natural reparations for Nazi atrocities.
Outside the United States, there are many more examples of mass carnage that belongs to the category of mass terror. As many as 20 million civilians perished in WWII. Algeria lost a million of its citizens to the French colonial power. Rwanda had hundreds of thousands of civilians massacred just a few years ago while the majority of the world kept silent. Proxies of the west massacred millions of Philippinos, Koreans and Vietnamese either directly or indirectly. Congress still refuses to acknowledge the Armenian genocide of 1917. Many still consider as legitimate acts of war the bombings of Dresden, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing hundreds of thousands. Hundreds of thousands of African slaves perished at the hands of their European and American white masters. So while not minimizing terror on America, we need to keep the tragedy of 9/11 in perspective in relation to what the rest of the world has been experiencing throughout history.
An estimated 100,000 to 200,000 Iraqis were killed during and in the immediate aftermath of the first Gulf War in 1991. In addition, according to the United Nations, at least a million Iraqi civilians, a majority of them children, have since died in Iraq as a result of an embargo imposed by the United States and Britain. In May 1996, Lesley Stahl of 60 MINUTES asked Madeline Albright: "We have heard that a half million children have died because of sanctions against Iraq. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima and you know, is the price worth it?" U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright looked straight at the camera and said: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price - we think the price is worth it."
For many years now, the US also had a policy of helping Kurds in North Iraq against Saddam while helping Turkey with weapons, armaments and support to crush the same Kurdish people fighting for independence in East and South Turkey. The hypocrisy and lack of principle are not lost on the Kurds, the Turks, or the Iraqis. In Vietnam, the dispossession, maiming and poisoning of an entire nation was an apocalyptic manifestation of American power. Operation Phoenix run by the CIA alone resulted in the killing of around 50,000 people. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the enduring illegal Israeli occupation and violence against the native Palestinians could not occur without US backing. Israel, which represents about 0.1% of the world population, receives 30% of United States foreign aid.
Fear is the most powerful tool ever used by governments. Fear caused good Germans to support the Nazis in 1934 and surrender their liberties for supposed protection from "terrorism" and domination by the communists who some capitalists believed at the time to be dominated by "Jewish elements." It causes many good Jews to support Israeli atrocities and it caused good Americans, Canadians and British today to support limiting civil liberties, engaging in profiling and other acts that are of undemocratic nature. Fear is the most potent political propaganda because it destroys all rational capacity for logical thought.
While invading other countries, the Nazi government always argued they were defending Germany from others and not fighting a war of aggression. They often claimed that they were "invited" by allies or fighting "defensive" wars. The Blitzkrieg by Israel on Arab countries in 1967 was also thought of as a "defensive war" and "preemptive" in nature. Many Americans also were duped to think that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was not an aggression but rather an action taken in self-defense. Even though American troops have bombed over 30 countries since 1946 and American troops and "advisors" are now stationed in over 140 countries, many still believe that we are defending "our freedom." Yet, not one Iraqi, Korean, Nicaraguan, Vietnamese, Dominican, Grenadan, Panamanian, or Lebanese troops has ever set foot on United States soil. In each case, fear spread by those in power led the population of the aggressor nations to accept the absurd propaganda of their governments and to acquiesce in the victimization of other people.
The esteemed psychologist Dr. William Sargant argued that governments use fear to create temporary impaired judgment and heightened individual and mass suggestibility creating a "herd instinct" most noticeable during times of conflict 2. A good example of this psychological effect is the public sentiments in the crisis atmosphere following the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. It is now well documented how the administration in Washington used this atmosphere of fear to promote its own agenda of hegemony and control ranging from the so-called PATRIOT act to the invasion of Iraq.
Terrorism in the Land of Canaan
Modern day terrorism, through the use of such devices as letter bombs, car bombs, and others, was first adopted in the Middle East by Zionists not by natives. On July 22, 1946, a Zionist truck-bomb blew up the King David hotel in Jerusalem (housing also the British civil administration) killing 28 British, 41 Arab, 17 Jewish, and 5 others while injuring over 200. This was the first use of a car bomb in the Middle East. While Irgun claimed responsibility. Irgun was a Jewish underground movement whose leader Menachem Begin became Israeli Prime Minister. However, later evidence also showed involvement of the Hagannah (forerunner of the regular Israeli army). In the single month of July 1938, the Irgun killed 76 Palestinians in terrorist attacks 3.
