World Tolerates Israel’s Use of State Terror

Ayman missed his second birthday. He was only 18 months old. Mohammad did not pass the age of 4; Diana was only 5; Mona was killed with her children, Subhi, 4, and Mohammad, 6. Mohammad al-Shawa died with his 5-year-old son. Diana Matar was only two months old and Ala Matar was 11 years old.

What on Earth did they do wrong? They were not allowed to live in freedom, not to live at all. Ariel Sharon called the July 23 bombing in Gaza “a great success.” He added, “we of course have no interest in striking civilians and are always sorry over civilians who were struck.”

But Palestine Red Crescent Society statistics show that Sharon lies. With 1,669 Palestinians killed and 19,792 injured, of which most are civilians, who can believe him?

All countries that still supply Israel with arms are complicit in this war crime. The United States, Britain, the Netherlands and others supply Israel with the tools to erase the existence of Palestinians on their own land. Will the perpetrators face trial? Will Sharon, other Israeli officials or the pilot who dropped the bomb be exposed to criminal prosecution in Israel or elsewhere under the principle of universal justice?

I read about the hypocrisy of the European Union. How many times (I forget the number) did the EU condemn extra-judicial executions? What was the immediate result of all these condemnations? Zero.

I read that a spokesman for the United Nations, Fred Eckhard, has said that “Israel has a legal and moral responsibility to take all measures to avoid the loss of innocent life.” That same global body did not want to know the truth about what happened in Jenin and Nablus during April’s attacks by Israeli troops.

It’s “self-defense,” says Israeli spokesman Gideon Meir, in justifying state terror. But if you want to defend a country, its borders must be set. Expanding territory is not “self-defense,” oppressing a nation is not “self-defense,” depriving children of the right to live, the right to education, the right to work, and the right to development cannot be termed “self-defense.”

The key point about terrorism, on which almost everyone agrees, is that it is politically motivated. This is what distinguishes it from, say, murder or football hooliganism. Terrorism is calculated to terrorize the public or a particular section of it. In the American definition of self defense, however, terrorism can never be inflicted by a state.

Denying that states can commit acts of terror is generally useful, because it gets Israel and its allies off the hook in a variety of situations.

Recently and in the past, Western countries, in particular those that support Israel, tend to define “terrorism” in such a way that acts describable as “terror” are applied mostly to resistance groups and rarely to states. According to Israel, all acts of resistance by the Palestinians are forms of terrorism, including acts against Israel’s occupation forces. This definition of “ ‘terrorism” renders it meaningless.

In 1948, the nations of the world adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says, “It is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”

International humanitarian law prohibits attacks on the civilian populations as such, as well as individual citizens. Acts or threats of violence, the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among a civilian population, are prohibited.

Israel’s use of terror has been qualitatively and quantitatively much higher than that of the Palestinians. The number of civilians killed as the result of actions by Israel, both before its creation and after, has far exceeded the number of Israeli civilians killed by Palestinian groups.

Dehumanization through political language paralyzes normal human empathy and disrupts moral inhibitions. Ariel Sharon’s insistence on mopping up “2,000 terrorists” in the Sabra and Shatila camps in Lebanon in 1982 was virtually a mandate for the indiscriminate slaughter of 2,000 Palestinians by Christian militias.

Every minute the world remains silent and inactive the more violence is tolerated. Someone has to stop this. Someone has to take action - before it is too late.

Arjan El Fassed lives near Ramallah on the West Bank and works with LAW - the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights.

This article first appeared in EI’s Live from Palestine, then in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Jordan Times.