The first letter bombs used by groups operating from the Middle East were made by Zionists and sent to British Cabinet Ministers in June 1947. On September 3, 1947 a postal bomb addressed to the British War Office exploded in the post office sorting room in London, injuring 2 persons 4.
The Zionists also first introduced economic sabotage. In 1939, the Haganah blew up the Iraqi oil pipeline near Haifa. Moshe Dayan (a famed Israeli minister of Defense) was one of the participants in this act. The first airplane hijacking was sanctioned by the state. On December 12, 1954 Israelis hijacked a civilian Syrian airliner shortly after take-off. In 1973, Israel shot down a Libyan civil aircraft, which strayed over Sinai in a sandstorm, killing all its 106 civilian passengers.
Political assassinations were first introduced in the Middle East by Zionists, ironically against the British not the Palestinians. On November 6, 1944, Zionist belonging to Stern underground movement (forerunner of right wing political parties in Israel) ambushed and assassinated Lord Moyne, the British Minister Resident in the Middle East, in Cairo.
The first attack on a ship by terrorists was on November 25, 1940 when the S.S. Patria carrying illegal Jewish immigrants was attacked with explosives in Haifa Harbor. The attack was meant to embarrass the British and was also a result of rivalry among Zionist groups. In that incident 268 Jewish immigrants drowned.
On December 11, 1947, underground Zionist groups tossed bombs at Arab buses in Haifa. Six Palestinians were killed and 30 wounded. On January 5, 1948, the Haganah forces planted bombs in the Palestinian-owned Semiramis Hotel in Jerusalem, killing 20, among them Viscount de Tapia, the Spanish consul. Between December 13, 1947 and February 10, 1948, seven incidents of bomb tossing at innocent Palestinian civilian in cafes and markets were reported. This resulted in the killing of 138 and wounding 271 others. Zionist underground forces mined passenger trains killing 93 and wounding 161 others in less than 10 months. On March 3, 1948, Stern members drove a truck loaded with 400 pounds of explosives into the Palestinian-owned building called Salam (translated as “peace”) in Haifa. The seven story building sustained considerable damage killing 14 civilians (including three Armenians) and injuring 23 others. Both Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, (who became Israeli Prime ministers) as well as current Likud leader Ariel Sharon, were terrorist commanders responsible for numerous atrocities, including acts against Jews 5.
Before the Arab countries engaged in the Palestine/Israel conflict, Zionist forces had already committed several of their massacres including the infamous one at Deir Yassin in April 9, 1948. On December 30, 1947, the Palmach, the strike forces of Haganah, attacked and massacred 60 Palestinian villagers of Balad as-Shaikh. More than half of the 531 Palestinian villages and towns were depopulated by Israeli military actions before Israel was established in May 15, 1948. This all occurred before the beginning of the first major Arab Israeli war according to Israeli historians (see chapter 4). Israel also continued to terrorize the natives into leaving even after the hostilities ended and cease-fires were signed. According to Israeli historians, this post war ethnic cleansing occurred in 64 of the 500+ Palestinian localities depopulated.
More massacres and terror ensued after Israeli independence. Under the command of a young ambitious officer named Ariel Sharon, 700 Regular Israeli troops of unit 101 attacked the border village of Qibya on October 14, 1953. 42 houses were blown up as well as the local schools and the mosque. Every man, woman and child found was murdered resulting in a total of 53 to 75 murdered according to independent estimates. After world outrage, Ben-Gurion initially claims this action was carried out by "Jewish terrorists" and not by the IDF, but he later admitted government involvement. However, Qibya was only a minor massacre compared to those massacres committed in Lebanon by Israel (e.g. at Qana) or by Israeli paid cronies (at Sabra and Shatila etc.). Israeli actions were responsible in total for the killing of perhaps as many as 50,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. Historians also now acknowledge that Israeli forces also executed hundreds of prisoners of war in the Sinai in 1967. Between September 2000 and April 2003, over 2,300 Palestinians were killed and over 40,000 injured. Most of the victims were civilians. Israeli forces uprooted 112,900 olive trees from Palestinian land and are building an apartheid wall to isolate Palestinians in Ghettos
Resistance versus Terrorism
Generally, occupying or colonial powers label resistance to its occupation as terrorism. Some examples of resistance/terrorism include the French resistance to German occupation, the Algerian resistance to French occupation, the Palestinian resistance to British occupation, the South African black resistance to apartheid, the Afghan resistance to Russian occupation, and the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation. One must distinguish legitimate resistance to oppression and colonization, as approved in the United Nations Charter, from terrorism. In the context of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination the Zionists and the Western Media have intentionally obfuscated this distinction. Terror indeed occasionally appears in acts of native populations against colonial powers. Examples are too numerous to cite but include ANC "necklacing" of collaborators, native American attacks on civilians, bombing of British and Arab civilian areas by Jewish groups in Palestine in the 1930s, Palestinian airplane hijacking, and suicide bombings in civilian areas in the 1970s and beyond.
Any native people subject to repressive colonialism develop a bell-shaped curve of responses ranging from all non-violent forms on one end of the curve to horrible crimes, usually termed terrorism, on the other end. The majority in the middle of this curve will always have an element of resistance that is neither terrorism nor completely non-violent. Historical examination will reveal examples of wide ranging tactics adopted by different segments of the society even when all are living under the same degree of occupation or repression. Differences in tactics between individuals in their responses can, but do not need be related to, the external pressures faced by that individual. Examples of the full range of this bell shaped curve was evident among the Irish, Black South Africans, African American blacks, and Native Americans. In each of those groups, segments within the same society expressed their emotions and their aspirations using forms ranging from writing, to peaceful demonstrations, to civil disobedience, and to terrorism.
The Jewish resistance to the Romans at the time of Christ also involved terror acts. The Sakhari sect of resisters to Roman occupation became a legend among extremist Zionists in their struggle against Palestinians. Sakkaris were reputed to hide a knife in their clothes and attack unwary victims in a characteristic way. Victims included those perceived to have collaborated with the Romans and their families, and all Roman citizens.
Palestinians also resorted to terrorism in their struggle against colonial Zionism as did other groups, such as native Americans, the IRA, the African National Congress in South Africa and a many other such anti-colonial movements. However, the amount and extent of Palestinian terrorism was miniscule compared to Israel's. Israeli terrorist acts were both qualitatively and quantitatively far above that of the Palestinians. The number of civilians killed by Zionist actions both before state creation and after has far exceeded by more than an order of magnitude the number killed by Palestinian groups. These numbers are documented in reports from the Red Cross and Human Rights Organizations.
Terror and extremism is well known to have increased following the 1967 attack by Israel resulting in Israeli acquisition of more Arab lands. Academic circles attribute this dramatic effect of the 1967 war to the immediate realization by people in the streets that secular and democratic Arab movements and other forms of resistance had failed to regain Palestinian rights including the rights of refugees to go home.
It would be rather meaningless to try to compare individual acts of terrorism (whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis) and try to set them along a "morality" yardstick. Terrorism by definition is immoral and falls outside the scope of what a majority of humans would consider acceptable human behavior. It makes little difference to the civilian victims whether Israeli public buses are dual use for soldiers and civilians or whether Israeli bombing of civilian neighborhoods or demolishing entire groves was supposed to thwart other attacks. How much of a difference is there in how civilians die whether inside a burning tire ("necklacing" by supporters of ANC south Africa), shelling of villages and towns (US in Vietnam or Israeli forces in Palestine today), dying at a checkpoint waiting to go to a hospital, bombings in a cafe or bus (Irish and Palestinians), or dying by an external imposed siege (as in Iraq and now likely in Palestine). A quantitative gradient or even a discontinuous spectrum of different levels or immorality or inhumanity is meaningless to its victims and thus should be meaningless to the rest of humanity.
Of course there are questions about who is a civilian. Does that definition include Palestinian Policemen or Jewish settlers/colonialists or even Israelis who serve three years in the military and then one month per year for 40 years? But whether we use the strictest or the most liberal of criteria to define civilian, we still find that Israelis killed many more Palestinian civilians than Israeli civilians that have been killed by Palestinians. But comparing numbers do not provide a measure of morality to either "group". They also miss addressing the core issues beyond a grizzly process of counting the dead. The killing in the case of Israel/Palestine is done in the context of subduing a native people by a colonizing society and that is the etiology of the underlying disease whose symptoms include acts of violence. Failing to investigate the disease at its core is not conducive to either diagnosis or treatment.
The motivational issues in regards to terrorists are often misunderstood. From a psycho-social standpoint, some individuals identify more with the perceived suffering or injustice done to others in their community because they have strong group "instinct" or tribalism. They can develop extreme forms of violence even when they individually are not physically effected by the situation. In other words, individuals most oppressed are not necessarily the most violent. But societies that are most oppressed or have a perceived oppression will have a level of violence from some of its elements that reflect this oppression. Many of the worst acts of terrorism were not committed by individuals who themselves were victims of oppression, but where that individual identified with a presumed or actual oppression of "their" people. Hundreds of examples can be cited ranging from such groups as Irgun, Stern Gang, and Kakh (terrorist groups in Palestine by Jews), the KKK (terror groups by Christians), and Al-Qaeda (terror group by Muslims). Kach member Baruch Goldman (Goldstein), an immigrant from New York who massacred over 29 Muslim civilians while they where kneeling in prayer, left a comfortable life in America and was in no physical danger or duress himself. Osama Bin Laden and Ariel Sharon similarly come from privileged backgrounds but feel the "pain" of their people. These violent few feel they have to take matters into their own hands to rectify a real or perceived injustice. Some may think there is a need to create a balance of terror since they cannot create a balance of power. Hence the Zionist terror against the far more superior British forces in Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s. Their effect is further increased by exaggeration and due to the unpredictability of their next target. Hence they create terror and fear among the target population. They become more dangerous when:
a) a large segment of the society, while not willing to engage in similar tactics, "understands" their actions and provides excuses for them, and
b) the media exaggerates their actions creating fear and panic among the target population (terror).
Dissecting and understanding motivation in a population is in no way condoning terrorism by a segment of that population. Between 1947 and 1949, over 33 massacres of Palestinian civilians occurred in a process that is now understood, even by Israeli historians, to have been intended to "cleanse" non-Jews from the areas that were to become part of a Jewish state. Media frenzy resulted in even more panic and fear in the hapless Palestinian peasant population. This resulted in the largest and now most persistent refugee problem in the world. It is these refugee camps, abandoned by the whole world, oppressed that are now called centers of terror.
Nearly six of the nine million Palestinians in the world are refugees or displaced people. Their feelings have been captured over 30 years ago in the personal account of Fawaz Turki. Here is a segment related to terrorism:
The private terrors that shadow the everyday life of the exile, the refugee, the occupied, the stateless would have forever remained private were it not for the fact that from these terrors an occasional outcry of fathomless anger is emitted, spilling over to the outside world. This outside world, standing with its back to the human passions housed within the confines of the ghetto, the refugee camp, the occupied city, and the colonized town, does not understand these occasional outcries, simply because their idiom and their metaphor, their cause and effect stem from a reality alien to the outside world. Yet those of us who have known no other reality, driven by it as if by the terrors of a primal pain, also share our humanity with other men and women, denying them monopoly of this humanity.
Such is the matrix of logic of the outside world in this day that the onus always falls on the oppressed to explain his position, to prove his sincerity, to justify his platform, to articulate his vision of the future and to truly, truly convince his oppressor (whose napalm and military occupation, whose racist excesses and sadistic regressions have crushed his very soul and reduced him to a fragment) that he is motivated by love and not hate. Above all, he is called upon to believe in the notion that the violence of the oppressor to subdue him with sophisticated weapons and keys to the dungeons, is moral. His own violence which he uses to break his chains is immoral. And so on 7.
Justice Brings Peace, Injustice Perpetuates Violence
During the many years of the Oslo “peace process,” many of us warned that what Israel is doing (land confiscation, settlement building, home demolitions, torture, a slow process of ethnic cleansing, and other human rights violations) was not going to lead to peace. We argued that a just peace couldn’t be achieved between a strong, colonial, and belligerent Israeli governments and weak Palestinians under occupation or dispersed as refugees. We argued that violence and military power does not solve problems but exacerbates them. We argued for International intervention to defend human rights. This involvement of the International community, we argued, is similar to what materialized in South Africa. Many in the US media chose to shut off our voices and instead to listen to Israeli government officials who thought they had figured out how to deal with the Palestinian “problem” and "violence."
For Labor Zionists, the Oslo arrangements were intended to maintain the Zionist program and land acquisition while giving Palestinians autonomy. This autonomy could be called a Palestinian "state" but without real sovereignty and would have consisted of on 16% of the original land of Palestine or 80% of the lands of the occupied areas of Gaza and the West Bank. Israel would then maintain control of the natural resources, borders, land, and most areas of true sovereignty. For Likud Zionists, the arrangements were to maintain the Zionist program by giving Palestinians autonomy, but not statehood, in less area (10% of the original land of Palestine or 42% of the lands of the occupied areas of Gaza and the West Bank), and maintain control of the natural resources, borders, and land. Both groups refused basic international law on the right of refugees to return to their homes and lands.
Intoxicated with the power of being the fifth strongest army in the world and with backing from the only remaining superpower, both brands of Zionism were emboldened to continue to think in the tradition of older Zionists: that Palestinians will either cease to exist or acquiesce to Israeli domination. But despite all the oppression and ethnic cleansing in 54 years, half the Palestinian natives still exist in Palestine and all Palestinians still demand self-determination, true sovereignty, and basic human rights. Violence will likely continue until this basic injustice is remedied.
In deciding how to deal with terrorism, we would be remiss if we did not learn from history. But even if governments are shortsighted enough to address it in its most proximal dimension (i.e. getting at those who commit the acts and their supporters and financiers), we must address this within existing International crime laws rather than a clash of civilization or a war. Francis A. Boyle, Professor of International Law refers to the power of the 1971 Montreal Sabotage Convention as the direct International law dealing with terrorism. The US and173 other States are signatories and are obligated to resolve disputes according to provisions of the convention and UN Charter Article 2(3) and Article 33 as well as by the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928.
The Declaration on Principles of International Law of 1970 emphasized that all states are under a duty to refrain from any forcible action, which deprives people of their right to self-determination. The Declaration also notes that "in their actions against, and resistance to, such forcible action" such peoples could receive support in accordance with the purpose and principles of the UN Charter. Various UN resolutions have reaffirmed the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for liberation from colonial domination and alien subjection, "by all available means including armed struggle" (e.g. UNGA 3070, 3103, 3246, 3328, 3481, 31/91, 32/42 and 32/154). Article 1, section 4, of Protocol I (additional to the Geneva Conventions) considers self-determination struggles as international armed conflicts situations. The principle of self-determination itself provides that where forcible action has been taken to suppress the right, force may be used in order to counter this and achieve self-determination. The right of resistance is internationally recognized but not the right of indiscriminate use of violence.
A majority of the 600,000 Jews in Palestine at the time of the founding of the state of Israel saw the massacres of thousands and expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians as justifiable and part and parcel of the Zionist program to create the "Jewish state”. The Israeli Knesset passed laws by an overwhelming majority to prevent the return of the 800,000 Palestinian refugees. Laws were enacted to acquire the land of both the fleeing refugees and the remaining Palestinians. Few Jews complained about this large-scale ethnic cleansing. Many Palestinians in refugee camps today see terror attacks against Israelis as so much less than what they themselves endured from Israel over the past 55 years. The difference of course is that the Israeli State victimized the Palestinians who had nothing to do with the Nazi atrocities while the Palestinian militants respond to the same society that victimized them.
Group responsibility for violence is a topic far beyond the scope of this work. One has to realize though that a majority of Germans did not engage in the creation and maintenance of the concentration camps but acquiesced. A majority of the Israeli Jews did not participate in the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from 1947 to 1949 but acquiesced. A majority of Israelis do not participate in occupying or oppressing Palestinians but acquiesce. A majority of Americans did not participate in starving the Iraqi people (half a million were killed by the American led sanctions) but acquiesced. A majority of Palestinians do not engage in terrorism but acquiesce. In none of those situations is one justified in labeling entire societies as "guilty" but it also does not prevent attempts to readdress the injustice to the victims. I strongly believe not only that humans are capable of making war but are also capable of bringing justice and peace. Most of all humans are capable of influencing each other to recognize the need to remedy the injustice. In the age of the Internet, this is becoming more possible.
One segment of society does and should criticize other segments and sometimes these internal divisions succeed in stopping continued atrocities or at least ameliorating their intensity. Those in the center and those farther left do denounce terrorism and violence and can and do work to promote better societal systems. Those who engage in terrorism may see non-violent resistance as passive acceptance of evil and may try to influence others to engage in violence. But history is not ambiguous or neutral in this equation. History reveals that violence breeds violence. This fact is usually lost to those in the dominant culture or power at the time. This is precisely because, having arrived at such dominance through military means, they believe it to be economically and logistically acceptable to engage in violence. They merely redress such actions as just wars, security, or self-defense. Being lulled into thinking that power can be maintained through more violence and more military spending, these powers lose sight of long term effects. They may then disintegrate both from within and from without to be replaced by other similarly foolish empires. That was the fate of the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, the British Empire and the Soviet Empire. Will it be the fate of the US or Israel? That is up to us who care to try and avert by insisting that these governments act in a humane and peaceful way.
The insistence of some that terrorism is somehow a phenomenon of certain cultures or religions is not accurate, and this insistence cannot lead to any rational diagnosis and treatment of this blemish on human heritage. At best it is a corrupt and cowardly intellectual exercise to say that certain people and cultures are "not like us" and at worst it is pure racism.
Violence is not a mystical or elusive force to understand. Rather, its cause and effects are easy to discern and understand in the context of power politics. It is also not an inevitable phenomenon nor is it a phenomenon directly related to religious beliefs or particular geography or culture. Terrorism in the Arab World was introduced well before Islam. Modern day violence against civilians is practiced by both states and individuals. Violence as practiced by individuals acting outside of state control may be related to (but is not excused by) disenfranchised and oppressed status. State violence against civilians usually related to (and also is not excused by) maintenance of the power and privileges of the few. The two phenomena (state and individual 'terrorism') are intimately linked and grow by feeding on each other in a cycle that can be broken only by justice and equality.
Violence is not an incidental byproduct of occupation or oppression or dispossession; it is an inevitable tool and consequence. Tackling violence by definition means tackling its roots. But it is an illusion to fight violence with violence. What is needed is to follow the lead of the hundreds of Israeli reserve soldiers and officers who are refusing to serve in the occupied areas and to follow the lead of the 1000 generals and army personnel who asked their government to withdraw from the occupied areas and vacate many of the settlements. We in the US are funding this occupation with our tax dollars and are thus complicit in perpetuating the misery for both Palestinians and Israelis. Apartheid and colonial overrule has failed in South Africa and it cannot and will not succeed in Israel/Palestine. It is time to say: end the occupation which is killing all of us, respect human rights, and give dignity and equality to the Palestinians.
A little examination of history reveals two related facts: 1) that those in power use fear to rally a people that will then give them greater powers to carry on with their ambitions and wars, 2) that the biggest dangers to great powers is when they spread themselves too thin, take on more than they can handle, and get simply too self centered and arrogant to see the world around them changing. The collapse of the Roman, Ottoman, Spanish, Soviet, and British empires provide many lessons. Will Israel and the US learn these lessons in time?
In our search for answers to the violence in this world we should always remember the history to learn from all the good that people have done and learn from the evil lest we repeat the same mistakes and breed more violence. To truly "drain the swamp" that breeds terror we must and will positively tackle the forces and powers filling the swamp: propaganda, economic deprivation, injustice perpetuated on native people, the widening gap between rich and poor, and other social and environmental ills that plague this earth. The basic condition for shaping a better world is thus advancing human rights, an issue we address in the next chapter. We must become positive agents of change rather than support violence as a means of enhancing "our security". We should join those who worry about the security of this small planet. Only by being aware of history and working for justice and non-violence can we hope to effectively "fight terrorism", but more importantly, create a livable world.
"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, (and) kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places - and there are so many - where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."8
Notes to Chapter 8:
1. Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged on CD-ROM
2. William Sargant, Battle of the Mind: a Physiology of Conversion and Brainwashing (Cambridge: Malor Books, 1957), 255 pp.
3. Simha Flapan, Zionism and the Palestinians (New York:St. Martin's Press, 1977), Chapter 2.
4. The Sunday Times, 24 September 1972, p.8.
5. Nahum Barnea and Danny Rubenstein, Davar, 19 March 1982
6. David McDowall, Palestine and Israel: The Uprising and Beyond, (University of California Press, 1991) p. 262, citing Ha’aretz, 11 May 1984.
7. Fawaz Turki, The Disinherited, 2nd edition (Monthly Review Press, 1972) pp. 160-161.
8. Howard Zinn, “You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A personal history of our times”, (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002), p. 208.
Joseph L. Heller, The Stern Gang: Ideology, Politics, and Terror, 1940-1949, (London: Frank Cass & Co, 1995)